Networks and Collaboration4.2 Absorptive Capacity
4.2.1 Business human resources devoted to R&D
One measure of the capacity of businesses to absorb advanced knowledge is the employment of R&D staff. Evidence shows notable across-the-board increases in business resources devoted to R&D between 2010–11 and 2013–14. These were driven by hiring in small and medium businesses (with up to 199 employees). However, between 2013–14 and 2017–18 large businesses (with 200 or more employees) cut roughly 8,000 R&D-related jobs, which was only partly offset by further hiring in small and medium business in the period (up around 4,000 and 1,000 R&D-related jobs, respectively). By resource type, the main impact of these changes has been felt by Researchers, whose employment in business declined from around 39,100 person-year equivalent in 2013–14 to roughly 34,600 in 2017–18. The most recent data shows a tentative increase over the two years to 2017–18. It is possible that the longer-term pattern is related to a general shift away from large businesses towards small and medium businesses, accompanied by a shift away from Engineering towards Information and computing sciences, as seen in the data by field of research.
4.2.2 Government human resources devoted to R&D
In any sector, researchers are the main subset of the total human resources devoted to R&D. Important non-research functions related to the conduct of R&D are performed by personnel including Technicians and Support staff. In the government sector across both Commonwealth, state and territory governments, Researchers consistently account for around half of total government human resources devoted to R&D (7,570 person-year equivalent out of 14,521 in 2018–19). Commonwealth human resources devoted to R&D — including not only Researchers but also Technicians and Support staff — peaked in 2012–13 at 9,820 person-year equivalent before declining to 7,763 in 2018–19.Download CSV Data (15kb)Download Snapshot (211kb)
4.2.3 Higher education human resources devoted to R&D
Total human resources devoted to R&D by the higher education sector increased from about 35,400 person-year equivalent in 1992 to more than 81,700 person-year equivalent in 2018. About 56 per cent of these resources are Postgraduate students. A further 30 per cent are Academic staff and the remainder are Technical and other staff. These proportions have remained broadly steady over the last decade. Growth in total human resources devoted to R&D has been positive since 1992 and has averaged 1.8 per cent per year over the last decade. This compares favourably with Australia's average population growth rate of 1.5 per cent over the same period and indicates that Australia's human resources devoted to R&D has been slightly outpacing population growth.
 ABS, Research and Experimental Development, Businesses, Australia, Cat. No. 8104.0
 ABS, Research and Experimental Development, Government and Private Non-Profit Organisations, Australia, Cat. No. 8109.0
 ABS, Research and Experimental Development, Higher Education Organisations, Australia, Cat. No. 8111.0
 ABS (2020), Australian Demographic Statistics, Dec 2019, Cat. No. 3101.0