innovation and science australia

Australia is good at creating knowledge but not good enough at transferring or applying it, according to a performance review on Australia’s innovation presented to the government by federal advisory board Innovation and Science Australia (ISA).

In what will surely not come as a surprise to anyone, the Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System found that while the local system is strong in some areas, there is still much to be done in order for Australia to break into the “top tier of innovation nations”.

Bill Ferris, chair of ISA, said, “In both our number of researchers per capita and the proportion of highly-cited publications we produce, we sit in the top 10 internationally.

“We are, however, performing relatively poorly in transferring that knowledge and ultimately applying it. It is these activities that create the types of new goods and services that not only improve our lives – think break-through medical technologies, environmentally friendly production techniques and new ways of growing and storing our food – but also provide economic growth and sustainable jobs.”

The review assessed Australia’s innovation, science and research system according to the innovation activities of knowledge creation, knowledge transfer, and knowledge application, with six categories identified as enablers that facilitate these activities: policy, money, infrastructure, skills, networks, and culture.

According to the review, the poor results in the knowledge transfer and application may be partially explained by Australia’s low rates of collaboration and mobility among research institutions and businesses compared to the best innovation nations.

Education was identified as an issue in regards to knowledge transfer, with the review highlighting international surveys of school science and mathematics results which suggest Australia’s education system is “significantly underperforming” against other countries.

Also highlighted was the fact that just 16 percent of government funding for innovation programs over 2016-17 will specifically encourage knowledge transfer.

Looking at the positives, however, the review acknowledged recent work done by a number of Australian agencies to open government data to community use.

Analysing knowledge application, the review found that while businesses don’t cite regulation as a general barrier to innovation, there are regulatory restrictions in a number of specific areas, while the Australian Government’s procurement policies “have not encouraged innovation as effectively” as efforts in other countries.

Also identified as a problem here was the weak connectivity between Australian and international businesses, with Australian businesses found to not “sufficiently participate in global value chains”.

Skill level is another problem; acknowledging the generally high skill level of the workforce, the quality of Australian managers with respect to innovation leadership and management was identified as an issue.

Following the review, ISA is developing a 2030 Strategic Plan for innovation, science and research detailing what the ISR System should look like in 2030 and the roadmap to get there.

Ferris said, “The challenge of getting Australia into the top tier of innovation nations by 2030 must be seen as a significant national priority.”

Image: Bill Ferris. Source: The Advertiser.