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LBS Innovation Series – Is Australia prepared?

Professor of Practice in economics at LBS, Dr Mark Cloney, asks: what are the key drivers of innovation, disruption and opportunity in the global food production and agribusiness sectors? Any why have the Dutch got it so right?

Changing consumer demand, particularly in Asia, corporatisation of farming, automation on farms and in processing, agtech and advances in the Internet of Things (IoT), digitalisation of supply chains, agricultural science advances, and the emergence of vertical farming are just some of the drivers changing the dynamics of the global food production and agribusiness[1].

The Netherlands

Are Australia’s food producers and agribusiness well-informed and placed to understand these challenges and to gain from the opportunities they offer? Countries like The Netherlands certainly are[2]. Despite its relative size, the Dutch are the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products at $158 billion, or three times Australia’s exports[3]. Together with the USA and Spain, The Netherlands is one of the world’s three leading producers of vegetables and fruit supplying a quarter of the vegetables that are exported from Europe. Why? The Dutch are forward-looking, highly innovative and collaborative and have achieved worldwide recognition for their research, infrastructure and innovation systems. For example, Wageningen University and Research (WUR) is the number 1 agricultural university in the world for the third year in a row according to The National Taiwan Ranking of over 300 universities; while, 5 of the top 26 global agri-food companies have R&D facilities in The Netherlands[4].

Australia

So where does Australia stand in comparison? Nationally, the food and agribusiness sector employed approximately 522,000 persons and there were approximately 178,500 businesses trading in the sector (as at June 2015). According to the Australian Government’s Industry Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda[5], food production and agribusiness are areas of competitive strength for Australia. Australia’s food and agribusiness sector includes food-related agricultural production, food processing and the major inputs to these activities. This includes: food products, processing and beverage manufacturing as well as key inputs; and, agribusiness that relates directly to food production and their supply chains.

La Trobe’s AgriBio Centre

La Trobe University has demonstrated a strong commitment to helping Australia create a vibrant future for those involved in the production of food, fibre and agribusiness. La Trobe plays its role in building human capital and undertaking R&D and scientific research that supports the food and agribusiness innovation system. For example, La Trobe’s AgriBio Centre brings together world-class research in the largest agricultural R&D organisation in Victoria. La Trobe recently announced funding of $50 million for its new La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food focused on solutions for global food security.  La Trobe is also a founding member and financial contributor to Melbourne’s Northern Food Group a partnership with the Victorian government, 5 local governments, 4 tertiary institutes, Yarra Valley Water, Melbourne Innovation Centre, and the Melbourne Market Authority among others.

LBS/NORTHLink Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum

So how can Australia’s food producers and agribusiness prepare themselves against ever increasing disruption, and better collaborate with world class researchers and scientists in this field? These are some of the questions being explored at the Innovation in Food and Agribusiness Forum organised by LBS in partnership with NORTHLink. The focus of the Forum is on hearing from industry speakers of successful innovation in the food production and agribusiness sector. It will present industry and government perspectives on how we can continue to improve innovation in this sector, particularly for SMEs and start-ups operating in a global context.

In particular, the Forum offers an opportunity to explore how we create the right collaborative partnerships and environment for food production and agribusiness to succeed globally in an era of increased disruption. Maybe we just need some Dutch courage!

 

References:

 

This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L.

More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

Bringing together top researchers and leading financial industry practitioners

From the 24th until the 26th of September, the 8th Conference on Behavioural Finance and Capital Markets (BFCM) is taking place at LTU’s City Campus. The conference presents state-of-the-art research in the fields of Behavioural Finance, Experimental Finance & Capital Markets/Market Microstructure.

Its beginnings

The conference started in 2011 with the idea of merging together two fields in finance: capital markets and people’s behaviour. On the one hand, capital markets (or market microstructure) is all about how financial markets are functioning, how liquid, how risky as well as how fair and efficient these markets are. On the other hand, financial markets are driven by people’s emotions and behaviour. Behavioural biases are well documented in the literature. Even financially literate people are prompt to cognitive biases. In other words, investors, traders, bankers and lenders all show such biases while making investment decisions under risk. From the outset, the BFCM Conference bought together top academics such as: Pete Kyle, Avanidhar (Subra) Subrahmanyam, Richard Roll, Peter Bossaerts, Ron Masulis, Terrence Hendershott, Stephen Brown and Tarun Chordia (among others) with industry leaders to discuss relevant topics.

Its aim

The conference merges academic research with the applied work of the finance industry. The conference continuously looks to identify new emerging fields of research and supports better cooperation and collaboration among researchers and between academia and industry.

According to Founder of the BFCM Conference & LBS Professor Petko Kalev it comes down to this:

“The research we do should not only have academic value but also practical application that impacts the finance industry and hence our society. This conference makes that happen.”

BFCM Conference in the news

The conference topics are always relevant. This relevance is highlighted by an article that was published this week in the Australian Financial Review. Chanticleer Tony Boyd wrote an article titled “The highs and lows of retail investing” based on an academic paper that is being presented at the BFCM Conference next week.

The article starts with a story on Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, buying a big stake in Apple in 2016, when the stock was 10 per cent above its 12-month low. Looking back, the timing was perfect. Apple is now trading about 5 per cent below its record high. The article then discusses the idea that institutional investors often profit at the expense of retail investors who sell at the wrong time. An idea supported by the yet to be released paper by Joshua Della Vedova, Andrew Grant and Joakim Westerholm from the University of Sydney. They found that retail investors often sell at the 52-week high because it is a domain for gains and provides an anchor for the highest past price.

Read the full article by Tony Boyd here.

 

Visit the BFCM Conference website for more information.

LBS Innovation Series: Think big or go home

This blog, as part of the LBS Innovation Series, brings you a presentation by Kate Burleigh, former Managing Director of Intel Australia/NZ and now country manager of Amazon Alexa Skills across Australia and New Zealand.

Kate’s topic is:

Think big or go home – why students and businesses with a global mindset are more likely to succeed within the digital era.

Platform economics & technologies

Kate addresses the rise of platform economics and how this enabling technology together with globalisation is driving the current wave of digital innovation and disruption. She outlines how the proliferation of connectivity and the growing power of data and data analytics is lowering costs through the use of platforms, cloud-based processing, storage and tools. Kate talks about the proliferation of platform economy since the advent of hot spots, Wi-Fi and cloud computing technologies used by companies like YouTube, Amazon, Uber, Airbnb, Facebook and Netflix.

What these firms and the next wave of Chinese technology firms such as Alibaba, Tencent, and WeChat have in common is that they think globally, have monopolistic tendency (i.e. they become the market standard), use artificial intelligence and are agile. For example, these companies have attached payment systems to their platforms which give them a competitive advantage.

In the below presentation we see how Kate challenges our current generation of educators, students, start-ups and business leaders to foster a global mindset and to better utilise and adopt platform technologies in order to be competitive and succeed more strongly.

 

Watch her presentation below:

 

This blog is part of the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School. The series was developed after the successful National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe Business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L.

More blogs in the LBS Innovation Series:

Can economics remove doping from sport?

Trying to gain an unfair advantage through performance-enhancing drugs has plagued sport for years. From swimming to soccer, Aussie Rules to athletics, sports across the spectrum have suffered blows to their credibility as a result of banned substances.

A 2010 study revealed that many cyclists believe it’s impossible to compete without doping. Most famously, seven-time winner of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong, made a spectacular fall from grace in 2013 following years of doping allegations by former teammates. The incident shone a harsh light on the prevalence of drugs at the highest levels of sporting competition.

 

What if there was a new way to help ensure that athletes play fair? A system to help increase compliance with existing anti-doping regulations?

 

 

How economics can change athletes’ behaviour

A system based around incentives rather than punishment is being trialled by La Trobe Business School, Senior Lecturer in Microeconomics, Dr Liam Lenten. The trial uses grant money supplied by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and is being run in conjunction with the University of Adelaide’s Experimental Economics Lab.

“Current anti-doping enforcement relies on suspensions and fines. Our research will consider innovative anti-doping policy ideas that can be used in tandem with existing punishments,” Dr Lenten says. As an alternative, Dr Lenten and his colleagues propose a system called ‘conditional superannuation’. Simply put, athletes sign a contract whereby they forego a percentage of their earnings and prize money, say 10 per cent, and recoup those earnings at a later date – providing they continue to test negative for banned substances.

 

 

How bad is the doping problem, really?

There’s a strong need for new approaches to doping in elite sport. In an academic paper on the subject, Dr Lenten argues that high-profile doping scandals raise questions about whether suspensions, sanctions and public shaming sufficiently discourage athletes from using banned substances.

Informally, athletes, officials and researchers believe that doping might be far more widespread than is reported or tested for. Dr Lenten and his co-authors report that the actual rate of doping has been approximated at 14 to 39 per cent of athletes, compared to the 0.5 to 2.0 per cent level of positive doping control tests. In surveys asking athletes and coaches to estimate doping, the numbers escalate further.

 

What solutions to doping exist?

Given the extent of the problem and the impossibility of ensuring drug-free sport under the current system, consider these alternative approaches.

The first is full legalisation of drugs in sport. This course of action would undoubtedly be met with public and professional outcry and, given the risks that some performance-enhancing drugs pose to health, could potentially result in deaths.

The second option is a draconian, even dystopian, system of monitoring and control that might go as far as ‘criminal investigations, forensic DNA analyses, “coercive” interviewing, extensive psychometric and personality surveys, lie detection testing, and athlete micro-chipping for whereabouts checks, as well as, ultimately, in vivo chemical testing.’ This option, aside from being a direct slight to an athlete’s personal integrity, would prove prohibitively expensive, and is at least for the time being unviable.

 

 

Are economic incentives the middle ground?

A middle way could be conditional superannuation. But while it may prove an effective adjunct to existing policy, on its own conditional superannuation isn’t perfect. This is because individual competitors respond to punishment or incentive-based motivations in different ways.

For example, younger athletes may not perceive the benefit of money for a future that still seems so far away. And older athletes may not be deterred by the threat of a ban or a late financial penalty if they’re already in the twilight of their career. However, Dr Lenten says that these problems could be mitigated by taking a context-specific approach to each athlete’s contract. This means younger athletes might face bans, whereas older athletes might face financial penalties that could even take effect retroactively.

Dr Lenten and his colleagues have begun testing the model using a pilot experiment. So far they’ve found ‘early and suggestive evidence in favour of trialling a conditional superannuation scheme at some level of professional or elite sport’. While not yet conclusive, the study represents a positive development to an issue that can’t and won’t be solved overnight.

In the face of elite sport’s ambitious, competitive and high-pressure environment, athletes are likely to test the rules in search of an advantage. However, considered and evidence-based solutions from outside the boxes of ‘radical tolerance’ or ‘stifling scrutiny’ might be just the motivation they need to stay on a level playing field.

 

This blog post was originally published on NEST. Read the original article.

Why risk management is so crucial the start-up economy

Traditionally business risk management has been used to reduce and better understand the likelihood and uncertainty various ‘events’ can have on businesses achieving their objectives e.g. financial uncertainty, legal liabilities, strategic management decisions, cyber threats, accidents, natural disasters and business continuity etc. Increasingly, however, business risk methods are being incorporated into new start-up sciences, business design and prototype testing for new ideas, products and services well before firms go to market. Application of these risk based start-up sciences is also a key strategy to help new start-ups attract potential investors by minimising investor risk.

Disruption

The global business environment is being driven by new digital technologies and disruption. This includes 3D printing, quantum computing, blockchain, artificial intelligence and new platform economics led by Facebook, Google, Uber, and Alibaba etc. (see Klaus Schwab, 2016, The Fourth Industrial Revolution). It continues to be a problem, however, that a lot of entrepreneurs and start-ups fail because they do not clearly understand the ‘risks’ associated with their business proposition from the start. In this context they waste time, money, resources and effort building the wrong product or service for the wrong market at the wrong time.

Risk mitigation and systematically de-risking

So increasingly building a successful product and business is essentially about risk mitigation and systematically de-risking your business model overtime by identifying and testing the problem your product or service is attempting to solve. Applying more rigorous start-up scientist helps reduce the ‘risk ‘of business failure. The approach requires you to develop a feasible solution and prototypes and to try out on consumers to give feedback before launching the final product to the market. Start-up sciences include Design Thinking, Lean Canvas and Innovator’s Method etc. to reduce risks and manage uncertainty across the key end-to-end start-up design process.

For example, in 2012, Ash Maurya redesigned Osterwalder’s earlier Business Model Canvas to develop his Lean Canvas idea.  The Business Model Canvas provided a template describing nine essential elements of an existing business: customer segments, value propositions, channels, customer relationships, revenue streams, resources, activities, partnerships, and costs. Maurya’s Lean Canvas is a one-page business modelling tool that helps increase the probability of success by starting with the customer and using information or data derived from business-model hypotheses to lower risk and reduce uncertainty.

National Innovation Forum

At the La Trobe Business School/NORTH Link National Innovation Forum held in September 2017 a number of business leaders, consulting firms and academics came together to discuss Australia’s innovation system and how to increase innovation particularly for start-ups and SMEs. Several of the presentations chose to focus on the use of start-up science as a means to reduce business risk and manage business uncertainty.

For example, Antonio Palanca, CEO and Co-Founder of the HiveXchange presented a case study on his business, which has created a new form of business-to-business e-commerce called trust-based e-commerce, which is designed specifically to meet the challenges in perishable produce supply chains. Palanca described the company’s journey and how the use of Lean Canvas methodology shaped field experiments and prototypes to reveal problems early that became the foundation of HiveXchange’s trust based e-commerce software. Palanca explained that the benefit of this approach was that as you go through the stages you reduce risk and therefore become more attractive to investors and you can drive more commercial innovation on a global scale.

Similarly, Christine Axton, Director in Monitor Deloitte’s strategy practice, presented a short overview the innovator’s method and illustrated its application in a case study. Based on the work of Nathan Furr and Jeff Dyer (2014) the innovator’s method is designed to help firms to specifically manage uncertainty in the innovation process. The innovator’s method offers a set of tools and methods to consider and test uncertainty at each of the end-to-end innovation process steps.

Several other presenters at the Forum referenced Eric Ries’ book The Lean Start-up: Creating Growth through Innovation, as a major influence on their business or teaching practice. The thrust of Ries’ book is that start-ups tend to be much higher-risk endeavours than they need to be because they build elaborate products before testing them with consumers. Applying Ries’ build, measure lean-loop, allows firms to reduce waste, optimise production processes and find out what their customers really want before they go to market.

 

What the above illustrates is that the traditional application of business risk methods and tools are changing. The future of business risk management is no longer just seen as a method to identify, assess and control threats to an existing firm’s systems, people, capital and earnings.  It is increasingly used as a key part of the start-up science that is nurturing a new generation of start-up businesses and de-risk businesses overtime.

 

This Blog is written by Dr Mark Cloney and originally published in Risk Management Institute of Australasia (RMIA), The Risk Magazine, No.3, March 2018, p.20. Read the full magazine here. Mark is Professor of Practice in Economics at the LBS. Prior to joining La Trobe University, Mark was the senior executive officer responsible for enterprises’ risk management, business planning, audit and protective security in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water. Mark teaches in the economics discipline and risk management practice.

Watch: What failure can teach you

This article was first published on Nest, a haven of new ideas for people who are all kinds of clever. Read the original article.

Being able to bounce back after failure, learn from your mistakes and forge ahead with resilience are vital skills both in and out of the workplace. According to one survey, 91 per cent of HR decision-makers predict that resilience will be key to employability in the next few years.

For Michelle Gallaher, La Trobe alumnus and 2017 Telstra Victorian Business Woman of the Year, failing is one of the most important things you can do. Watch our video to find out what Michelle learned from failing her first degree, and what failure can teach you.

Develop your resilience through La Trobe’s Career Ready Advantage program.

LBS alumni event a huge success!

On 25 October, La Trobe Business School welcomed Dr Fiona McKenzie from the Australian Futures Project for the school’s annual Alumni Event.

Dr Fiona McKenzie was welcomed by La Trobe Business School’s Head of School, Professor Paul Mather. Event attendees included LBS alumni, university and industry stakeholders.

In her speech, Dr Fiona McKenzie spoke about how businesses today are influenced by massive digital disruption and are taking the opportunity to expand globally. This trend has often caused businesses process transform and jobs performed by people to be redefined.

La Trobe Business School would like to thank Dr Fiona McKenzie for attending!

Will robots take our jobs?

Find out more about how the digital disruption will affect the future of work at our upcoming La Trobe Business School Alumni Event with Dr McKenzie.

This article was first published on Nest, a haven of new ideas for people who are all kinds of clever. Read the original article.

Technology advances are rapidly changing the world of work as we know it.

PwC predicts 44 per cent (5.1 million) of current Australian jobs are at high risk of being affected by computerisation and technology over the next 20 years. ‘By “high risk”’ the PwC report clarifies ‘we mean there’s a greater than 70 per cent chance the job could be automated by technology’.

La Trobe Futurist Dr Fiona McKenzie discusses the challenges and opportunities of digital disruption in the future workforce, and how we can adapt.

What jobs will become automated?

The 2015 PwC report says jobs most likely to be affected are those where computer learning systems or robotics are able to perform simple and routine tasks faster and more accurately than humans. ‘These typically include unskilled or low-skilled activities in offices, factories and shops,’ it states.

Dr McKenzie says we’re already seeing the seeds of automation in our neighbouring countries. ‘There’s change happening in the manufacturing space with automated robots and co-bots (collaborative robots), which are potentially going to totally change the garment industry and affect employment for millions and millions of people in Asia.’

‘What’s interesting,’ Dr McKenzie further points out, ‘is that people in mid-level jobs are now starting to feel the pinch too.

‘People thought skilled-labour would be safe from automation but in actual fact there are developments where relatively sophisticated tasks can now be automated too.’

Dr McKenzie says ‘I’m hesitant to say whole sectors’ will be automated or safe from automation. Rather, ‘there will be chunks of every sector that will change.’

Roles that require creative thinking, emotional intelligence, intuition and ‘all those things that humans have the advantage on’ will be safe in the near future. As will jobs that require human, face-to-face interactions, such as those in the healthcare sector.

What opportunities can digital disruption offer?

‘We tend to fear that what we don’t know, but automation creates a whole opportunity for something else to be augmented,’ explains Dr McKenzie.

For example, a nurse whose job is to deliver food to patients may find there’s an automated delivery cart that can soon do just that. ‘This can create the opportunity for the nurse to spend more time sitting with the patient, measuring blood pressure and providing better care,’ Dr McKenzie says, ‘and in fact Sydney’s Royal North Shore Hospital introduced automated guided vehicles to move linen and food back in 2012’.

The advent of the internet and the ability to instantly connect with others across the globe has also enabled the rise of ‘digital nomads’ and freelancers to work from anywhere in the world for anyone in the world.

CSIRO’s recent report into ‘Tomorrow’s digitally enabled workforce’ ‘identifies plausible [future] scenarios via which the many – possibly most – Australian workers become portfolio workers and freelancers’.

Dr McKenzie says, ‘There’s a huge cohort that will be highly skilled, in demand and able to shape their future – and they’ll flourish in this environment.

‘There’ll be lots of opportunities in terms of entrepreneurialism, portfolio work, creating your own identity, being able to work around the world and doing work you’re interested in rather than being tied to one job.’

The rise of portfolio work and the gig economy could mean people can choose flexible work like nights, weekends and part-time, which could be particularly beneficial to parents.

It could also open up more doors for rural dwellers to work remotely for urban and international companies.

The dark side of the precariat workforce

The flipside of the rise of the precariat workforce – that is a working class characterised by ‘precarious work’ – could be that lack of job security increases stress and anxiety for some.

‘The precariat, that concept of “the new vulnerable” in the workplace is important to pay attention to because it is potentially a large cohort of people, says Dr McKenzie.

‘People may feel unsafe, they may feel insecure and like the economy is not ticking along. That plays out in all sorts of ways in politics and society and mental health.’

Dr McKenzie also wonders: ‘If we’re all working in a gig economy, what happens if we don’t have employment contracts and super?’ There’s talk of basic universal income, but we’re yet to know how that might play out.

Similarly, for an aging workforce expected to work into their 70s, Dr McKenzie says we might need to challenge assumptions and paradigms around retirement. People in this age-group might work on a semi-retired basis, they could work as business mentors, or perhaps unpaid roles like childcare and volunteering that this cohort regularly partake in will become financially rewarded roles.

The blurring of work boundaries that means we can potentially work remotely for overseas organisations, could also mean a lot of home-grown jobs are taken offshore.

In 2012, every third adult in OECD countries had a tertiary degree reports CSIRO. ‘That’s a massive cohort of young people coming through with higher education degrees worldwide, and what does that mean if work is more mobile?’ asks Dr McKenzie. Answer: competition for work increases.

How can we prepare for the future workplace?

To make the Australian economy and Australian workers competitive in the future, Dr McKenzie says we need to look at ‘how we can be the best in the world at the different industries we have and make sure we are winning jobs as well.’

Ultimately, Dr McKenzie says it’s less about the pace of digital disruption, and more about how quickly we respond to it. Dr McKenzie asks whether governments and others ‘will choose to be leaders on this or wait to react.’

‘The important point is that it’s not small. If you think about the Great Depression, unemployment was only around 25 per cent and here we’re talking about 44 per cent of jobs at risk.

‘We’re at six per cent unemployment and it doesn’t take a big shift in unemployment for people to really feel the impact. I hope we’ll all be proactive on this one.’

Find out more about how the digital disruption will affect the future of work at our upcoming La Trobe Business School Alumni Event with Dr McKenzie.

 

LBS Alumni Event: The changing nature of work

We are living in a time where businesses are influenced by massive digital disruption and are taking the opportunity to expand globally. This often requires entire business process transform and jobs performed by people to be redefined.

Join us as leading expert in the changing nature of work Dr Fiona McKenzie, discusses how business leaders can prepare for the future, and the skills required to take advantage of new opportunities.

About the speaker

Dr Fiona McKenzie, Co-Founder and Director of Strategy, Australian Futures Project: Dr Fiona McKenzie is a human geographer with a PhD on innovation and expertise in both public policy and academic research. At the Australian Futures Project, Fiona has led the design and implementation of a range of unique programs, including social innovation labs.

Panel Event

Date: Wednesday 25 October 2017

Time: 5:45pm – Arrival, 6:00pm – Presentation, followed by Q&As, 7:30pm – 8:30pm Networking, canapes and drinks

Venue: La Trobe University City Campus, Level 20, 360 Collins Street, Melbourne

Cost: Free

Register: Please register via the corresponding event page. Please RSVP by Friday 20 October.

Innovate or Perish! Australia’s Innovation System

La Trobe University Professor of Practice in Economics, Dr Mark Cloney, questions popular reports that Australia performs badly in industry-university collaboration and innovation when compared to other OECD countries.

If Australia’s current innovation policy is based on questionable OECD data might the Australian Government run the risk of targeting scarce resources into the wrong areas as it prepares its strategic plan for Australian Innovation to 2030?

Concerns over the performance of Australia’s innovation system caused the Australian Government to undertake a Senate Inquiry (2014) and then flag innovation as a major policy focus when it announced its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda (Commonwealth of Australia, 2015). A central element of that policy statement was to substantially increase university-industry collaboration on the basis that such alliances internationally have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation and economic disruption.

Australia, like the rest of the global economy, is facing significant structural change in the coming decades which offers both challenges and opportunities. Some suggest 40 per cent of today’s jobs will no longer exist in 10 years and that changing technology (robotics and artificial intelligence etc.) and new business models will continue to disrupt ‘old’ business processes and structures. Others say that this same disruption will also create new growth markets.

So is Australia’s innovation glass half full or half empty?

One strategy in meeting challenges and opportunities is adopting continuous innovation and the uptake of innovative skills and technologies. Continual innovation results in new markets, mindsets, skills and organisational re-design which are critical drivers of productivity and growth.

According to Universities Australia (2017), universities are central to skilling and upskilling the next generation of Australian entrepreneurs and startups and thereby improving Australia’s innovation system and sustainable growth. Its research finds that more than four in five Australian startups founders are university graduates (Universities Australia, 2017, p.3) and that startups were the largest contributor to job creation in Australia in the last decade (Universities Australia, 2017 p.8).

As suggested, the health of Australia’s innovation system still remains subject to conjecture and contrasting opinions with, for example, Australia is sitting at the bottom of OECD (2015) rankings in terms of university-industry collaboration. Moreover, according to Global Innovation Index (2017), Australia slid further down the world rankings in terms of innovation inputs and outputs from 19 to 23 in the latest world rankings among 127 countries (Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO, 2017). However, is this really the case?

A report by IP Australia challenges the notion that Australia is at the bottom of the OECD university-industry collaboration index arguing that this finding is based on questionable data selection. For example, when you focus on patent applications filed by an Australian university with a collaborator (business partner) Australia moves to the middle of comparable international tables (IP Australia, 2017).

The city of Melbourne, home to nine universities, was recently named as the ‘most intelligent community’ in the world at the Intelligent Community Forum in New York in June 2017. Based on six intelligent community indicators the New York think tank pointed to Melbourne’s broadband speed, research institutions, new innovation precincts and its focus on sustainability as its major strengths.

The challenge seems to be that Australian universities specialise in innovative research to answer fundamental questions, while businesses have specialist skills in commercialising and implementing products, services and ideas. However, university research can be often disconnected from the innovative needs of business (e.g. startups and SMEs) and not-for-profits.

So is there a disconnect? If so, why the disconnect? Or, are we doing better than we think?

Our National Innovation Forum on September 28 and 29 in Melbourne features  Dr Benjamin Mitra-Kahn, Chief Economist at IP Australia, and Dr Charles Day, CEO of the Office of Innovation and Science Australia. They will explore the current health of Australia’s innovation system. The Forum also presents industry and academic perspectives on how we can continue to improve innovation through university-industry collaboration and engagement, particularly for startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) through the use of business accelerators and incubators.

No doubt the forum will shed some more light on whether Australia’s innovation glass is indeed half full or half empty, and where the Australian government may choose to target its resources to achieve its 2030 vision for Australian Innovation.

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