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Sackings at national research centre slammed

The Age    |     2 March 2014

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A distinguished scientist and innovator has launched a stinging criticism of a decision to sack more than half the workforce at a high-tech research centre, describing it as a ”disaster”. 

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Graham Clark In a rare display of outspokenness, Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor of the cochlear implant (the “bionic ear”), said cutting jobs at the National Information Communications Technology Centre (NICTA) could compromise Australia’s standing as a biomedical research powerhouse and hinder the development of the next generation of researchers.

A researcher at NICTA, Professor Clark is among 76 staff at the Parkville laboratory who were made redundant or did not have their contracts renewed after the Victorian government cut $8 million from $10 million in promised funding amid concerns that the centre was becoming too “Sydney-centric”.

Speaking at a recent technology industry forum, Victorian technology minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said commercialisation benefits from work at NICTA were flowing to NSW.  He said the government isn’t interested in ”Victorian taxpayers funding commercialisation and job creation in NSW”.

But Professor Clark said that high-skilled jobs are vital for Australia’s future – not to mention Victoria’s economy –  in many ways more important to the long-term health of the nation’s economy than struggling sectors such as the car industry.

 It’s a disaster if this country does not continue and consolidate its medical engineering research because that’s where the world is going.   Continuing on from the bionic ear, we could continue to make Melbourne a hub for the new era of biomedical engineering and research.

Pretty dopey move on the part of the Victorian government, really: one expects that many of the sacked researchers, and their expertise, will end up at places other than Melbourne.

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