Facilitating research excellence and impact

Strategic objective 2

Facilitate research excellence and impact by making Sydney’s strengths in the SPARCs highly visible to health care providers and industry, to expedite partnerships and opportunities for translation and commercialisation, and by making outstanding staff supported by state-of-the-art research facilities the hallmarks of research excellence at Sydney.

Sydney undertakes research across the spectrum of medicine, nursing, health sciences, allied health, public health, health services and health policy. This engagement in health care at all levels positions Sydney well to meet the demand for translational research. Establishing translational research practices that are truly integrated with health-care provision through the fostering of stronger partnerships offers a major opportunity for Sydney. To take it up requires: increased research activity and collaboration across all the health faculties; an integrated strategy to translate research into health policy development; and improved mechanisms to facilitate two-way knowledge translation between researchers and providers. In addition, Sydney should increase its engagement with industry. This will require more support for researchers to develop their ideas with a view to commercialisation, and a coherent strategic view of where the University’s health and medical research leads the field and where opportunities for commercialisation lie.

An image depicting SPARCs with cross-cutting themes, whole life span and translational pipeline.

Above: The SPARCs with cross-cutting themes, whole life span and translational pipeline.

Recommendation 3

Support each SPARC to:

  • partner with health care providers to develop and implement an integrated strategy to optimise the translation of research into improved health-care practice and policy
  • strengthen industry-supported innovation across the care continuum.

Key actions

  • Demonstrate support for strong collaboration with the health system by prioritising partnerships, such as by encouraging and supporting applications to the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Partnership for Better Health Program.
  • Proactively seek community, health care provider and industry input in forming the research agenda and opportunities for research translation within each SPARC, eg through the NSW Peak Community Participation Council (PCPC), and workshops with health care provider networks (for example Local Health Districts, Medicare Locals, industry forums, etc).
  • Formalise agreements to work with the NSW Health Agency for Clinical Innovation and the Clinical Excellence Commission to improve evidence-based research translation into clinical practice.
  • Partner with primary and community care providers to increase research training opportunities and to foster a stronger research culture within the primary care and community setting.
  • Develop a more strategic approach to clinical trials that brings together those involved in clinical trials across the University research community – internal and affiliated groups – to enhance translation.

Research excellence requires state-of-the-art research facilities. The University is developing and implementing a strategic framework for centrally managed core facilities, starting with those needed for the Charles Perkins Centre. This framework will maximise University-wide investment in high-cost, state-of-the-art research infrastructure, provide a robust approach to identifying research infrastructure aligned with the SPARCs, and ensure that core facilities have sustainable operating models, including ongoing investment, to deliver the appropriate expert support, maintenance and, where appropriate, research and development, to keep the equipment state-of-the-art.

Recommendation 4

Implement the strategy for consolidating, managing and investing in high-cost core research facilities and capabilities. Provide an IT platform to facilitate access and enhance research collaboration.

Key actions

  • Support the University's core research facilities program, focusing initially on research infrastructure necessary for the SPARCs, and thereby support collaborative access to facilities across the health network.

Research excellence also requires, self-evidently, outstanding researchers. As the University develops its strategy for health and medical research, it is timely to place renewed emphasis on the development of support and training for its researchers. A greater commitment should be given to programs for attracting, developing and retaining researchers of the highest quality who are capable of working in collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams as well as conducting discipline-focused research.

An image depicting SPARCs with cross-cutting themes, whole life span and translational pipeline.

The matrix approach: cross-disciplinary thematic research draws on the strengths of faculty-based disciplines

Recommendation 5

Establish comprehensive recruitment, retention and development programs to:

  • attract new researchers, especially within the SPARCs
  • provide mentoring and skills development for researchers at all stages of career
  • provide skills development opportunities to prepare researchers for membership and leadership of collaborative research partnerships.

Key actions

  • Work with the NSW Ministry of Health to establish an elite researcher scheme to attract leading Australian and international researchers to NSW to work in fields of mutual interest to the ministry and the University.
  • Establish recruitment and mentoring schemes to encourage and support more Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders to become health and medical researchers, beginning with the recruitment of students to postgraduate study from undergraduate cohorts within and beyond Sydney.
  • Provide training for University researchers to develop their capacities for membership and leadership of collaborative research partnerships.