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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.

Innovate or Perish! – Australia’s Innovation System


For more information on the forthcoming LBS Northlink National Innovation Forum, see the conference website. Early Bird tickets available until 31 August 2017.

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice, Economics

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice, Economics

LBS 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.

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 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 startup 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).

However,  the health of Australia’s innovation system remains subject to conjecture and contrasting opinions with, for example, Australia 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). 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 poor 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). Moreover, 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.

Concerns over the performance of Australia’s innovation system caused the Federal 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.

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?

LBS in partnership with NORTH Link is exploring these questions at its National Innovation Forum to be held over September 28 – 29, 2017 at its Bundoora Campus. The Forum offers a unique opportunity not only to hear from recognised national and international thinkers and business leaders on the topic of innovation and university-business collaboration but to also engage with them in Q&A. Two of the speakers, Dr Benjamin Mitra-Kahn, chief economist at IP Australia, and Dr Charles Day, CEO of Office of Innovation and Science Australia, will explore the current health of Australia’s innovation system in some detail. The Forum also presents industry and academic perspectives on how we can continue to improve innovation through university-industry interactions and engagement, particularly for startups and small to medium size enterprises (SMEs) through the use of business accelerators and incubators.

The Forum will no doubt provide new insights on whether Australia’s innovation glass is indeed half full or half empty.

References:

Commonwealth of Australia (2015), National Innovation & Science Agenda: Welcome to the Ideas Boom, Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet.

Cornell University, INSEAD, and WIPO (2017), The Global Innovation Index 2017: Innovation Feeding the World, Ithaca, Fontainebleau, and Geneva.

IP Australia (2017), Australian Intellectual Property Report 2017, Commonwealth of Australia (https://www.ipaustralia.gov.au/ip-report-2017).

OECD (2015), OECD Innovation Strategy 2015: An Agenda for Policy Action, October 2015.

Universities Australia (2017), Startup Smarts: Universities and the Startups Economy, University Australia, March, universitiesaustralia.edu.au

Call For Papers: 7th Behavioural Finance And Capital Markets Conference, 25-27 September 2017

The Finance Discipline at La Trobe University Business School is pleased to announce a Call for Papers for the 7th Conference on Behavioural Finance and Capital Markets inviting finance scholars, practitioners and research students to participate. The event will be held on the City Campus of La Trobe University in 360 Collins Street, Melbourne on Monday and Tuesday 25-26 of September 2017. A tour of selected boutique Yarra Valley wineries after the Conference on Wednesday 27 September will offer an opportunity for informal networking.

The Behavioural Finance and Capital Markets conference aims to bring together scholars and practitioners and to present state-of-the-art research in the fields of Behavioural Finance, Experimental Finance and Capital Markets/Market Microstructure. The conference showcases cutting-edge research by two keynote speakers who are both internationally distinguished scholars specialising in Behavioural Finances, Experimental Finance/Economics and Market Design: Prof. Peter Bossaerts (The University of Melbourne, Professor of Experimental Finance and Decision Neuroscience Honorary Fellow, Florey Institute for Neuroscience and Mental Health, previously from Caltech and the University of Utah) and Prof. Jacob Goeree (Scientia Professor, Director AGORA Centre for Market Design UNSW, previously from Caltech and the University of Zurich). The conference will also feature a unique Finance Industry Forum on the role of digital technology in financial markets. The topic of the panel discussion this year is: ‘The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Innovations, Disruptive Technologies and the Impact of the Digital Revolution on the Finance Industry’.

The Behavioural Finance and Capital Markets Conference’s objective is to facilitate the dissemination and generation of research on topical problems in Finance that are addressed from various perspectives. Presenters are encouraged to submit newly finished papers that cater to the broad audience of delegates comprised of scholars, research students, industry professionals, market regulators and policy makers. All papers presented at the 7th Behavioural Finance and Capital Markets 2017 Conference will be considered for submission to a special issue of the Pacific-Basin Finance Journal on the conference theme: Behavioural Finance and Recent Developments in Capital Markets.

Best Paper Awards

Submission Guidelines

Papers should be submitted by email to BFCM@latrobe.edu.au by 16 July 2017 (US Pacific Time)

Potential conference presenters are required to submit two electronic copies of their paper with the file name labelled as the full title of the manuscript (no author details are to be included within file name).

Submission details are as follows:

  1. Abstract: Presentation title, authors’ names, short abstract of about 100 words, primary or presenting author’s name, title, affiliation, email and address must appear on the first page with all additional authors and their affiliations. The file format is to be Microsoft Word only (.doc).
  2. Paper: In the full version of the paper all identifiable information of any author(s) must be excluded from the text and properties of the file saved as a pdf (.pdf) format. Presenters are required to submit two electronic copies of their paper with the file name labelled as the presentation title (no author details are to be included within file name.

Key Dates

Closing date for paper submissions – 16 July 2017 (US Pacific Time)

Notification of acceptance – 26 July 2017

Registration deadline for accepted authors – 16 August 2017

Registration Fees

Faculty/Practitioner full conference registration (incl. of dinner and wine tour – AU$400)

Faculty/Practitioner single day registration (Day 1 or Day 2) conference registration – AU$150

Faculty/Practitioner (Partner) Gala Dinner or Yarra Valley wine tour registration – AU$120

PhD student full conference registration (incl. of dinner and wine tour – AU$200)

PhD student single day (Day 1 or Day 2: 9am-1pm) academic ticket – AU$75

PhD student Dinner (Day 1) or Yarra Valley wine tour registration (Day 3) – AU$100

Conference email – BFCM@latrobe.edu.au

Conference Conveners: Prof. Petko Kalev – P.Kalev@latrobe.edu.au , Associate Professor Darren Henry -D.Henry@latrobe.edu.au, Dr Jing Zhao – J.Zhao@latrobe.edu.au, Dr Lily Nguyen -Lily.Nguyen@latrobe.edu.au, Dr Doureige Jurdi – D.Jurdi@latrobe.edu.au and Dr Michael Li -M.Li@latrobe.edu.au

Co-supporters and sponsors: La Trobe University Business School, CMCRC, SIRCA, Amery Partners, OpenMarkets, FIRN, Serafino Wines and Elsevier.

National innovation forum: Innovate or Perish?

In a world that is more connected than ever, how can we create sustainable bonds between universities, business and not for profits? All with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem.

The missing ingredient to growth is the ability to think outside the box – to innovate. For many businesses’ it’s safer inside the box. But when you’re constricted by the four walls of a box you can’t truly grow.

The demands of day to day operations of many SMEs and not-for-profits exclude them from maximising the benefits of innovative. Most are doing everything they can to maximise profits or fundraising, and minimise costs.

Universities, on the other hand, exist outside the normal parameters that can inhibit business growth. As such Universities have the potential to break the walls of the box, let in the light and build the links to create innovative businesses.

This is why, as a nation, Australia must get better at creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business. Such is the need for stronger connections the Federal Government flagged innovation in Australia as a major policy focus with its $1.1 billion National Science and Innovation Agenda in November 2015.

The core principle of the government’s agenda is to make a substantial difference in the numbers of university-industry collaborations. The reason is simple; such alliances have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation, and economic and technological disruption.

These partnerships allow a business to break free of the confines of everyday operation, and to work with universities to translate ideas into commercial realities.

While Australia lags behind the world in translating research into commercial outcomes university-industry partnerships internationally are being exploited to great effect.

While Australian universities are among the world’s best, when it comes to innovation it’s important to make sure that research, innovation and business are connected. If research is irrelevant to startups, SMEs and not-for-profits it becomes a purely academic exercise.

At the forum international and national business and academic speakers will present case studies of successful university-industry collaboration including examples of business innovation, incubators and accelerators.

Attendees will not only learn what has worked but they will also discover what can be done to improve university-industry interactions and engagement, particularly for startups and SMEs in the Australian context.

A multitude of speakers with wide ranging backgrounds and experience will speak at the conference.

Major themes

  • The role of incubators, accelerators and TTOs (Technology Transfer Offices) in engaging startups and SMEs while at the same time connecting those start up and SMEs with university-industry innovation.
  • Global forces shaping opportunities for business (including startups and SMEs) over the coming decade
  • Business perspectives on the opportunities and barriers to university-industry collaboration.
  • Developing environments where innovation can thrive.
  • Regulation and legal framework (patent law, licensing, federal and state jurisdictions and university policies).
  • The economic, political and societal framework in which business and/or universities operate (incentives, competitiveness, regulation, competition policy, innovation and technology policy).

Sessions include

  • Conference evening event with a key note speaker and networking opportunities.
  • International and national academic speakers and case studies on successful approaches to university –industry collaboration with a focus on startups and SMEs. Questions answered will include; what has worked and why? What can be learned from mistakes? What needs to change?
  • Australian business leaders’ perspectives on global challenges and opportunities for innovation and improving industry-university collaboration.
  • The state of Australia’s national innovation system – Australian government perspective, frameworks, opportunities, incentives and challenges.
  • Master Classes on frugal innovation; design thinking and lean start-up principles; and, data analytics and business transformation.

Event Details

Date: Wednesday 27 (afternoon) and all-day Thursday 28 September 2017

Where: La Trobe Business School, located at the Donald Whitehead Building, La Trobe Melbourne Campus, Bundoora Victoria

Register: Please register via this link.

La Trobe Business School Professor shares SeniorPreneur insights on Studio 10 National TV

Professor of Entrepreneurship, Alex Maritz

Recently, La Trobe Business School’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, Alex Maritz, appeared on Channel 10’s morning show. He shared research outcomes from the recent nbn Silver Economy Report, where he collaborated on research and analysis on a national SeniorPreneur research project.

SeniorPreneurs emerge from retirement

The Silver Economy Report reveals that tech-savvy baby boomers are expected to contribute an additional $ 11.9billion to the Australian GDP in new ventures each year, Insights reveal that SeniorPreneurs are expected to start 14,000 new businesses each year; representing the fastest growing sector of entrepreneurship. 34% of all small businesses are lead by senior entrepreneurs. More than half (54%) of them claim they employ a predominantly online model in their businesses, with 61% of them preferring to upskill online. Be it motivation to create or supplement income (67%), pursue passion projects (58%) or keep mentally stimulated (55%), these tech-savvy boomers are undergoing a new renaissance.

The Silver Economy Report is available online, here.

The Studio 10 TV in-studio interview is available here (Professor Alex Maritz speaks at 1:48).

La Trobe Business School is at the cutting edge of innovation and technology when it comes to offering tech-savvy Entrepreneurship Education courses online. For more information, click here.

POP Mark Morris interviews Leigh Conlan: Career change is the only constant (or Doors a Latrobe Economic Degree can Unlock)

In this two-part blog entry, Professor of Practice Mark Morris discusses what innovation means in accounting, as well as what a career in accounting entails today, together with Leigh Conlan from Specialist Accounting Services. Leigh is also a La Trobe Business School graduate graduating in 1982 with a Bachelor in Economics.

Mark Morris: II understand that you are an alumni of La Trobe University

Leigh Conlan: Yes Mark, I studied economics and graduated in 1982 from La Trobe University. Following the completion of my degree with La Trobe, I was able to branch out into a variety of roles in both the public and private sectors.

Mark Morris: It seems these days that university graduates these days don’t have a job for life. Can you share with me your experience in relation to changes in your career?

Leigh Conlan: Absolutely. I have been fortunate to work for a number of organisations in a variety of capacities including accounting, economics, tax advisory, legislative analysis, and R&D consulting. I started out as a tax investigator with the ATO which was interesting work for a graduate as it allowed me to get a great perspective on private enterprise and in particular smaller organisations where accounting and the law intersect. Following this role, I transitioned to the ACCC which was then the Trade Practices Commission where I was heavily involved in litigation and policy objectives. What I found interesting in this role was, more specifically, price fixing collusion and conspiracy activities and investigations.

Mark Morris: So you were a corporate cop Leigh?

Leigh Conlan: Yes, essentially.

Mark Morris: And then you came over to private enterprise?

Leigh Conlan: That’s right, I came over to the dark side and started consulting in private enterprise. I worked for a number of big firms and was a partner of one of the larger accounting firms in Australia before I started my own practice.

Mark Morris: And what has your experience been like in respect of changes in roles?

Leigh Conlan: What I have found is that there is nothing wrong with a change of career and that change should always be embraced. In these modern times it is not only organisations that need to be agile and adaptive but this also applies to employees and individuals. To a certain extent change and being adaptive is a part of Australia’s history. Automation, fast changing technological and geopolitical changes will dictate market behaviour and employment opportunities.

Mark Morris: So how do you keep abreast of new developments in government policy and public-private collaboration?

Leigh Conlan: Well I am a member of the National Reference Group which is a peak body of private practitioners, the ATO and AusIndustry. I represent the CPA’s on that group which me enables to interface between public policy developments and issues from industry. I am also a member of the State Reference Group which provides further practical application.

Mark Morris: I gather that your ability to adapt and change led you to starting your accounting practice?

Leigh Conlan: Correct, I started Specialist Accounting Services a number of years back with a focus on providing high quality services in the fields of indirect tax and R&D advice.

Mark Morris: Can you tell me a little more about Specialist Accounting Services and how you differentiate yourselves against other service providers in this space?

Leigh Conlan: Sure. We differentiate ourselves by being an organisation which has the expertise across a range of industries relating to R&D. Specialist Accounting Services also employs a range of specialised technical consultants from the engineering and bio medical fields to leverage expertise in accordance with clients in these respective fields. This enables a better understanding of our clients’ needs and enables a smooth process through the R&D tax application process. This also empowers us to have a nurturing a close and positive working relationship with our clients. We also carry out services in respect of litigation support and competition policy assistance. Lastly, we provide a high quality service enabling our clients to receive a beneficial tax outcomes in accordance with the government legislation and the AusIndustry framework.

Mark Morris: Well, thank you for your time today Leigh. It has been a pleasure talking with you

Leigh Conlan: It was my pleasure. Thanks Mark.

Competing theories of economic thought: a changing pedagogy?

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice, Economics

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice, Economics

By Mark Cloney

Mark Cloney is a Professor of Practice at La Trobe Business School. In the following piece, POP Mark Cloney observes that economic theory has been a bit slower than other sciences to catch up to the changing nature of knowledge and the dynamics of the knowledge-based global economy [1]

He argues in the following entry that this has implications doe the discipline in terms of its capacity to engage with contemporary economic challenges, and also raise questions about the teaching of economics.

Capitalism has variously been described as an economic system with private or corporate ownership of capital goods; where investments are determined by rational decision makers and supply and demand; and production and the distribution of goods determined mainly by competition in a free market. These microeconomic foundations stem from neoclassical economics through the writings of economists such as Marshall [2].

Marshall’s Principles of Economics (1890) formalised the move from labour to utility as the source of value: a commodity’s value came from its utility to consumers through the forces of the market (i.e. supply and demand) [3]. Accordingly, in the marketplace people are rational and utility maximisers characterised as households, consumers or economic agents. These concepts were formalised in pure mathematical form in the general equilibrium model by Arrow and Debrea (1954) based on Walras’s earlier theory of equilibrium [4].

This general equilibrium model has formed the basis for economic thinking in most Western economies and university teaching of economics for the last 60 years or so.

So microeconomics analyses, the market behaviour of individual consumers and firms, is an attempt to understand the decision-making process concerned with the factors that influence the choices made by buyers and sellers, price, and supply and demand in individual markets. And, this is what drives innovation, economic development and firm behaviour in a globalised knowledge–based economy – or is it?

One of the problems with this perspective is that factors such as investment in research and development (R&D) or where actual research is conducted matters very little [5]. The traditional neoclassical view of knowledge as a public good  is that it is available everywhere and to everybody simultaneously which implies that innovation flows in a frictionless manner from producers to a full set of intended and unintended beneficiaries, contributing to generate a long-term process of convergence across countries and regions (see Rodriguez-Pose 2008). [6]

But what happens if competitive advantage in a global knowledge-based economy is as much actually determined by local non-market factors including its institutions, networks and innovation ecosystems? Or, by the forces of ‘collaboration’ not ‘competition’, or maximising ‘social and shared value’ not profits for stakeholders but for the community within in which firms operate? Do these orthodox microeconomic foundations still hold up?

The emergence of the knowledge-based economy, where knowledge, learning and innovation are the new drivers of economic growth and competitiveness, is premised on a distinct shift in the mode of production from the traditional capital and labour divisions to knowledge generation and diffusion [7]. This understanding of the knowledge economy comes from evolutionary, neo-Schumpeterian and economic geography economic theories. [8] Complementing this work are studies into the entrepreneurial society  and creativity where entrepreneur capital is a key driver for economic growth [9].

Internationally, innovation and regional development policy that focuses more explicitly on the ‘institutional’ and ‘locational’ dimensions of enterprise and socio economic development has emerged as a major policy tool to foster competitive advantage [10]. That is, there has been an increasing recognition by many that non-market factor influence competitiveness of firms just as supply and demand. So government policies have been designed to better coordinate collaboration structures in regions or local innovation ecosystems between government, education and the private sectors. Here local institutions including financial and legal support the supply side inputs and entrepreneurial activity that drives economic development and innovation [11].

These ideas support a range of alternative government policies targeted at small to medium business, industry clusters, business incubators and accelerators, strengthening institutional arrangements and networks, encouraging university/industry collaboration, local capacity building (including education, training and entrepreneur skills) and regional innovation ecosystems.

Consistent with these trends, Michael Porter and Mark Kramer (2011) [12] argue for the importance of creating shared value, which focuses on policies, collaboration and operation practice that enhances competiveness of a company while simultaneously advancing the economic and social conditions in the communities in which they operate. They cite firms such as Google, IBM, Intel, Jonson and Johnson, Nestle, Unilever and Wal-Mart as examples of companies that have embarked on shared value initiatives within the community’s where they operate. The notion of shared value changes the traditional emphasis on profit and price to a much broader definition.

Porter has suggested elsewhere that government policy, business and community processes (in other words institutional arrangements) are as important determinants of industry success as is ‘price’ [13].

The move to ‘shared value’ has seen the rise of B Corps which are for-profit companies certified by the non-profit B Lab to meet higher standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. More than 1,400 Certified B Corps from 42 countries and over 120 industries are working together toward the goal: to redefine success in business [14]. B Corps meet high standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability, and aspire to use the power of markets to solve broader social and environmental problems. In 2013 the United States introduced legislation to recognise this new type of corporate legal entity which has now been passed into law in 17 states [15]. Under this legislation companies must have a corporate purpose to create a material positive impact on society and the environment, director’s duties include consideration of non-financial stakeholders, besides shareholders, and it includes a reporting obligation on the social and environmental activities (verified through third parties).

Although in its relative infancy this movement is attempting to overcome market failures and treat as endogenous the negative externalities typically associated with the dynamics of neo-classical theory. This may or may not be a lasting trend, but what if it became the norm for firm behaviour and economic development in the knowledge-based economy?

What assumptions and economic theories can best capture these economic and policy trends and explain the broader social-political context shaping these ideas, firm behaviour and competitiveness? This is the real challenge for the next generation of economic theorists.

One of the major challenges for orthodox economics is that its theory is embedded in axioms that used to understand the world as largely stable and predictive, and which are now seen as unstable and largely unpredictable [16], as the Global Financial Crisis demonstrated in 2008.

Since the 1960s there has been profound advances in how other science disciplines understand and teach the systematic nature of botany, biology, physics, computer science, neuroscience, oceanography, and atmospheric sciences to name a few. As Liu and Hanauer (2016) [17] argue across these fields we have seen a set of conceptual shifts in understanding from: simple to complex; atomistic to networked; linear to non-linear; mechanistic to behavioural; efficient to effective; predictive to adaptive; independent to interdependent; individual ability to group diversity; rational calculator to irrational approximators; selfish to strong reciprocal; win-lose to win-win or lose-lose; and, competition to cooperation.

More contemporary economic theory such as complexity, evolutionary and behavioural economics [18] are incorporating these types of conceptual shifts and as such challenge orthodox economic theories. These contemporary approaches variously emphasise the actual motivations for firm and human behaviour, the importance of networks, ecosystems and endogenous processes, and the dynamics of constant innovation and disequilibrium as the basis for better understanding the empirical reality of the knowledge-based economy.

The remaining challenge is to design a new economic pedagogy (conceptual models and theories) to support the teaching of these alternative approaches and to incorporate them into undergraduate economic degrees.

 

 

Dr Mark Cloney

Professor of Practice – Economics

Department of Economics and Finance

La Trobe Business School

College of Arts, Social Sciences and Commerce | La Trobe University | Bundoora Victoria 3086

T: 03 9479 5621   |M: 0428173880  |

E: M.Cloney@latrobe.edu.au

[1] See Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop (2013) Competitiveness, The Knowledge-based economy and Higher Education, Journal of the Knowledge Based Economy, Vol.4 pp 24-44.

[2] See E.K. Hunt. (1979), History of Economic Thought; A Critical Perspective, Wadsworth Publishing

[3] Ibid

[4] John, Peters, John Elliott and Stephen Gullenberg (2002), Economic Transition as a Crisis of Vision: Classical versus Neo-classical Theories of General Equilibrium, Eastern Economic Journal, Vol.28, No.2, Spring 2002.

[5] Andre’s Rodriguez-Pose and Richard Crescenzi (2008), Research and Development, Spillovers, Innovation Systems, and the Genesis of Regional Growth in Europe, Regional Studies, Vol 42.1, pp51-63, February.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Mark James Cloney. (2003), Regional Development in Australia: Rethinking the Basis for Regional Policy, PhD Economics, University of Sydney & Maskell, P. and Malmberg, A. (1999), Localised learning and industrial competitiveness, Cambridge Journal of Economics, 23 (2):167- 185.

[8] Ibid.

[9] David. B. Audrestsch (2009), The entrepreneurial society’, The Journal of Technology Transfer, Vol. 34, Issue 3, June, pp. 245-254

[10] Giordano, B. (2001) Institutional Thickness: political sub-culture and the resurgence of regionalism in Italy a case study of Northern League in the province of Varese, Transactions of the Institute of British Geography, 26 (1): 25-41.

[11] Ngai-Ling Sum and Bob Jessop (2013), p. 32.

[12] Michael E. Porter and Mark R.  Kramer (2011) The Big Idea: Creating Shared Value, Rethinking Capitalism, Harvard Business Review, Jan- Feb – https://hbr.org/2011/01/the-big-idea-creating-shared-value/ar/pr

[13] See Michael Porter (1990) The Competitive Advantage of Nations, McMillian Press, Hong Kong.

[14] http://www.bcorporation.net/what-are-b-corps

[15] Gove, Andrea; Berg, Gary A. (2014), Social Business: Theory Practice, and Critical Perspectives, Springer-Verlag Berlin and Heidelberg GmbH & Co.p165.

[16] Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer (2016), Traditional Economics Failed. Here’s the New Blueprint’, http://evonomics.com/traditional-economics-failed-heres-a-new-blueprint/

[17] Ibid

[18] Amna Silim (2016), What is New Economic Thinking? Three strands of heterodox economics that are leading the way, https://evonomics.com/new-economic-thinking/

POP Mark Morris interviews Leigh Conlan: Supercharging R&D and collaboration

Professor of Practice Mark Morris (left) and Leigh Conlan (right)

In this two-part blog entry, Professor of Practice Mark Morris discusses what innovation means in accounting, as well as what a career in accounting entails today, together with Leigh Conlan from Specialist Accounting Services. Leigh is also a La Trobe Business School graduate graduating in 1982 with a Bachelor in Economics.

Mark Morris: I am pleased to introduce Leigh Conlan of Specialist Accounting Services to discuss the recent government innovation statement and incentives that the government has introduced for both private and research organisations in respect of R&D. Leigh, Good morning.

Leigh Conlan: Good Morning Mark.

Mark Morris: Now Leigh, I understand you run a consultancy practice in the R&D space and you advise a broad range of clients.

Leigh Conlan: That’s correct Mark, we run a specialist practice service and in fact, operate under a company name Specialist Account Services Pty Ltd.

Mark Morris: That’s great Leigh. Tell me about some of your clients.

Leigh Conlan: Well we advise a range of clients from small medium enterprises through to large corporations and government departments. We offer a professional assistance to all businesses and research providers in the matters of R&D tax incentives and government grants

Mark Morris: That’s a good segue into my next topic which is around the innovation statement released by the government. What do you think the government’s approach is in this regard Leigh?

Leigh Conlan: As you know Mark, the innovation statement is built on four key pillars but it is important to keep in mind Mark that this is the first time that there has been a comprehensive tying together of all of the research and development governmental policy objectives.

Mark Morris: So can you provide some further insight into the four pillars that the government has outlined in the innovation statement

Leigh Conlan: Well briefly speaking these four pillars as outlined in the National Innovation and Science Agenda statement being ‘Culture and capital’, ‘Collaboration’, ‘Talent and skills’, ‘Government as an exemplar’. Within these pillars are specific areas that the government is targeting. For example the government has set up a $20Billion Medical Research Fund to increase funding in the areas of medical research and innovation. Another example, which may relate to La Trobe, is the government R&D funding of $2.8Billion to universities and the higher education sectors. There are also other funding initiatives such as cyber security innovation and other IT projects the government has initiated. These overall projects form only a snapshot of government funding examples but provides a glimpse of the overall innovation policy and where the government is heading in respect of stimulating research and development.

Mark Morris: So what is the majority emphasis of the government funding Leigh?

Leigh Conlan: Well Mark, the big spend by the government is still the R&D tax incentive which equates to just over $4.5Billion per annum. While the majority of that money goes into business, it should be kept in mind that research service providers also greatly benefit from this policy and there are valuable private business spinoffs from research organisations.

Mark Morris: When you talk about R&D, it’s not all lab coat style research projects is it?

Leigh Conlan: Not at all. We see R&D in areas where you would not ordinarily think that R&D would apply. Research and Development takes place in a variety of forms and industries. Some examples may be building and construction, on farms and of course software development. We have come across a number of private organisations, particularly those which are small scale, which were under the misconception that many of their activities would not be considered R&D when in actual fact they may be.

Mark Morris: Can you talk a little more about such products and processes in this regard?

Leigh Conlan: Well, many organisations are undertaking the development of products using a scientific methodology to determine outcomes and therefore creating new knowledge as a result of these activities.  It is also very exciting to see a variety of small to medium enterprises across Australia undertaking a number of dynamic projects which involve Research and Development as well as new commercialisation of innovative products.

Mark Morris: So given you are across many organisations who are at the cutting edge of technology, I assume that you have other areas you advise on?

Leigh Conlan: That’s correct. Specialist Accounting Services is unique as we have technical expertise and we can assist in a variety of capacities including comprehensive advice in the areas of commercialisation, government development and early stage development grants, government support programs and investing in early stage development funding.

Mark Morris: So can you provide more detail in regards to government incentives and programs that you advise in?

Leigh Conlan: Sure, one such program is around the commercialisation Australia program which provides funding of up to $200,000 to assist new organisations and those wanting to test the viability of product commercialisation. Also we have provided advice in relation to cooperative research centre (CRC) project grants as well. The CRC and associated grants is an outcome focused programme designed to support industry while supporting collaboration between industry, research and the community in a competitive framework.

Mark Morris: Have there been many changes by the government in relation to government grants and assistance?

Leigh Conlan: Yes there have been changes in regards to the tech sector that were previously restricted on applying for grants. These have now been removed to stimulate commercialisation and the development of novel IP across a broader range of industries across Australia. We see the government’s focus in this domain is on stimulating new knowledge, local IP and bringing innovative products to market in order to stimulate economic and employment growth.

Mark Morris: So have you seen many examples where universities specifically benefit from the R&D tax incentive scheme?

Leigh Conlan: Yes Mark I have seen this a number of times where universities are providing services to private organisations and where both benefit from the close collaboration undertaken. One such example is one our clients in the ehealth domain where a prominent Victorian university provided research assistance in evaluating IT architecture suitable for gathering information around broad based and large scale health records.

Mark Morris: So this is all research and development expenditure around software and IT?

Leigh Conlan: Correct Mark, we have also been involved with a number of initiatives in the private sector relating specifically to analytics and big data projects.

Mark Morris: Can you elaborate on how these initiatives may provide beneficial outcomes for the private sector, RSPs as well as the general public?

Leigh Conlan: We have seen a number of initiatives carried out by the big four banks in relation to blockchain. The key objective of blockchain is to develop a distributed database ledger which can continuously update records between parties and therefore improve the efficiency of banking transactions.

Mark Morris: That’s very interesting. Do you see any other developments relating to big data in the private sector?

Leigh Conlan: Actually we have also seen developments in the Telecommunications sector where a number of Australian telco’s have been building big data lakes and utilising these data repositories for a number of practical applications such as geolocation, product marketing and improving operational uptime.

For the second part of this interview, keep an eye on the Business Newsroom blog!

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