“I think universities and higher education are fundamental to regional development,” he said.
"If you look at the regions that are going ahead somewhere in it there is a university that is working with them either in terms of facilitation or training.”
Mr Crean said regions should be diversifying based on their existing strengths.
“The future job opportunities are in services, not just manufacturing but in many cases it’s the services sector off the manufacturing and agriculture base,” he said.
On innovation in Australia, Mr Crean said there needs to be fundamental development in creativity and emphasised the importance of brand Australia.
“The important opportunity for us is promote our brand better because it is understood out there,” he said.
Also discussing innovation, Deloitte Access Economics Partner, Professor Ian Harper said largely Australia is open to new technologies but we also need to become better at creating new technologies.
“We do have a hunger to do things differently, to try new things, we’re known for that, it’s why big companies overseas like to trial things here,” he said.
“We’d like to have some of those home grown rather than just picking up people’s innovative ideas and applying them.”
Professor Harper said developing a collaborative process is one of the best ways to drive that in the future.
On the economy, Professor Harper said Australia is moving into a so called knowledge economy along with other developing countries.
“Because of the changing structure of the knowledge economy, collaboration, diversity bringing together these differences, not just doing it yourself actually pays, that’s what gives you the confidence the market will come behind you,” he said.
METS Industry Growth Centre Chair, Elizabeth Lewis Gray said: “Australia is a very fast adopter of new ideas.”
Ms Gray said collaboration and innovation is important to developing and taking the economy forward.
On skills, Ms Gray said Australia is strong in management but lacks capabilities in strategic positioning and marketing.
“I think there are some key areas and in that sort of strategic thinking…is where we need to bring groups of people together, develop a vision and develop a place that we want to go,” she said.
“Across all industries where Australia really lacks is sales and marketing as well as capital and financing skill sets.”
Ms Gray said Australia must make sure it is cutting edge at a global level to remain competitive.