What is missing from Australia’s Innovation Agenda?

Much has already been written about the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) but something really big is missing.

Direct from the Innovation Agenda document, The National Innovation and Science Agenda will focus on four key pillars:Malcolm Turnbull

  1. Culture and capital
  2. Collaboration
  3. Talent and skills
  4. Government as an exemplar – NB. It will be interesting to see government applying lean startup methodology to be a leader.

With a focus on innovation for jobs and growth, under each pillar are a number of initiatives but what is missing?

Culture and capital

ACCESS TO CROWD-SOURCED EQUITY FUNDING

Crowd-sourced equity funding (CSEF) schemes exist in various countries, including in the UK and New Zealand.

BIOMEDICAL TRANSLATION FUND

Australia is a world leader in health and medical research but the challenge has always been getting the research out of the laboratory and into the marketplace.

CHANGES TO VENTURE CAPITAL LIMITED PARTNERSHIPS

Venture Capital Limited Partnerships (VCLPs) are investment vehicles that provide tax exemptions for those investing in innovative companies at the early and growth stages of a startup.

CSIRO INNOVATION FUND

The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is our national science agency and for almost 100 years it has advanced Australia with a range of inventions, innovations and knowledge breakthroughs that have changed and improved the lives of people here and around the world.

INCREASING ACCESS TO COMPANY LOSSES

When companies make a loss, they can be discouraged from taking the leap and exploring other profit-making activities for the reasonable fear that they will be denied access to valuable prior-year tax losses. The ability to offset losses against other profits is particularly important for small innovative companies because they have less diverse income streams and cash flow than established businesses.

INCUBATOR SUPPORT PROGRAMME

Incubators help innovative startups to rapidly transform their ideas into globally competitive businesses by giving them mentorship, funding, resources, knowledge and access to business networks.

INSOLVENCY LAWS REFORM

More often than not, entrepreneurs will fail several times before they make it and will usually learn a lot in the process. To help these entrepreneurs to succeed will require a cultural shift.

INTANGIBLE ASSET DEPRECIATION

Innovative companies are more likely to hold a high proportion of intangible or knowledge-based assets—such as patents and copyrights—and investment in these assets is crucial to their innovation and growth.

REFORMS TO EMPLOYEE SHARE SCHEMES

Employee Share Schemes (ESS) give employees shares or the options to buy shares in the company as part of their remuneration.

TAX INCENTIVES FOR INVESTORS

Over 4,500 startups are missing out on equity finance each year.

We’re making some changes to our tax system to incentivise investors to direct their funds towards innovative, high-growth potential startups.

Collaboration

ADVANCING QUANTUM COMPUTING TECHNOLOGY

Technology and science are changing the way we live, faster than ever before.

CYBER SECURITY GROWTH CENTRE

Strong cyber security is essential to allow individuals and businesses to take advantage of the economic possibilities of the digital world.

GLOBAL INNOVATION STRATEGY

Businesses that collaborate on innovation with research organisations are more likely to improve their productivity, increase sales and grow their exporting activity.

INNOVATION CONNECTIONS

Australia’s rate of collaboration on innovation between industry and researchers is the lowest in the OECD.

INNOVATION IN AGRICULTURE AND REGIONAL AREAS

Strong, vibrant, innovative and sustainable rural industries and communities are in Australia’s national interest.

LINKAGE PROJECTS SCHEME

When researchers and businesses decide to collaborate, they want to get working as soon as possible.

MAINTAINING WORLD CLASS RESEARCH INFRASTRUCTURE

Our world-class researchers and infrastructure are the reason Australia has historically been at the forefront of global discoveries.

MEASURING IMPACT AND ENGAGEMENT OF UNIVERSITY RESEARCH

While the success of university research can be viewed in measures of excellence, it can also be found in its economic, social, and environmental impacts.

NEW RESEARCH FUNDING ARRANGEMENTS FOR UNIVERSITIES

Universities have traditionally been rewarded for their research outputs, but to ensure their rate of collaboration with industry increases, we need to encourage joint endeavours that produce outcomes with commercial and community benefit.

Government as exemplar

BUSINESS RESEARCH AND INNOVATION INITIATIVE

Government spends about $50 billion on procurement every year in Australia, but when it comes to how that procurement goes on to foster innovation, Australia ranks only 70th out of 140 countries.

DATA SHARING FOR INNOVATION

The government holds a huge amount of unique data and it’s time we put it to good use.

DATA61: AUSTRALIA’S DIGITAL AND DATA INNOVATION GROUP

Over the next five to 20 years, a data revolution will impact almost every industry and government function.

DIGITAL MARKETPLACE

Currently, startups and small to medium suppliers of digital services find it difficult to participate in Australian Government procurements for large scale ICT solutions.

INNOVATION AND SCIENCE AUSTRALIA

Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) will be a new independent body responsible for strategic whole of government advice on all science, research and innovation matters.

And then we come to Talent and skills,

EMBRACING THE DIGITAL AGE

Ensuring the next generation of students have the skills needed for the workforce of the future is critical to ensuring Australia’s future prosperity and competitiveness on the international stage.

INSPIRING A NATION OF SCIENTISTS

An estimated 75 per cent of jobs in the fastest-growing industries require science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skilled workers, and ensuring students have the skills to equip them for the workforce of the future is critical.

OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN IN STEM

Only one in four IT graduates and fewer than one in 10 engineering graduates are women.

SUPPORTING INNOVATION THROUGH VISAS

A high-performing, innovative nation needs skilled, talented people to drive ideas from research to commercial reality.

Of the 29 initiatives, our favourites include:

In all practicalities, Talent and skills underpins all 29 measures but with only 4 specific initiatives this seems very light on.

What’s missing?

With the Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull MP stating that the best resources in Australia are people, and aside from skills for digital technologies, encouraging female entrepreneurs and STEM opportunities, surely Talent and skills deserves more attention?

Moreover the question as to whether will the #ideasboom will flow through Vocational Education and Training (VET), Higher Education and Employment policy is critical and the big missing piece.

For example, in the next generation of Training Packages it will be important to have future capabilities and entrepreneurship.  Currently, many units of competency are written with an employee mindset and/or with a traditional approach to running a business.  Like follow rules and policies, when entrepreneurs break rules, and undertake market research when startups will build a minimum viable product and adapt it based upon customer feedback.  Skills for entrepreneurship are missing, innovation is limited and the way some job roles are described in terms of skills is outdated.  This area of capability should be an important consideration for the newly appointed Skills Service Organisations.

In employment and youth portfolios, entrepreneurial outcomes could easily be included in jobs and youth engagement programmes such as Empowering YOUth Initiatives and the Industry Skills Fund – Youth stream.  But instead outcomes all imply being an employee.

Doesn’t Australia need more people, youth included, to consider starting a business, employing themselves and others?

January 2016

One Comment

  • Debra Beet says:

    Hi Wendy

    Thank you for this article.

    I agree the initiatives tend to focus more on the higher education sector than a VET contribution. However when considering the entrepreneurs of the future maybe we should be re-considering the primary and secondary education system that currently actively inhibits children from being creative, showing initiative and other entrepreneurial characteristics including thinking and reasoning.

    Unfortunately VET, through the training packages have lost their way, the focus now is too much on people already employed in enterprise where previously the focus was on providing the skills and knowledge required to gain employment and then study to build skills and knowledge to progress in a chosen career.

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