Innovation report card gives Australia thumbs up
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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