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Australian innovation scrutinised again

Date: 15 February 2017
Author: Matthew Lay
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‘… we need to significantly lift our game if we want to be a top tier innovation nation’ - Bill Ferris AC, Chair of Innovation Science Australia’s Board.

Innovation Science Australia (ISA) has released the ‘Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System’. Not surprisingly, the ISA review echoes the view that we are great at knowledge creation but need to improve transfer and commercial application of this knowledge.

Unlike the Productivity Commission’s 2015 report on the IP system, specific recommendations aren’t provided and ISA’s review is intended to provide a baseline to measure progress and to help develop a 2030 Strategic Plan. This strategic plan is due to be delivered by late 2017.

Business use of IP

Interestingly, the review finds that innovations introduced by Australian businesses are new to the business itself but reflect a low degree of ‘novelty’ more generally. This finding is based on OECD and ABS data but is perhaps also supported by the Productivity Commission’s findings that we are a net importer of IP. However, the review does show that R&D expenditure by businesses in Australia is higher than that from the higher education and government sectors.

R&D Funding and Expenditure in Universities and Non-Profits

It may come as a surprise that the review also found that we have relatively high levels of funding for R&D in universities and not for profit organisations. This finding appears to be based on Australian R&D expenditure in 2014 which was around the OECD average. The review also shows that R&D expenditure in the higher education sector (as a percentage of gross R&D expenditure), increased over the period from 2008-2014. R&D expenditure in 2014 was well behind the top 5 OECD nations though.

Strengths of Australian Innovation System

  • World-class research infrastructure assets
  • Good collaboration between researchers 
  • Increasing focus on networks between research institutes and business 
  • Skilled migration contributing to our skill base
  • Vibrant start-up ecosystems

Weaknesses of Australian Innovation System

  • Limited support for collaboration between researchers and business
  • Under-utilisation of vocational skill training for innovation
  • Low business expenditure on R&D
  • Poor international collaboration by businesses

For more information, the full summary and 200+ pages of the review can be found on the Department of Industry, Innovation and Sciences website.

Tags:  Matthew Lay, Innovation, Australia, Bill Ferris, Innovation Science Australia, Productivity Commission, R&D, Universities, Non-Profits, OECD, IP
 
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