UNSW Science has launched ‘Pact for Impact’—an Australian-first initiative to revolutionise and measure the way science and business interact, in a commitment to improve the world through science.

More than 150 attendees, including leading UNSW researchers, external partners and the broader research community, gathered at Leighton Hall at the end of March to celebrate the initiative.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President Professor Attila Brungs opened the event by acknowledging how crucial partners are for science to create and increase societal impact.

UNSW's industry and pledged Pact Partners joined the UNSW Science research community for the launch of the initiative.

UNSW Dean of Science, Scientia Professor Sven Rogge, also spoke at the event. He says he believes partnerships between academia, not-for profits, industry, government and corporate Australia are “critical to the understanding of science as the solution to the world’s most important issues”.

The initiative has also included UNSW Science commissioned research surveying Australian business leaders. The results uncovered:

  • More than 8 in 10 business leaders believe investing in science could solve challenges faced by their organisation in the next five years
  • 1 in 4 Australian businesses do not invest in research and development (R&D)
  • Australian businesses invest less than 7 percent of their annual turnover into research and development, with around a quarter not investing in science at all.

A UNSW and industry partner panel discussion led by the ABC’s Ann Jones featured real-world examples of just how a UNSW Science partnership can improve and effectively deliver positive impacts across society, the economy and the environment.

The UNSW Science Co-Deputy Dean for External Engagement, Professor Jes Sammut, stressed the importance of trusted relationships in building his own research collaborations, and how this is key to improving lives and livelihoods.

“To make societal impact, you need to work with society,” says Professor Sammut.

His current work in Papua New Guinea (PNG) in this film case study is an example of what can be achieved with multidisciplinary efforts across various agencies, NGOs, and governments in both Australian and PNG, in partnership with local community programs.

Founder and Director of Kandui Technologies Pty Ltd, Andrew Douglas, spoke about his unique relationship with Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla and the UNSW SMaRT Centre and Shoalhaven City Council. Together, they turn low-value materials like waste glass and textiles into high-performing and high-value products such as ceramic tiles and benchtops, as shown in this film case study.

Douglas’ stories of shared values between the university and partners spoke to the heart of successful collaboration. And, while partnerships can take time to develop, much more can be realised, elevated and accomplished together—especially when ‘fun’ is part of the equation.

UNSW Science Co-Deputy Dean for External Engagement Professor Jes Sammut and Andrew Douglas (Kandui Technologies) spoke about the importance of forming partnerships to co-create and elevate ideas to deliver positive outcomes across society, the environment and the economy.

The ‘Pact for Impact’ initiative recognises that measuring the impact of science is complex. With this in mind, five new 'Impact Indicators' were chosen to go beyond traditional metrics and make societal benefits more tangible.

Professor Rogge says businesses can have more of an impact by partnering with science.

“The pandemic proved investment in science is not only smart business but also necessary for society and the economy. Industries want to invest in science and tangibly measure their impact but don’t know where or how to begin,” says Professor Rogge.

“Both universities and businesses share the challenge of being able to define and measure their impact and its real-world meaning. UNSW Science has developed new ‘Impact Indicators’ that will help us measure the tangible impact of science on the economy, society and environment.

“Our goal is to engage all sectors, from manufacturing and health to finance and energy, to join us and commit and invest in science not only for the betterment of business, but broader society.”

UNSW Science invites ‘Pact Partners’ to support the development of new innovations and technologies. There are no financial or legal contracts involved to become a partner, or exclusivity requirements that exclude other research partnerships. It is a pledge to strengthen connection and collaboration between the business community, government and scientific leaders.

The Faculty has more than 50 registered ‘Pact Partners’ so far. This includes Alcoa, the Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation, Cochlear, Sydney Water, Ultraceuticals and Taronga Zoo.

Chief Technical Officer from Cochlear, Jan Janssen, demonstrated the company’s commitment to making impact through science by signing the ‘Pact for Impact’ and believes it's the necessary first step for industry leaders to engage with science.

“Cochlear and UNSW have a long history of collaboration. This has not only helped to advance hearing science, but also improved the lives of thousands of people worldwide through access to better hearing care,” says Janssen .

“Turning science into commercial products can take years. It’s not something you can do alone. The ‘Pact for Impact’ reinforces how through genuine collaboration between business, academia and government, we can advance, understand and measure the true impact of innovation and drive real-life societal, economic and environmental benefits.”

Read more about Pact for Impact

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