Australian Innovation

New Thinking, New Directions – Building Innovation Capability in Australia

The recently published Australian Industry Group (AIG) “New Thinking, New Directions” report outlines a range of innovation opportunities based on the findings of the National Innovation Review Steering Group. The Steering Group, of which the AIC was a member, was tasked with driving a business-led conversation about building innovation capability in Australia.

The report combines the results of a three-week online collaboration event, workshops in the major capital cities and an industry innovation survey.

Phase one - Online collaboration event

400 individuals from industry, research centres, universities and government contributed ideas and opinions via a web-based platform which focused on six key questions including “What skills are needed to boost innovation in Australian workplaces?” and “How can we improve collaboration with the research base and between businesses?”

Phase two – Capital city workshops

In Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, 25 people attended workshops to prioritise the ideas generated online during phase one and to develop the chosen ideas using an action-planning logic model. Workshop participants were invited to present their elaborated ideas in an ‘elevator pitch’ format.

Phase three – Industry innovation survey

A large-scale innovation survey was distributed to 300 Australian businesses to seek quantitative data on a range of issues related to innovation. The results of the survey provided further emphasis on the areas where effort and investment needs to be focused to build innovation capability in Australia.

Combining the findings from the three phases led to the identification of seven key innovation themes:

1     Transforming culture by showcasing innovation
2     Leveraging the Australian broadband opportunity
3     Building and embedding professional innovation skills
4     Developing new models and incentives for research/business collaboration
5     Re-examining the role of government procurement in fostering innovation
6     Using corporate venturing to improve access to finance for innovation
7     Streamlining access to government programs and support

The Innovation Review Steering Committee (comprised of the AIC, Australian Industry Group, Cutler and Company, UQ Business School, Queensland Government, Alcatel-Lucent and PricewaterhouseCoopers) believes that these seven areas of focus will provide enhanced opportunities for Australia to improve innovation outcomes across the economy over the long term.

The AIC’s TechFast program and RipCurl collaboration was cited as an example of innovation success, particularly relating to theme four (developing new models and incentives for research/business collaboration),. The AIC’s TechFast program was engaged to assist RipCurl to find new technologies and advanced materials to develop its second generation power heated wet suit – the H Bomb.

Key insights

A range of key insights into Australian innovation were highlighted by the survey, including:

-  Three in four survey respondents have introduced new products or services in the past year, while more than four in five have undertaken business process innovation. Half of all firms have made significant efforts to change the business culture in the last year.

-  While businesses mainly innovate by introducing new products and improving business processes, adopting new technologies and introducing new skill sets are also significant. Less important as a form of innovation are new business structures, new management practices and the introduction of new business models

-  The motivations to innovate vary with the type of innovation undertaken. Most firms change business processes to lift productivity and reduce costs, while new products or services are introduced to increase revenues and build new markets.

-   Across all types of innovation, the least important motivating factors are: being seen as an industry leader, making use of new systems and staying ahead of the competition.

-  Key barriers to innovation are lack of funds, appropriate skills, time and resources. Insufficient tax incentives are also seen as an inhibitor to innovation.

-  Almost a third of firms have been involved in collaborative projects with external research providers such as universities and CSIRO, with those participating citing the solution of technical problems and the creation of future options for new products or services as the key outcomes.

-  The technologies viewed as most promising by firms for creating future innovation opportunities are fast broadband and software applications, with a smaller proportion identifying advanced materials as important.

-  Insufficient funding, knowledge, time and resources are perceived as the key barriers to adopting new technologies to improve innovation capability.

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