At the recent National Stakeholder Forum on the Research Quality Framework (RQF), the Expert Advisory Group Chair, Sir Gareth Roberts, suggested it would be advantageous for Australia to consider the introduction of Third Stream funding for universities. This would provide recognition of this rapidly growing area of university activity and allow it to operate in its own right alongside the teaching and learning and research functions.
The Third Mission of universities is much broader than commercialisation. Of the range of knowledge, technology, skills and services that universities make available to external users of all kinds, only a small proportion earn income for universities. The university sector appreciates the importance of making use of commercialisation companies in order to increase their commercial output and is providing business training and commercial skills to research centre managers and research team leaders. The Commonwealth and State governments provide a number of funding programs and services to further assist in this process. However, the main purpose of Third Stream funding is to recognise the value and cost of what universities can and do offer that is not likely to have commercial potential and which currently does not attract public funding.