Australia's Chief Scientist

SEMIP Innovation Showcase

1)   This conference about bridging the gap between research and innovation. What is the relationship between the two?

2)   Inextricably linked:

– research sector has a fundamental role in lifting innovation and productivity
– PFRO are not only a source of knowledgeable experts and exploitable ideas, they contribute directly to the economy (spin off business, IP)
– Australian Innovation System Report estimated that a 1% increase in public R&D would result in 0.28 percentage point increase in productivity growth

3)   Australia has a history of bemoaning its ability to couple the research and industry sectors:

– In 2006, the proportion of businesses collaborating with universities or other research institutions was 12.1%
– In 2010, had fallen to 9.6%
– On this criterion we rank 21st for large businesses and 15th for SME of 26 countries included in OECD data

4)   This is a pity because our universities and research organisations are valuable assets:

– GERD as a % of GDP to measure research intensity – Australia is 14th in the world. Not bad, though not comfortable
– ERA. Australia was found to have performed at world standard or better in 10 of the 12 fields of scientific research.
– The world standard is not where we should aim to be
– Regardless, overall our researchers are performing well, our best are up with the best, especially in areas like medical science, earth sciences, genetics and environmental sciences.

5)   Flip the coin, let’s look at our business performance in innovation:

– Australia’s capacity to create new ideas, lead change and improve the way our businesses operate is key to maintaining a competitive economy
– Australia was ranked 13th out of 25 countries on the strength our innovation environment, behind other similar economies including Germany, USA, Japan, UK, Canada.
– Our research and innovation sectors perform quite similarly. In both we can do better.

6)   But how? Prime Minister asked: What are the top breakthrough actions governments can take to enhance innovation in Australia:

–  The process: wide consultation-  63 organisations, peak bodies and individuals including BCA, AIG, science and research agencies, learned academies
–  The answers formed my advice to the Prime Minister which are still under consideration and are outlined in the ‘Breakthrough Actions’ paper available to you all today.

1. Establish an Innovation Council

–  Responsibility for strategy, funding programs, assessing capacity in both innovation and related R&D; and advising Ministers through ARCom.

2. Strengthen business access to publicly funded research expertise, infrastructure and data

–   Business must have open access to publicly funded expertise, infrastructure and research data, especially in areas of national priority.
–   National Innovation Voucher pilot program.

3.   Encourage mobility of researchers between academia and business or other enterprises

–   Researchers are encouraged to engage with areas where academic publications are not the primary focus, and are not disadvantaged in academia as a result.

4.   Harmonise IP frameworks across the publicly funded research

–   Major source of conflict
–   IP policies should be standardised and simplified to foster collaboration within and between sectors.

5.   Emphasise the role of STEM education in changing the culture

–  Significantly expanding opportunities for work placements for STEM students.


7)  The take home message of my advice is that we need to do things by scale.

–  There are many support or incentive programs that are current and many more that have been tried over decades – all focussed on the same question. Many of them would be classed as useful; hardly any as bad. Yet we continue to have the discussion that began all those years ago. An issue for us is not effort, but scale.

8)   The proposed actions offer the chance of doing things differently to increase the chances of success.