Well at least it’s not a Review – PM’s Roundtable to Seek Ways to Get Innovation out of Unis

According to Ben Potter in today’s Australian Financial Review, the Prime Minister is continuing his hands-on approach to tackling some of the seemingly intractable problems in the Australian Innovation System with a small and focused discussion in Western Sydney, touted by many (well, at least many in Western Sydney) as Australia’s current focal point for start-ups and innovation:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has summoned university and research agency chiefs to a private meeting on Friday aimed at finding ways to drive more industry collaboration and innovative businesses….It marks a return to “industry policy” more typically associated with Labor governments, but with less emphasis on “picking winners” and more emphasis on pushing researchers to see if they can turn their ideas into businesses.

And while I’m not at all sure about the call for Christopher Pyne to ‘release his inner revolutionary’, one can’t help hoping that from within the group of Bright Minds – CSIRO’s new-ish CEO Larry Marshall and Super Scientist Professor Ian Chubb are among the 20 attendees – there will be some frank and honest talk that admits if the higher education sector were going to come up with a solution to this problem on their own, they would have done so by now. Continue reading

PM Turnbull – Innovation’s Messiah or Just a Very Naughty Boy?

This may be the least wise, least prudent post I have ever made. I’ve typed, and deleted, and re-typed that headline I don’t know how many times, and reminded myself of my determination to stay away from big-P-Politics and my even more fervent desire for this blog to avoid the question of Faith, but I keep coming back to it. So I’m just going with it, and I’ll trust that you’ll stay with me through the thought whether you agree with or respect it, or not.

Because, admittedly unusually, I’m not trying to be smart with the header. I *was*, certainly, when I first thought of it, but it actually says everything I want to caution against in one, highly unoriginal, bordering-on-inaccurate line IF, and again I stress IF, you’ve seen Monty Python’s Life of Brian. If not, oops (and, seriously, see the whole thing, not just the YouTube clips: it’s a whole-thing-thing). Continue reading

How Many Reviews Does it Take to Change a System?

Consultation closed yesterday on the Review of Australia’s Research Training System by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA). For those of you playing at home, yes, I *did* post recently about another public consultation process that also closed yesterday, and yes, I *did* suggest it had great potential to lift the innovation industries out of a long running problem – for a semi-controlled riff on the consultation blues, you can have a look at my post today on LinkedIn.

Back to the ACOLA review, and before I go any further I should be clear: any criticisms (and there will be some, trust me) in this post are in no way directed at ACOLA or the well-respected and very busy people on the Expert Working Group tasked with completing it. This review was not their idea, and I have no doubt they will do their best to make it a constructive investment of public monies. I had the pleasure of meeting Working Group Chair John McGagh several years ago when he was head of Global Innovation for Rio Tinto, and that’s just the kind of man he is.

That said, it’s not exactly news that workforce capability and development outside technical aptitude has been a recurring challenge for the innovation industries: Continue reading

Expanding the Funding Pool for Innovation – CSEF is Not Just for Start-ups

NB This post is an expanded version of that which was posted at LinkedIn today. Apologies to those who didn’t want to double-dip, however for better or worse I try to limit my personal opinions on the merits of policy content to this blog.

There’s just one week left in the second consultation process on the introduction of a legislative framework to facilitate crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF) and, regardless of what you may think about the proposed model, you have to admire the earnest efficiency with which the Government continues to progress this issue.

Of course, not everyone is happy with progress. Several senior figures within the start-up community bemoaned the release of another Discussion Paper in conversations with the Australian Financial Review when the latest paper was released.  One expressed surprise that Treasury would need to still explore how to resolve a specific barrier created from years of the Corporations Law, given as “they’ve had so long.” Bless.  Continue reading

Stats, Data and Damn Lies – When Vanity Metrics Attack

I was writing something recently – actually, I’m actually writing something now, and this thought came to me, and rather than continuing to scribble it on the piece of paper I keep handy for just this sort of thing to stop me from getting distracted, I’m going to run with it. Hope it’s worth this rather shapeless intro.

I was making mention in the original document of the high percentage of Australian innovation workers in higher education and government, as opposed to business: hardly new statistics and, as always, I felt a little uneasy about them because as bad as they are, I always expect them to be worse.  For those who haven’t heard me on this particular soapbox, the official stats show 58.7% of Australian researchers are employed in higher education, with a further 8.9% in government. In fact, of the 34 countries surveyed, Australia was in the bottom 5 for its number of researchers employed in business*.  Continue reading

Stars or Strategy? – Why the Innovation Industries need AVCAL to Stay Focussed

AVCAL, the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association Limited, has announced a pretty interesting line-up for its 2015 conference in Melbourne this September. Interesting, in part because the theme they appear to be weaving through all their activities – Building Better Business – doesn’t really seem to be reflected in the choice of speakers; in part, because the star speakers have some serious wattage; and in part in the sectors chosen as the focus for Spotlight sessions.  Continue reading

Why the Discussion about Commerce in Innovation Mustn’t Be All about Start-Ups

Lately it seems every time I’m around a conversation about making the most of innovation, in no time flat it will transform into a soapbox about start-ups. Start-ups not being properly funded, the need for more start-ups, someone making a motza from a start-up. Granted, that is due in part to the fact that I’m currently developing a course called Conversational Commercialisation. And in part its probably because since I started Your Commercial Foundations (YCF), I’ve been practically chanting “Commerce is more than Commercialisation”, but Conversational Uptake just isn’t as catchy, so I’m irritated by my own shallowness the whole time I’m writing.

But that still leaves a large part that has everything to do with the broader shallowness that seems to fixate so many in the knowledge industries on the seemingly big bucks that commercialisation-through-start-up seems to promise everyone if only our innovation system would function optimally.  Continue reading

So What Will This Crowd-Sourced Equity Thing Look Like?

I spent a lot of space in my last post essentially justifying my excitement at the release of a Discussion Paper on a potential regulatory framework for crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF) in Australia, in the name of giving it a context. So much so that I didn’t actually get into the content of it at all. For some people, that is actually not an impediment to enthusiastic support or advocacy of a policy – for some, it’s a distinct advantage – but as one who gets all soapbox-y at lazy policy development, I feel I should at least make a token effort.  Continue reading

Access to Funds from the Crowd a Step Closer for Innovators

Public consultation recently closed – yes, I know, my timing isn’t great, but I was off-line for three months with a gang of nasty viruses, so sue me – on a potential regulatory framework for crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF) in Australia. CSEF is an emerging form of funding that enables someone to raise funds online from a large number of small investors in return for an equally small equity stake in the project or company for which funds are being raised. Worldwide, crowd-sourced funding (without the equity) has been used to fund everything from scientific experiments to feature films and medical treatment, but it is its potential to fundamentally transform the ability of small and start-up businesses that has innovation junkies like me all a-quiver.  Continue reading

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.

Continue reading