Australian Innovation

Building Sustainable Futures

The Hon. Senator Kim Carr, Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research

With all the attention surrounding innovation in recent times, I fear some people may be suffering from innovation fatigue. While I am exposed to it more than most, for me innovation never loses its punch. This is because innovation is firmly focused on Australia’s future; every advance reveals more possibilities and greater potential for innovation. Innovation is not a fad or a phase; it is essential to improving Australia’s productivity and competitiveness, and to our ability to meet the national and global challenges of this century.

Since my appointment as Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, I have sought to build industries which recognise their innovative potential and seek to fulfil that potential. My passion for this has not wavered. I am always on the lookout for opportunities to spread the good word about innovation.

The 2009 Budget saw the Australian Government significantly escalate its support for innovation with the release of Powering Ideas: An Innovation Agenda for the 21st Century. The Government is giving effect to that agenda by investing $8.58 billion in research and innovation in 2009-10. This funding will support business investment in innovation, the higher education sector, research agencies, and multi-sector initiatives such as the Cooperative Research Centres Program. There are several new measures, including better support for world-class university research, a Super Science Initiative focusing on national research strengths, Commercialisation Australia and other measures to boost business innovation.

Commercialisation Australia is now in operation and providing a critical service to researchers and innovative companies seeking to commercialise their ideas. Commercialisation Australia’s radical, hands-on approach covers the entire commercialisation process and helps participants grow successful commercial ventures, create high-skill jobs, and boost Australia’s international competitiveness.  We have already seen strong demand for Commercialisation Australia and our inaugural board brings to the program a wealth of experience and knowledge across a wide range of industries.  

The new R&D Tax Credit, expected to take effect from 1 July this year, is the biggest reform to business innovation support for more than a decade. The new incentive will provide more generous base rates to all companies, redistribute support in favour of small and medium enterprises, and target genuine R&D. Our aim is to increase the number of firms undertaking R&D, and in doing so, create more jobs, strengthen the economy, and lift Australia’s innovation performance. 

We have also established seven industry innovation councils, which span a number of sectors, including IT, steel and space. The councils provide strategic advice on innovation priorities, champion innovation within industry, and build connections with other innovation organisations.

The importance of these mechanisms for collaboration across industries and between sectors is greater now than it has ever been. Evidence suggests that collaboration is an integral part of most innovation that is carried out around the world.

The Australian Innovation Festival has been, and continues to be, an important supporter of the collaborative and innovative culture within Australia. The biggest challenge from here is understanding how we, as a small nation distant from many of the world’s major markets and knowledge economies, can boost our international collaboration and better integrate ourselves into the global innovation system.

Another area of importance to me is social innovation. In the past, the primary focus for innovation policy has been on how it relates to economic benefit. Looking ahead, I wish to broaden this perspective and further consider our role in supporting innovation as a mechanism to benefit society at large. The public sector, as servants of the community, is perhaps best placed to model this kind of innovation, but it will be something for us all to consider.

Whoever you are, whatever your contribution, I challenge you to consider how you can be more innovative and participate in finding solutions to some of the problems we face together.

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