TAFE Queensland has launched RedSpace: Centre for Applied Research and Innovation. RedSpace: provides a focal point for a new way of thinking about and packaging what TAFE does and can do. RedSpace: is offering Applied Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Services (ARIES) that align with and further the policy goals set out in the National Innovation and Science Agenda and Queensland’s innovation strategy, Advance Queensland.

RedSpace: looks to be an early starter in a more formalised approach to applied research within the VET sector.

Growing interest in potential VET contributions to applied research/innovation

In September-October 2015 the LH Martin Institute and TAFE Director’s Australia (TDA) conducted a Study Mission to Canada. The Mission’s purpose was to ‘examine the Canadian community colleges’ applied research model’ which is supported and funded by Canada’s national and provincial governments. In March this year, the Institute and TDA hosted an Innovation and Applied Research Roundtable at Canberra Institute of Technology attended by ‘100 TAFE leaders, industry partners, government representatives and stakeholders’.

Another indication of growing interest around applied research in VET appears in the 2015 Victorian VET Funding Review. Recommendation 42 proposed that the Victorian government ‘invest initiatives that provide opportunities for applied research partnerships between capable RTOs and small and medium enterprises’. In working towards that recommendation the Review report suggested a strong set of benefits could flow from VET sector engagement in applied research:

A focus on applied research can expose students to hands-on problem-solving, innovation and the development of entrepreneurial skills. Industry in partnership with highly capable RTOs can benefit by undertaking targeted research that can lead to new and improved products, services and processes, more effective marketing, improved decision-making, strategic and business planning increased sales markets and customers, job creation and retention.

Getting applied research up and running will require a cultural and intellectual shift for both industry and VET providers. Such a shift can benefit industry, extend the capability of providers and ultimately, if successfully implemented, benefit the community.

That’s the kind of space that RedSpace: is into. Some examples of what applied research might look like in practice are offered in five case studies (each of a single page) at the bottom of the RedSpace: webpage.

Defining and communicating structured, affordable applied research

Early this year TAFE Queensland made a submission to the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment which was conducting an ‘Inquiry into innovation and creativity: workforce for the new economy’. (The House of Reps inquiry lapsed when the federal election was called. However, you can download TAFE Queensland’s submission from this webpage.)

The submission puts applied research and RedSpace: into a broad context – still a work in progress but the shape is becoming clearer:

An Opportunity to Fund Innovative Research in the VET Sector

TQ [TAFE Queensland] therefore recommends the development of a new Australian Government investment of $50 million over four years, which is specifically targeted at the VET sector. This funding would be allocated through a competitive grants process and would enable TQ and other members of the sector to accelerate applied research activities with industry, on the scale seen in Canada and elsewhere.

Doing so will support the Australian Government’s drive to support the Australian workforce to compete in the global economy. TQ have taken steps towards this with the creation of RedSpace: Centre for Applied Research and Innovation. RedSpace will identify, support and amplify the work of educators, experts and students as they continue to tackle complex problems of industry and community partners that are not currently on the radar of the more established research bodies. RedSpace will work with TQ staff to support workforce capability building and enhance student learning outcomes through the cultivation of commercial skills as they engage in projects with employers. Student participation in applied research is core to developing critical future workforce skills such as design thinking, resilience, commerce and ethics.

It’s early days in promoting RedSpace: but the intent is to make its services accessible across the state. TAFE Queensland South West, which picks up all that turf from Toowoomba out to Quilpie, ran a news item on RedSpace: early in June. You can keep up with RedSpace: on Twitter via the handle @TQRedSpace.

There is a good bit more to come on applied research in VET. Watch this RedSpace……..