SON2017: Good at Innovation, bad at communicating it



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Supported by CEDA members

There is a whole lot that we’re doing here in Australia that has really good bones…but we’re just not very good at communicating that success, MTP Connect Managing Director and CEO, Sue MacLeman has told a CEDA audience at State of the Nation in Canberra.

“If you actually look at the constraints and barriers for our sector – and they include things like investment…skills, access to the global value chain, collaboration between business and research and academia, regulatory frameworks…and ultimately policy – there is actually a lot being done in each of those areas,” she said.

“We actually have a lot of money going into our sector and we’ve seen additional (money) announced in the budget.

“(But) it’s not about more money. It’s about better alignment of money and celebrating some of the things we’re already doing.

“I don’t think we’re giving ourselves enough credit. This is a globally competitive market but Australia punches above its weight when it comes to world class infrastructure and early commercialisation.

“What we need is to look at how we’re investing in knowledge transfer. We need to invest money in a targeted way to ensure we get that knowledge transfer and ultimately commercialisation.”

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall agreed that Australia is a leader in research and innovation, but failed to understand markets.

“Our ability to understand markets, our ability to predict where markets are going is terrible,” he said.


“If you look at places like Silicon Valley, they’re incredible at predicting where the market is going, or actually making it go there.
“They do that by mapping the future.”

Dr Marshall said the fundamental problem in Australia is not capturing the value of the innovations that we create.

“One of the opportunities for Australia is to take commodities – something we’re really good at…and turn it into something unique, and recognise and the capture the value of that unique attribute here in Australia,” he said.

Dr Marshall highlighted Australian cotton and medical technology as previous success stories.

Also speaking on the innovation panel was Murdoch University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Eeva Leinonen.

“One challenge…is cultural frameworks in which innovation is situated,” she said.

Professor Leinonen discussed the risk-taking culture in America, Israel – which “doesn’t take no for an answer” – and Germany, where work ethic acts as a driver behind the innovation culture.

“How would we then align our policies, our incentives, how would we align our initiatives to the cultural frameworks that we believe… will take us to the next step,” she said.

Professor Leinonen also highlighted international collaboration and associated funding.

“I think there is about $35 million in international funding. I think in the UK there has recently been announced $3 billion, for international collaboration,” she said.

“If we were to think about international collaboration as one big driver for the next steps and being a challenge for Australia being so isolated, I would think funding would go into that.”

The panel discussion was opened by AlphaBeta Director, Dr Andrew Charlton who discussed Australian competitiveness on the global market.

Referring to a survey where purchase managers in the United States were asked why they buy Australian goods over others, he said “overwhelmingly…the reason they did so was not because we were cheapest…in many cases we weren’t…they were buying from Australia because the Australian product was better. It had features that made it distinctive. It had performance that made it better.”

However, Mr Charlton said they see a very different focus in Australian industries, with decreasing cost being the key focus rather than innovation.

“There is a lot of room for improvement in Australia to…focus on what really drives Australian competitiveness in the eyes of our customers which is innovation and technological superiority,” he said.

State of the Nation blogs: catch up here

Harnessing the buzz for Australia’s future | MTPConnect Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Sue MacLeman

ROI - Return on Innovation: a roadmap for collaboration | CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall

Practical innovation drives One Health at Murdoch University | Murdoch University, Vice Chancellor, Professor Eeva Leinonen

Click here to see more from State of the Nation 2017