Local connections, global ambitions

The area surrounding our Clayton campus, the Monash Precinct, is Melbourne’s largest hub for employment, economic growth and innovation outside the CBD.

Next year marks 60 years since then Education Minister John Bloomfield tabled the Monash University Act in the Victorian Parliament to establish a new university and name it after the remarkable individual whose contributions, through innovation and endeavour, had helped define the history of a young nation.

Six decades on, I’m sure even Sir John Monash would be impressed by the transformation of the institution that bears his name.

Monash has just become Australia’s third highest ranked university in ShanghaiRanking’s Academic Ranking of World Universities, arguably the most prestigious rating of research institutions worldwide. Earlier this year we were also named the most innovative university in Australia in Thomson Reuters’ Top 75: Asia’s Most Innovative Universities ranking.

Successes such as these deliver benefits that extend well beyond Monash. Education is now Australia’s largest services export and generates more than $7 billion for Victoria annually. Monash contributes more than one quarter of this amount, $1.9 billion every year, and generates nearly six dollars for every dollar of government funding it receives.

While our contributions to the economy of state and nation are beyond question, opportunities to extend those benefits further are more promising still.

In coming years Australia’s economic prosperity will depend on how successfully it is able to enhance its culture of international collaboration and innovation. Universities, being engines of innovation, are essential to this endeavour. As the 2016 Review of the R&D Tax Incentive found, businesses that engage with researchers on innovation are three times more likely to improve productivity, exporting activity and sales.

But collaboration and innovation of the depth and magnitude required to maintain or enhance prosperity is not guaranteed. Monash needs to retain talent of international calibre and attract new international talent as well as investment in research. And it requires demonstrating our capability to add value for partners above and beyond what other universities situated closer to their head offices overseas can otherwise provide.

The area surrounding our Clayton campus, the Monash Precinct, is Melbourne’s largest hub for employment, economic growth and innovation outside the CBD.

The Monash Precinct contributes $9.4 billion to the Victorian economy each year. The region provides more than 82,000 jobs and supports more than 12,200 businesses. And its key industries align with the Victorian Government’s priority sectors for growth, including education, health, biotech, medtech and advanced manufacturing.

The transformative effects of clustering industry and research expertise to drive innovation and entrepreneurialism have been demonstrated to great effect overseas – in California, in Cambridge, US and UK, in Kennisparke Twente in the Netherlands, the Warwick Manufacturing Group and elsewhere.

With Monash’s proximity to CSIRO, the Australian Synchrotron, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, additive manufacturer Amaero Engineering, the Monash Medical Centre, the coming Victorian Heart Hospital and other high tech industries, the Clayton campus and surrounding Monash Precinct are well situated to emerge as a world class ecosystem for innovation, attracting international investment and talent, advancing a knowledge economy, and developing new economic opportunities for the community.

We need public investment, in infrastructure and in connectivity – particularly through light rail – to integrate the Monash Clayton Precinct properly with the city’s core transport network.

Monash has made the development of such an ecosystem a priority, and has set out on an unprecedented era of activity to build research and education facilities for that future.

The Monash Precinct contributes $9.4 billion to the Victorian economy each year. The region provides more than 82,000 jobs and supports more than 12,000 businesses.

Last October, we opened our new Food Innovation Centre, a spectacular space for industry to work side by side with Monash researchers in food innovation, as well as an incubator to guide food producers seeking export pathways into Asia.

The following month, the Biomedical Discovery Institute was opened by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, a hub for more than 200 collaborations between researchers and clinical and industry partners in six global health priority areas: cancer, infection and immunity, cardiovascular disease, neuroscience, development and stem cells, metabolic disease and obesity.

Six out of seven Industrial Transformation Research Hubs awarded by the Australia Research Council to the Group of Eight universities are based at our Clayton campus, combining Monash expertise with that of our international partners to advance industries vital to Australia’s economic and technological future – from additive manufacturing through nanoscience-based construction materials to energy-efficient separation.

Other projects of even greater scale are nearing completion, and will enhance our engagement with the surrounding region even further. The new gateway to the Clayton campus, our Learning and Teaching Building, opens later this year, while the Ian Potter Centre for Performing Arts and surrounding cultural precinct are scheduled for completion in 2018.

Monash invested nearly $360 million on projects such as these last year, expenditure that created 2800 full-time equivalent jobs on top of the 16,000 staff we directly employ. We plan further capital expenditure over the next five years, to enhance student education and experience, research and collaborations with industry and community partners.

But the full scale of these opportunities cannot be realised by Monash alone.

We also need advocates who recognise and champion the value of a Monash education, of its research and innovation, and the future these things can provide.

We need partners in industry and government who share our vision to guide the development of Monash. And among those partners who will share our vision we see our alumni as our most important champions. We hope you are as excited as we are about what the future can bring.

This article is based on a speech delivered by President and Vice- Chancellor Professor Margaret Gardner AO to a Monash alumni reception for Victorian Members of Parliament and senior public sector leaders on 23 August, 2017.