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

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

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

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

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