Collaboration is a Two-Way Street

I don’t like it when I disagree with someone I respect, particularly someone as accomplished as Professor John Bell FTSE. So when I felt my need to grab a soapbox after the launch at National Press Club of the report he co-authored under ACOLA’s auspices, The Role of Science, Research and Technology in Lifting Australian Productivity, I chose to take a good look at what I was really soapbox-y about. Good thing too, as it turns out.

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The Top Five Reasons Why I Love Eric Ries’s “The Lean Start-up”

There is a category of consumer referred to as the early adopter, who is the person who wants to be the first to get their hands on a new product even if it’s not quite perfect yet, just to be at the front of the pack.  I like to get my mind on to a new idea or product early – I don’t know whether its impatience or cheapness, but my hands are happy to wait til its proven worth it – but if there is a pack, then I’ve been known to become hypercritical and dismissive for no reason other than its popularity. It happened with the Harry Potter books, which I deeply regret; it happened with Facebook, which I do not.  Continue reading

Why Outcomes without Uptake Isn’t Enough – Return on Australia’s Investment in Innovation Part III

In the last two posts I’ve been unravelling why, despite Australia’s consistent internationally comparable levels of investment in innovation, we are equally consistently slammed for our low levels of innovator-industry collaborations.  So far, we’ve noted that government invests funding to incentivize and stimulate innovation activities because, like any investor, it believes not only that it will receive a return on that investment, but that this return will be at least as valuable as any other use to which it could put that funding.  We’ve also established that the return governments are seeking on their investment is primarily about the economy-wide benefits that come from innovation spilling over and not simply benefitting the people who initially took the risk developing and implementing it. And that the fact these spillover benefits are generally several times the size of the innovators’ benefit is why many firms under-invest in innovation, which is why governments step in to stimulate investment. Which at first glance would seem to complete the circle nicely without having to even use the word ‘collaborate’. So where is the problem?  Continue reading

Filling the Skills Gap for Innovators – A Rant

There appears to be a growing perception in the innovation industry base, particularly but by no means exclusively in those in their first 10 years of experience, that commerce equates to bringing an invention to market and as such, is irrelevant to them as “someone else does that”. And, at a time when headlines are full of gloomy stats regarding employment rates for graduates of tertiary and higher programs, one wonders if that misperception is a big part of the problem.  Continue reading

What’s the RoI for Public Sector Investors? – Return on Australia’s Investment in Innovation Part II

In my last post, we established that the reason the public sector invests in innovation is because they believe in the return on that investment, often referred to as RoI, will be as least as valuable as putting those resources towards hospital beds, highways, and high schools. So what is this expected return and what does it have to do with the Australian research community’s apparent inability to collaborate more with industry?  Continue reading

What’s the Big Deal About Innovator-Industry Collaborations? – Return on Australia’s Investment in Innovation Part I

Since the beginning of the noughties, the foremost issue in innovative industries has been uptake – establishing it, measuring it, commodifying it and competing with it.  Government’s have tried to compel it – by tying funding programs to it, offering funding to those who partner to produce it, demanding reporting on it and producing free advertising for those who succeed at it.  Yet despite the significant investment of public and private funds over this period, the 2013 Australian Innovation System Report echoes the sad refrain of at least a decade of reports, successive Chief Scientists and a variety of think tanks and consultants: Australia’s industry productivity and levels of business-to-research collaboration on innovation continue to compare poorly with other developed countries.  But why does that matter?  Continue reading

Laugh or You’ll Cry – the answer to a Skills Question is Seldom More of the Same

One of the few Australian’s to head a global super company, Andrew Liveris of Dow Chemical Company, was in town yesterday with some hard truths regarding his homeland. While the headline of The Australian – “They’re Laughing at Us” – specifically related to our current political paradigm, Mr Liveris was not exactly enthused at our current innovation policy and specifically, the trend away from investment in R&D.  Continue reading

Reflections on the Budget – 2014

In every battle, there comes a point when the grinding of teeth, stomping of feet and name calling – the fun bit – has to end.  Reaching that point doesn’t mean They’re right, but rather that one is getting down to the business of the battle, channelling one’s efforts into something that will make a difference.  That first phase is just as important as the second – it’s where you build up the outrage, the energy-in-motion of emotion, to burn as fuel for those efforts. Linger there too long, however, and you’re likely to find yourself still holding the grenade when it goes off.  Continue reading

Why do we Need to Know about Commerce Anyway?

Cartoon 1For over a decade, multiple public and private sector reports have consistently identified the need for Australia’s graduates to acquire commercial savvy and innovative thinking in order to compete in a global marketplace for ideas. This is particularly so in the innovative industries which are widely accepted as the key to increasing productivity across economies, both directly and indirectly. However, as the Australian Research Council (ARC) noted in 2000, “Participation is unlikely by simply demanding that financiers take more risks or academics get involved for the good of society. It is important that action is taken to ensure that participation is based on mutual self-interest.” (Australian Research Council, 2000, p. 33)

Fundamentally, there are four reasons for innovators and creators to build and maintain a basic understanding of commerce, all of which can be seen as being entirely self-interested: Continue reading