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LBS Innovation Series: A start-up science story

The LBS Innovation Series brings you a presentation by Antonio Palanca, CEO and Co-founder of the HiveXchange. Antonio presents a case study on the HiveXchange and talks about fresh innovations in traditional food supply chains.

 

HiveXchange

HiveXchange 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. Antonio mentions that organisations over a 20 year period have tried to introduce online buying models into the fresh produce supply chains but have failed.

 

Lean canvas

Antonio was formerly with Sun Microsystems where they used WaterFall project methods to launch big technology projects. He talks about this experience and how it taught him that this old approach to software design of define requirements, design, build, test, and launch was no longer viable. Instead the HiveXchange embarked on the use of ‘start-up science’ and the lean canvas. He describes the company’s journey and how the use of lean canvas methodology shaped field experiments and prototypes to reveal problems early. This became the foundation of HiveXchange’s trust based e-commerce software. The benefit of this approach is that as you go through the stages you reduce risk and therefore become more attractive to investors.

 

Watch his story 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:

LBS Innovation Series: Universities’ engagement with industry

Australia must get better at creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business. 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.

Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School, shares his thoughts on creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business.

 

Bringing industry into the classroom

One way La Trobe Business School is working towards better engagement with industry is through hiring Professors of Practice. A concept born out of the school’s strategic decision to adopt an approach focused on bringing industry into the classroom. Professors of Practice, such as myself, are experienced practitioners in a relevant field of professional practice. We teach subjects and courses that provide a high quality and industry relevant learning experience.

Before I joined LBS, I was the Senior Executive Officer responsible for enterprises management, business planning, audit and protective security in the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture and Water. My experience leads me to be able to develop innovative teaching programs in the economics discipline and risk management practice that enhance the student learning experience, and enhance their career-readiness.

 

Bringing research into the market

Besides bringing industry experience into the classroom, we also build relationships by organising events where academia and industry can come together. The National Innovation Forum organised by La Trobe business School, NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L is a great example of such an event. More than 90 business, local government, academic and industry group representatives from Australia and internationally discussing the question:

 

How can we create sustainable bonds between universities, business and not for profits with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem?

 

The discussions on strengthening collaboration are centred on maintaining industry-university connections and relationships through regular engagement and dialogue and the use of accelerators and incubators. Thus, universities need to create open collaborative spaces and networks with industry where there is potential to commercialise ideas.

This implies that each side needs to engage far beyond the traditional exchange of research for funding model. The implication is that we need strategic partnerships that better blend the research-driven culture of the university with the innovation/data-driven environment of business.

What more can universities do?

Forum delegate discussions and feedback show that some of the key points universities could consider in enhancing their engagement with industry are:

  • Streamline the decision making processes in terms of entering into collaborative arrangements with industry i.e. make it easier and break down barriers.
  • Changing the incentive system for academics to be equally rewarded for their industry engagement/collaboration as they are for their research.
  • Focus on talking the same language as industry (i.e. business practice) rather than academic theory (shaped by the need to publish).
  • Have a clear path of entry and handling strategy for business’ seeking collaboration opportunities.
  • Hold regular events that give business an opportunity to access and learn about its research and R&D activities.
  • Facilitate more frequent industry engagement/dialogue including events such as the National Innovation Forum which begin to bridge the gaps.
  • Introduce staff industry placements/secondments.
  • Work with industry on developing work-in-learning opportunities to develop more business ready graduates.
  • Establish quicker processes for changing curriculum and subject offering in response to industry need and the changing nature of work.
  • Offer all students opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills i.e. to nurture start-ups and innovation.

La Trobe University, and La Trobe Business School, are already very active in many of these areas (e.g. La Trobe Accelerator Program; Professors of Practice, Work Integrated Learning and Placements; Industry and Community Engagement; Research and Innovation Precinct etc.) but we can always strive to do better.

 

Read the full NIF 17 Summary Report

  

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:

LBS Innovation Series: Introduction

Business Newsroom brings you the LBS Innovation Series, developed by Dr Mark Cloney, Professor of Practice in Economics in the La Trobe Business School.

 

National Innovation Forum

The goal of the LBS is to teach and produce research that has a positive impact on the ideas and views of our leaders of tomorrow in business, government, and not-for-profit organisations. With that in mind, LBS organised the first National Innovation Forum (NIF) last year in collaboration with NORTH Link and Deloitte Consulting P/L. More than 90 businesses, local government, academics and industry group representatives from Australia and internationally came together to explore how we can create sustainable bonds between universities with a view towards creating a more mature innovation culture and ecosystem.

 

 

Key themes discussed during the NIF Forum were:

  • The role of incubators and accelerators in engaging start-ups and SMEs and connecting university-industry innovation.
  • Global forces shaping opportunities for business (including start-ups and SMEs) over the coming decade.
  • Business perspectives on the opportunities and barriers to university-industry collaboration.
  • Changing nature of business models and start-up tools.
  • Developing business environments where innovation can thrive.

Mark has compiled the discussions on these key themes and turned it into the LBS Innovation Series, giving you the latest news, information and developments in the innovation space.

 

Watch Mark’s introduction to the LBS Innovation Series:

 

What is innovation?

Kenneth Morse explains innovation as ideas or invention plus commercialisation. So innovation adds value for consumers, but it can’t do this if it remains an idea or an unknown invention. It’s the idea plus the commercialisation of that idea or invention that leads to innovation.

 

What is the importance of innovation to social and economic change?

According to Klaus Schwab we have entered a fourth industrial revolution and like the three previous industrial revolutions, we are in the midst of a profound change to our economic and social structures.

 

The first industrial revolution from the 1760s was built on the construction of railroads and mechanical inventions such as the steam engine; the second in the 1860s on mass production and the harnessing of energy in the form of electricity; while the third from the 1960s was built on digital or computer revolution. These revolutions caused radical disruption and change. This is because the core of all these shifts are innovation and new technology that reformulate the traditional models of economic growth and societal structures.

 

The Fourth industrial revolution

The fourth industrial revolution (or 4.0) began in the 1990s and is characterised by new digital technologies and devices, platform economics, metadata manipulation, WIFI and the Internet of things, by cheaper, smaller and more powerful sensors, artificial intelligence, and machine learning.

 

“How will revolution 4.0 play itself out? What are the key drivers? What opportunities does it offer? How can we manage the risk to society of the disruption it brings?”

 

The aim of the series is to explore these questions and gain useful insight that inform the ideas and views of our leaders of tomorrow. Watch this space for some great presentations by the following key players:

  • Mark shares his thoughts on creating meaningful collaboration between universities and business.
  • Antonio Palanca, CEO and Co-founder the HiveXchange, talks about his start-up science story.
  • Kate Burleigh, former Managing Director of Intel Australia/NZ and now country manager of Amazon Alexa Skills across Australia and New Zealand, looks at why students and businesses with a global mindset are more likely to succeed within the digital era.
  • Craig Scroggie, CEO NEXTDC – Australia’s leading Data-Centre-as-a-Service provider, welcomes us to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
  • Dr Stephan Buse, Deputy Director of the Institute for Technology and Innovation Management (TIM) at Hamburg University of Technology, views Academia-Industry collaboration and engagement, and how universities can strengthen firms’ innovative ability.
  • David Williamson, CEO Melbourne Innovation Centre gives us a case study in innovation.
  • Christine Christian, Chairman of Kirwood Capital, a Director of FlexiGroup Limited, ME Bank Limited, Lonsec Fiscal Group, Victorian Managed Insurance Authority and New-York based Powerlinx Inc, discusses the critical factors that determine why start-ups succeed (and fail).
  • Nick Kaye, founding Chief Executive Officer of the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship, explains how the Sydney School of Entrepreneurship (SSE) came about.
  • Dr. Ben Mitra-Kahn, Chief Economist at IP Australia, elaborates on the University-industry collaboration and IP.
  • Christine Axton, Director in Monitor Deloitte’s Strategy practice, gives us answers to questions such as “how do companies hold on to their ability to innovate? And how do they achieve, and keep, an innovation premium in the market?”

 

 

Dr Mark Cloney is Professor of Practice in economics at the LBS. Prior to joining La Trobe, Mark was the Senior Executive Officer responsible for enterprises 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.

 

 

 

 

Why risk management is so crucial for entrepreneurs and 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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

Meet the new Head of Department of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Marketing

Simon Pervan is the new Head of the Department of Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Marketing (EIM) in LBS.  Business Newsroom sat down with him to ask him some questions about who he is, what made him come to La Trobe and other interesting facts about him.

 

Head of EIM Department: Professor Simon Pervan

 

Welcome to the La Trobe Business School Simon! Where do you come from and what brings you to La Trobe University? And could you tell a bit more about your history with La Trobe University?

My most recent university was Swinburne where I was Head of Department of Management and Marketing. Previous to that I have worked in many places including Deakin here in Vic, Southern Cross University in Northern NSW, Auckland University of Technology in NZ and the University of Bath in the UK. My history with La Trobe dates back to 1997 as an Associate Lecturer! While here, I did my PhD at Uni Melb and then left for Deakin in 2002. So it has been 15 years since I have worked here. I had been waiting for the DWB upgrade!

 

How will you be approaching your new role as Head of Department?

I think it is important as a Head of Department to be available to colleagues, to understand their hopes and aspirations and importantly their achievements. We all have different strengths in an academic group but we have the same need to feel valued – that is important to me that colleagues feel valued and supported in the achievement of that. I also want EIM to have an identity in the school. We can do that by knowing each other well and sharing a common vision for our success. We can also be noisy –strategic intent backed up by action is very important.

 

What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a student at university?

At all times, ask questions if you do not understand – do not be afraid to do that. Always seek clarity. At postgraduate (PhD), while you should be continually managing your own work and motivation, it is OK to challenge and evaluate your supervision relationship. Be clear on expectations and understand it is your path to independent scholarship, which is very important in that process. Finally, do not have had a three-month-old son when starting a PhD!

 

What do you do to get rid of stress?

I run. Not very far but 3-4 times a week 6km or so. There is always a good reason not to go, but I know to just head out the door. Music and reading too.

 

Lastly, if people come across you at the coffee-machine, what’s a good conversation starter?

Why Tom Waits is possibly the greatest songwriter on the planet. How Everton faired in the EPL that weekend. The research you are working on.  Not necessarily in that order.

 

Simon is Professor of Marketing and his research focuses on service workers and consumer behaviour with a particular interest in the expectations that customers bring to marketing exchange. He has analytical competences in structural equation modelling and scale development. His work has been widely published in recognised international journals including the Journal of Business Research, Industrial Marketing Management, Marketing Letters, Journal of Marketing Communications, and International Journal of Advertising. He was Co-Editor in Chief of the Journal of Consumer Behaviour (2009-2015) and was a principal investigator on a $220K, two-year OLT (Category 1) grant, examining the resource requirements of professional doctoral candidates in Australian business schools. Simon was an elected member of Executive Committee of the Australia and New Zealand Marketing Academy (ANZMAC) 2012-2015. He currently sits on the Editorial Board of Industrial Marketing Management and Engaged Management Review.  Simon has also written three monographs published by Oxford University Press.

Disruptive Innovation – What is it all about?

La Trobe Business School recently had the pleasure of hosting Prof Dr Markus Münter from Hochschule für Technik und Wirtschaft (htw saar), Saarbrücken, Germany. Professor Münter is the Chair of Microeconomics, Strategy and Entrepreneurship at htw saar, and built on previous collaboration initiatives between Dr Alex Maritz, Professor of Entrepreneurship at LBS. The duo has previously hosted Google Start-up weekends in Europe, together with initiatives at various start-up incubators and accelerators.

 

Prof Dr Alex Maritz and Prof Dr Markus Münter

 

During his visit, Professor Münter enhanced research and engagement activities at La Trobe Business School, and in particular, presented his internationally renowned work on Disruptive Innovation to LTU’s PhD students, MBA students and Accelerator participants. He informed that disruptive theory is in danger of becoming a victim of its own success. Despite broad dissemination, theory’s core concepts have been widely misunderstood and its basic tenants misapplied. He demystified this by providing inferences from an economics of disruption perspective. He explained disruption from the context of technology regimes, origins of new knowledge and impact of firms and market structures. From a pragmatic perspective, he provided a galley of disruptive technologies, such as mobile internet, advanced robotics, automation of knowledge, AI, and next generation genomics. He specifically demonstrated disruptive innovation nuances applicable to entrepreneurs and start-ups, identifying disruptors such as airbnb, spotify, UBER, Netflix, WhatsApp and Alibaba.

Professor Münter has kindly made one of his presentations available here

 

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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