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Are Aussies Really Lagging in Innovation as Report Suggests?

Jacqueline Plunkett | February 16th, 2017

A recent report released by Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) found that Australians scored poorly in key areas of innovation compared to other countries. At best, Australians are only incrementally innovative and fail to transfer, apply and commercialise the knowledge they have.

This comes as part of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda to review the country’s current performance in the innovation and commercialisation space. ISA has been tasked to raise Australia’s efforts to that of top nations’ by 2030. This report is a benchmarking exercise, which will be used by consultants to assist ISA to deliver a strategic plan by the end of 2017. It is worth watching this space as the plan may influence future Government funding and reform.

Accuracy of Innovation Review

The review, however, appears to have little original content or analysis from ISA. Instead, it draws some findings from other reports and existing data, such as the Global Innovation Index, other Australian Government reports and statistics from the ABS and OECD.

Due to a limited time frame for such a large task, the insights appear to be contractions from other reports, some of which have evolved since release. There is a lack of original interpretation of the evidence and discussions are necessarily superficial due to length constraints.

For example, the ISA view of intellectual property resembles some conclusions from the Productivity Commission inquiry. This is problematic as the Productivity Commission did not deal with all intellectual property rights, and some proposals from the Productivity Commission were deeply flawed with a requirement for further consultation following the release.

However, the ISA review acknowledges its limitations and indicates its role will be to complement other activities. The concern from professionals working in the innovation and commercialisation sectors is that a narrow view of Australian innovative activity will skew the criteria determining future resource allocation.

Brief Recap of Innovation Review

The report uses three pillars to analyse part of the innovation system: knowledge creation, transfer and application:

The report uses three pillars to analyse part of the innovation system: knowledge creation, transfer and application

Are Australians Lagging Behind?

To rank Australia “above average” in knowledge creation appears to be too generous based on the report’s internal metrics.

With ongoing reports of Australia’s falling education standards, the ISA might have concluded that knowledge creation is above average due to the tertiary sector’s success in marketing internationally and drawing in skills from overseas.

Our universities might not be in the top 20 but the sector is growing. This indicates that Australians seeking international opportunities for low novelty innovation commercialisation can still be very worthwhile and lucrative.

It also indicates that Australia might not be able to grow world-class innovation on its own.

While the review has its limitations, it is clear that Australia has some highly innovative sectors. However, the place to start is for all businesses to accurately capture their intangible knowledge through patent registration and other forms of intellectual property protection. This is a larger problem than conveyed in the report.

Our experience is that the perceived lack of novelty results from a lack of identifying and protecting innovation. This means that it cannot be strategically ranked for commercialisation activities, which might reduce chances of lateral application opportunities being discovered.

Given that the focus on investment in R&D is estimated at $40 billion, this is the best time for businesses to perform an audit and look for opportunities that are becoming available.

Need advice on identifying, protecting and commercialising your innovation? Get in touch with us:

Jacqueline Plunkett Jacqueline Plunkett
+61 3 9620 9660
Gavin Doherty Gavin Doherty
Director and Patents Attorney
B.E (mech & manuf), CGTL&P
+61 3 9620 9660
Jacqueline Plunkett

Jacqueline Plunkett

Lawyer, BIR LLB at mdp
Jacqueline Plunkett is an intellectual property (IP) lawyer with experience in private commercial law, government, policy, trade and international law.
Jacqueline Plunkett

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