The 6 challenges to Australia’s ability to innovate

Australia needs to address failure to commercialise its inventiveness, says Bill Ferris

Compared to many other countries Australia is an exceptional when it comes to research, but the nation is still struggling to commercialise its inventiveness, according to Innovation Australia chair Bill Ferris.

In an address today in Adelaide, Ferris will outline what he sees as the as main challenges to improving Australia’s ability to innovate.

“Australia is highly ranked as an early adopter of others’ innovations and a very good modifier; yet it ranks poorly in new-to-the-world and new-to-the-market innovations of its own,” Ferris said in remarks prepared for the Committee for Economic Development of Australia event.

“Lack of access to additional funds and lack of skilled people are the two main barriers to innovation for all young SME’s,” he said, drawing on the findings of the 2015 Australian Innovation System Report prepared by the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science and launched today by Ferris.

Seventy-five per cent of Australian businesses have siloed or have no innovation culture at all, and collaboration between Australian businesses and universities is among the lowest in the OECD, Ferris said.

Ferris said that he believed there were six key challenges to accelerating innovation in Australia:

1. Access to risk capital funding
2. Access to entrepreneurship skills
3. Access to international markets
4. Lack of active collaboration for commercial outcomes (inadequate collaboration among universities and other research institutes, business entities and governments)
5. Insufficient investment and interest in STEM education
6. A risk averse culture.

Ferris noted that Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and industry, innovation and science minister Christopher Pyne are intending to release a ‘National Innovation and Science Agenda’ in early December.

The agenda will focus on four pillars: Improving skills; commercialising research; raising capital; and the government promoting cultural change with regards to risk averseness and entrepreneurship.

Read more: In brief: Akamai launches startup program

“I am confident that this will be a comprehensive blueprint, one which will include a number of significant measures to deal with the list of challenges I have just outlined,” the Innovation Australia chair said.

“While it is urgent to make a start on these challenges it is also important to manage expectations,” Ferris said.

“Changed behaviour, such as that required for significant improvement in business and academia collaboration for commercial outcomes, will take years not months. Nonetheless, my sense is Australians understand the importance of this innovation imperative.”

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