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Research programs

Growth and development

While the traditional view of growth and development has always included consideration of poverty and inequality, the issues of sustainability, human capital, health and technological change are closely related in a world in which well-being is poorly defined by GDP measures. The rapid growth in GDP in parts of the developing world has illustrated the importance of these other considerations. For instance in China, the limits of pollution has been exceeded, adversely affecting the health of its population. Moreover, a shortage of human capital limits the capacity of such economies to transform themselves into service economies in which some of these limitations are less of a constraint. To these considerations proposed by Arrow et al., we add the issue of the geographical distribution of growth and development. Its increasing concentration in urban areas and the attendant disparity of economic wealth provides particular challenges for policy makers.

Sustainability and climate change

The Institute’s work on climate change mitigation and adaptation has focused on four specific factors – the role of China and other emerging economies as the main sources of further increases in emissions, the need for sharp changes in development strategies if these increases in emissions are to be contained, the pivotal role of new technologies in reducing emissions in both developed and developing countries and the formulation of effective adaptation strategies, in both Australia and Asian countries, to respond global warming. Both for Australia and China, our work has had a major emphasis on policy development and decision making, which is the agreed focus for the development of the sustainability theme in the University. Substantial streams of work are underway in CSES, in conjunction with the International Panel on Climate Change and with funding from the Australian Government, on developing better frameworks for adaption policies and strategies under uncertainty.

Regional economics and human impact

The distinctive specialisation ‘Economic, Social and Community Development’, now part of the ‘Sustainability, urban development, and community wellbeing’ theme, has a number of aspects, but a common thread is the study of diversity, particularly across geographic space. Much of the Institute’s research in this area shares this focus. Our work builds on developments in economic geography, such as analysing the implications for the location of economic activity of scale economies and agglomeration. Agglomeration economies favour concentration, which generates spatial inequalities in economic activity levels. Rapid global economic and technological change has created greater diversity in impact at the human level. In this regard, our work aligns with that of the Centre for Cultural Diversity and Wellbeing. The issue of diversity within development, across social and geographic groups, is a key one being confronted by virtually all developing countries within Asia and is of special relevance to Melbourne’s West. The Institute has undertaken a significant stream of research to better understand the economic and social growth and change in Western Region, which it is now extended to Melbourne, through a study of changing business location for the Department of Business and Innovation. Reduced transport and information costs act to lower the cost of economic integration, facilitating complex supply chains for goods production and assembly. CSES expertise in regional economics provides insights into the broader economics of these processes, and there are good prospects of collaborating with ISCL on these issues.

Health and innovation

The origins of the CSES interest in health lies in work undertaken over more than a decade ago in its Pharmaceutical Industry project with funding from industry and government of about $2 million. This work has focussed on biopharmaceutical commercialisation and pricing issues. While these interests continue, our focus has shifted to understanding the pivotal role of health in modern economic development, and in particular the analysis of the economic case for innovation in health – the so-called ‘returns to health innovation’. Our partners in this work include the APEC Life Sciences Health Innovation Forum, the World Health Organisation, US PhRMA (the US industry body) and the China National Health Development Research Center. This work is particularly focused on the returns to investment in maternal and child health and to investment in chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer. It is widely recognised that developing countries, in Asia and elsewhere, face a virtual epidemic of chronic disease, of a scale such as to potentially compromise their future development. These capabilities have direct application to work being undertaken within the University on the Western Region and to the health distinctive specialisation being developed.

Part of the research program on innovation, focuses on knowledge access and the economic and social impacts of access to knowledge. This work explores the economic implications of alternative scholarly publication and distribution business models and the impacts of those models on the economy and society.

Education and human capital
Education and the development of human capital are central to growth and development. In addition to work on the nature, measurement and impact of human capital, the Institute has developed – in part through work done for successive Vice-Chancellors on the University’s context, performance and policies – growing capabilities in the economics of education. One particular feature of the Institute’s work is the analysis of large scale datasets.