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Premier Anna Bligh invests millions to chase grants

Resource type: News

The Courier-Mail |

Original Source

QUEENSLAND premier Anna Bligh has put her own stamp on the Smart State agenda by devoting $120 million to attracting huge Federal grants.

She is revamping a policy once dominated by her predecessor Peter Beattie in a bid to boost the state’s ability to attract multimillion-dollar federal research grants.

This will be one of the big-ticket items to be revealed in next month’s state Budget.

However, the move also signals an overall cut in Smart State funding, which has topped $200 million over the previous four years.

And Ms Bligh made it clear she saw the Smart State brand playing a less prominent role in her leadership of the state.

A key plank of the refocused policy will be a $25 million health and medical research development program which will fund a range of lucrative research fellowships valued at up to $850,000 each year.

The Government will also set up an office of health and medical research and development within Queensland Health to create a smoother path for researchers wanting to set up clinical trials in the state’s hospitals.

Ms Bligh said the Smart State revamp was about “moving from bricks to brains” and filling gaps in the policy that were holding back Queensland’s potential to drive breakthroughs in health and medical research.

“It’s really the beginning of a significant shift in emphasis from buildings to people,” she said.

“This will be the most generous research fellowship program in the country.

“This is all about attracting people from interstate and around the world here to be part of our research effort.”

Ms Bligh said that while she still regarded Smart State as an important part of Queensland’s economic agenda, “this is very much about my view of where Smart State should be.”

“It is important for me as a new premier to carve out my own space,” she said.

“While Smart State will continue to be part of my agenda, I see it as something that will encompass Smart State rather than be Smart State.”

She said that up until now the Smart State’s greatest achievement had been to help build world-class research facilities.

“The vision was led by the view that if you build it they will come,” Ms Bligh said.

“If you provide world-class facilities then world-class researchers will make this their home base and there is no doubt that is happening.”

However she said there continued to be a gap, with Queensland research teams failing to attract their share of National Health and Medical Research Council grants because of the comparatively low number of continuing research programs.

”That’s the gap that we want to focus on,” she said.

The Smart State strategy, which helped establish 36 research centres in Queensland, also drew the interest of philanthropists such as US billionaire Chuck Feeney, whose Atlantic Philanthropies organisation has kick-started projects such as the Institute of Molecular Bioscience and the Queensland Brain Institute.