Innovation is the buzzword in the industrial, trade and technological lexicon of nations across the globe that aspires to boost their productivity and improve the living standard of their citizens. There is consistent innovative redesigning of products and processes for convenience and value addition. Ever since Australia has begun its journey of innovation, it is continuously making progress. The latest ABS (Australian Bureau of statistics) data about innovation reveals that 44.5% of businesses are innovation- active. By employment size, however, 70% of the businesses with 200 or more employees are innovation-active.
In this article I will discuss some salient drivers for Australian innovation that contribute primarily to make the nation a global innovation hub:
Without a firm determination of the government and its support, the innovation task is not achievable. Fortunately, the Australian Government has a clear realization of its importance and is supporting the cause with dedication. The Department of industry, innovation, and Science of Australian Government launched an agenda in 2015 called NISA (National Innovation and science Agenda) focusing on the following 4 initiatives:
- To develop and attract world- class talent for future jobs.
- Creating a more collaborative environment where industry and researchers jointly work for solutions to real-world problems.
- To provide support to Australian entrepreneurs through new sources of finance and absorbing and embracing associated risks.
- The Government will lead by example implementing innovation.
Another great initiative of the Australian Government is plan “Australia 2030 –prosperity through innovation” announced in 2017. The plan focusses on 5 imperatives including education, culture, government, research and development (R&D) and industry.
#2.Vigorous and consistent product and process innovation:
Australia has embraced innovation enthusiastically and businesses have undergone significant structural changes by re-engineering their processes and redesigning their products. The Australian retail industry and supermarkets, for instance, have adopted a series of radical innovations to secure competitive advantage.
The interesting example of process innovation comes from Australian coupon market, which has gone from conventional to digital as 70% of Aussies have shifted to online shopping. According to a research, 82% of Aussies prefer digital coupons whereas 18% prefer printed coupons. Many Australian coupon sites offer many innovative coupons, using location-based couponing, group buying and team buying parameters, etc.
In product innovation also, Australian companies are producing inventive products. The planet innovation, the most innovative Australian company, for instance, has produced a thermostat called Zen that can be controlled from a smartphone. Another innovative company, Xero has launched a financial accounting software Xero tax that allows tax professionals to analyze and file tax returns from their mobile phones. So far 450,000 tax returns have been filed using this software.
#3.Robust education system:
Education is the foundation stone of innovation because the ability and strength of any innovative society are determined by the ability and skills of its citizens which is generated by a healthy and competitive education. The Australian education system is well poised to cater to the requirements of an innovative culture. It is embracing the digital age and federally Australian Government has invested Aus. $ 51 million in projects related to digital learning. Key elements of this strategy include the following:
- For years five and seven ACA (Australian Computing academy) has designed free digital resources in the classroom to enable students to cope with digital technologies challenges.
- Digital literacy grants to schools.
- Collaboration between schools and industry through a national volunteer program STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and Math).
Education itself is undergoing various innovative changes to prepare students for contributing to a broad innovative culture in a big way. Let’s check out a few of them:
Piggy: The app teaches young kids learning about finance and money.
Backpack: School Management App for teachers, students, and parents. This all-in-one app covers everything from the timetable to homework and teaching resources.
Kanopy: Universities and schools can demand streaming service from a database of 26000 documentaries and films. The system is serving 12 million students and staff.
In nutshell, Australian education with its well-planned initiatives is a strong pillar of innovation drive that is currently gaining momentum in Australian society.
#4.Australia’s impressive ICT growth:
The information communication’s technology plays a crucial role in innovation. According to a study “Why IT matters-an empirical study of e-business usage, innovation and firm performance” the ICT is a valuable source of business innovation, providing substantial efficiency gains and thus has a strategic relevance for firms. Australia is becoming a favorite location for a vast range of ICT activities. Some of the global giants have taken advantage of Australian ICT capabilities and have launched important projects. Few of them are quite important to mention and are thus listed below:
- Product development R&D facilities in Australia by IBM and Canon.
- Development of profitable content for entertainment and business segments for international audience and clients by Warner Bros and Google Maps, through their bases in Australia.
- Alcatel and Sysco systems have started their global operations centers, being run from Australia for advanced technical assistance.
Australia’s digital pulse 2018, a report commissioned by Australian Computer society reveals that Australia ranks 7th out of 16 developed economies in terms of digital performance in the ICT sector. The report further informs that the Australian ICT workforce grew to 663100 workers in 2017 which is expected to grow up to 758700 workers by 2023.
#5.Great innovation ecosystem:
An innovation ecosystem is described as a large number of participants and resources, which are diverse in nature but contribute collectively in innovation. These ecosystems may be both, local and regional and act as a catalyst to transform businesses through start-up activities, research, and networks.
A lot is happening in the innovation ecosystem front in Australia. Government is heavily investing in startup businesses and resultantly Australia has seen an unprecedented growth of franchise models like Servecorp, Little Tokyo two and we work, etc.
There are many early VC (Venture capital) firms in Australia like Brandon Capital, Telstra ventures and H2 ventures, etc., that are raising startup funding for firms in science-based and technology-oriented startup firms. The growing focus is on artificial intelligence, financial technology, and life-science based startup businesses.
The Australian government is putting a lot of emphasis on providing a highly efficient and capable infrastructure for fulfilling its innovation agenda. In the digital infrastructure sector, Australia is developing a resilient infrastructure to provide impetus to innovative thinkers. Its two state-of-the-art supercomputing facilities, the Pawsey supercomputing center in Perth and National computational infrastructure in Canberra are two great milestones in its journey towards becoming a global hub for innovation. The Australian government through its National collaborative research infrastructure strategy (NCRIS) is providing operating and capital expenditure funding in the research sector, catalyzing research infrastructure. NCRIS support approximately 40,000 domestic and international users in a year.
#7.Great innovation supporting culture:
There are a lot of studies that emphasize a great link between diversity and innovation ecosystems showing that diverse culture, especially immigrant’s factor positively impact the innovation drive in society. This stands valid and true for Australian society which is truly diversified. The Australian government is pursuing its innovation agenda by employing “visa for innovation” program. In March 2018,the government has launched 2 important schemes, Global talent scheme and supporting innovation in South Australia, both aiming to attract highly skilled global talent to help develop innovative businesses in Australia.
Besides skilled immigrants, Australia has intellectual capital and collaborative approach that makes it a society, conducive for innovation.
Australia is well positioned to become the next global hub for innovation because of its pro-innovation immigration policy, determination of its government, diverse culture, robust infrastructure and great collaborative environment that allows business and research sectors to synergize their efforts in the right direction.