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Innovation report card gives Australia thumbs up

By: Chris Williams
02 August, 2011

Innovative Australians are improving the things they make and the way they make them, ensuring a fairer, richer, healthier and greener future.

Australians have long prided themselves on their "can do" attitude and culture of innovation, often borne out of a sense of adversity, whether real or perceived.

Now, according to a new report, the results are backing up the belief, with Australia showing a strong capacity to innovate across many fields of interest and professional disciplines.

The Australian Government recently released its Australian Innovation System Report, which according to Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr, gave Australia a thumbs up for its innovation performance, backed by the government’s estimated investment of $9.4 billion in innovation, science and research for 2011-12.

"Innovation will make Australia more productive and competitive, and may answer the great challenges of our time such as our changing climate, national security, hunger and disease," Senator Carr said.

"This is the second annual report on the performance of Australia’s national innovation system, and provides the latest data and analysis of how our innovation system is performing compared with other countries. It also tracks progress against the government’s innovation priorities and targets.

"The analysis shows Australia has a strong capacity to innovate. This report shows that our performance in the area of research and skills has been above OECD average and our performance in entrepreneurship is one of the best in the world.

"The report is valuable and will guide the continued development and implementation of the policy reforms that have stemmed from Powering Ideas."

Despite the positives highlighted in the report Senator Carr said there were still some obstacles to innovation that the government has committed to help address.

He said the impact of the global financial crisis on innovation activity couldn’t be underestimated, with early stage venture capital investment dropping by 40 per cent in 2009-10.

A lack of skilled people also loomed as a potential barrier to business innovation, with data analysis in the report suggesting vocational education and training may play an important role in countering that skills shortage.

The report also called for an improvement in collaboration between business and researchers. While innovators have increased the level of collaboration with universities, the level of collaboration with publicly-funded research agencies has dropped.

The report also found sustainability loomed as a critical issue moving forward. While Australia’s intensive water and emissions-based economy would prove a challenge, it would also provide opportunity.

"The combined result is a massively increased demand for green technologies, products, services and skills, driving rapid expansion in green markets," the report claimed.

"This trend is expected to continue with global green markets projected to double from $US1.4 trillion per year to $US2.7 trillion by 2020."

The report also suggested many businesses are choosing to invest in more efficient production technology to stay competitive.

"While this can be capital intensive, it reduces operating costs in the long term, particularly as markets begin pricing environmental externalities," the report noted.

"In the short term, businesses are also achieving cost savings throughout value chains by investing in innovative new or improved processes. For example, by repackaging or flat-packing stock, companies are able to get more of the product on the ship, truck and shelf, reducing logistics, fuel, pollution and out-of-stock costs.

"The impacts are increased when major companies require their suppliers to meet certain green standards."

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Leslie D. Dunn | Tuesday, August 2, 2011, 4:27 PM
Of this "government’s estimated investment of $9.4 billion in innovation, science and research for 2011-12". is the amount actually $B1.41 with the remaining $B7.99 going to the Bureaucrats to audit the system? This does not go very far towards Innovation but another financial juggling act that helps keep the bureacrats in a job but falsely makes the politicians "Look Good".
Ross Williams | Wednesday, August 3, 2011, 9:37 AM
This is just the Government beating its olwn chest while it pays massive salaries and perks to a huge department of incompetent bureaucrats with absolutely no business acumen whatsoever. The Grant system is one of the worst in the world, with pitiful, virtually useless funding that is almost entirely consumed by government paperwork and management requirements that have nothing to do with advancing innovative technology. Advice to any Australian company looking for help from Department of Innovation to advance worthwhile technology - don't even think about it. You will be much better off funding privately or growing organically. Dept of Innovation can put your business back years - time that you could use productively to get to market and exploit the market. Ross Williams
mike turner | Monday, August 8, 2011, 11:30 AM
From my talking with SMEs nationally, the reasons why innovators have dropped using publicly funded research agancies is because of (a) the IP grab and (b)the charge out rate being considerably higher than industry rates - even though the agencies are receiving public monies to underwrite their operations.
Name withheld | Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 11:39 AM
Organisations innovate no matter what. SMEs seldom refer to solving problems or developing better products as innovation. Government provides assistance with formalised frameworks and subsidies, which organisations (SMEs) are free to partake or not. The coin has a flipside; there are organisations that have substantially benefited from these programs. Many (minority) of SMEs expect a handout and aren’t willing to consider that they may benefit from a better way to fish. I, like many other “Gov.” program affiliates have a solid industrial background, in manufacturing, science, Innovation and export. In industry, I had utilised the various state and federal programs in highly regulated settings, and still achieved yearly growths exceeding 20%. Regulation, while occasionally onerous is a ready-made risk management platform, whether it is WH&S, corporate governance or other. All play a role in reducing operational risk. If so adopted, practices, procedures, policies, training and business strategies can lever off the rigours these provide, rather than treating them as obstacles. So, this is another one of those half-empty half-full glass situations – You decide.
Peter Dietzel | Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 11:53 PM
This is directed at Ross Williams. My question to you is "What do you know of the Department?" It is obvious you know little of the broader workings, and have no real clue on salaries. I work for the DIISR in a group known as the National Measurement Institute, which formed 5 or so years ago with the merger of the former Australian Government Analytical Laboratories and a group from the CSIRO. We perform significant analyses in the areas of food safety and quality (eg pesticide and heavy metal contamination residues,microbiological and allergen testing;environmental monitoring;physical metrology primary calibrations; and,as of 01July2010, legal metrology. Up to then,each of the jurisdictions had their own field inspectors checking all the balances,fuel pumps etc we take for granted are correct. As of 01July2010, the various jurisdictions came under the National umbrella of Trade Measurements. I hope this has enlightened you a bit. Regards,Peter Dietzel,Analytical Chemist,NMI,DIISR. (oh,and btw, I am a veteran of nearly 28 years with AGAL/NMI, and I am not in the upper ecelon of salaries. In fact, if I had decided to go into private industry after graduating I would probably be in management by now, and a salary at least 50% greater than what I am currently on!)