Senator Bridget McKenzie is chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment.REGIONAL universities have showcased their research projects and priorities, including agricultural profitability pursuits with a global edge, to the federal National party.

This week, the Regional Universities Network (RUN) delivered a special one-hour presentation in the Nationals party room at Parliament House in Canberra

The event was hosted by Assistant Employment Minister Luke Hartsuyker and Victorian Nationals Senator Bridget McKenzie.

National party members were enriched by a series of short sharp presentations from vice-chancellors, deputy vice-chancellors and leading researchers from a range of regional universities, about the quality and substance of their research activities.

RUN chair Professor Peter Lee said regional universities have a “strong, vibrant, innovative, connected and growing pure and applied research effort”.

“This event gives us an opportunity, in an environment where research funding is being reviewed, to highlight some of the excellent research being undertaken at our universities,” he said.

Some of the highlighted work included research into; improved mango production, automated cattle tracking, groundwater engineering, koala chlamydia vaccines and virtual fencing.

Professor Lee said his network of regional universities excel in areas as diverse as geochemistry, forestry sciences, crop and pasture production, agriculture and land management, zoology, biological sciences, mathematics, law, policy and administration, health and clinical sciences and human movement.

He said the RUN Regional Futures Australia banner was also being used to further collaboration in research relevant to regional development in areas like agriculture, environmental security, rural health and well-being.

“RUN universities are strategically growing their research effort to maximise their contribution to research and innovation in regional Australia, including contributing to regional industries and commercial activities,” he said.

“Funding investment in research at RUN universities will be highly productive, focused and yield a high return.

“Our universities are relatively young and the research effort is increasing significantly.

“For example, the total research income at RUN universities increased 47 per cent per full time equivalent researcher from 2006 to 2013, compared to the sector average of 35pc.”

Mr Hartsuyker said regional universities made a substantial contribution to regional economies and undertake very important research.

“In many cases this research is very relevant to the communities where the campuses are located and can deliver meaningful benefits at the regional level,” he said.

Senator McKenzie, chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment, welcomed the RUN’s efforts and presentation.

She said the Nationals recognised the great research work undertaken by our regional universities right across Australia and the opportunities they provide to regional students to study closer to home.

“When students study in regional communities they are more likely to stay and to work in regional communities, creating a stronger regional Australia,” she said.

Presentations were made by: Central Queensland University; Federation University Australia; Southern Cross University; University of New England; University of Southern Queensland; and University of the Sunshine Coast.

UNE Professor David Lamb said the main message was that regional universities were “embedded in the regions” and produced work with international ties that also benefited local agriculture.

He said regional universities also worked closely with farm industry groups and Research and Development Corporations to design and deliver research suited to local outcomes – not just in farming, but also in health and education.

Senator McKenzie said she was impressed by the level of collaboration the universities engaged with to identify local problems and achieve solutions for local communities through research projects.

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