Business Newsroom

La Trobe Business School

Tag: Mark Cloney

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

LBS Professors of Practice Profiles – Mark Cloney: “This is the time to open your mind and prosper”

As an LBS Professor of Practice, Mark Cloney brings a wealth of management and government experience to La Trobe Business School. With over twenty years of experience in the public sector and ten in the private sector, Mark Cloney has insights into economics, business and public policy practice that will undoubtedly be invaluable to students.

“I worked in the Commonwealth government for over twenty years.” Mark comments. “First I was in the department of Transport and Regional Development for thirteen years as a Director of Regional Development Policy, and afterwards I was in Senior Executive Service in the Department Agriculture, as the Assistant Secretary of Business Assurance and Risk.”

When asked about the skillset needed to enter the Public Sector, Mark is clear: “For a career in the public sector, people need common sense, a hands-on attitude, analytical skills, and a strong understanding of how government works and to be flexible and adaptable – because things change!. It is also crucial to understand how policy decisions will affect the broader community, and not just the intended target groups of a particular policy.”

A practical attitude is something that Mark is keen to pass on to his students through his teaching. As an assignment, Mark instructs his students to write a two-page brief to the minister after going through a case study about a specific decision or problem. In the assignment, students are asked to give a minister on overview of the options available in a short brief, to help the minister to make an informed decision. To this end, students must provide a brief history on the problem, the context, explain why it’s a problem, as well as policy options for consideration. Mark says. “Ministers usually don’t have a lot of time on their hands, so they need all the key information required, as quickly and succinctly as possible. They can always follow-up if they want more”.

During this process, policy officers must remain politically neutral, and look into solutions from a range of quite often competing perspectives. “In the position of a policy officer, you will have stakeholders coming at you from all sides,” Mark comments. “Often it is your job to find policy options that works for a variety of stakeholders. It is the Minister’s role to choose the options that best suits the political agenda and priorities of the government.”

When asked how being a policy officers differs from his current position, Mark says he is enjoying the change of environment; “As an academic, you can be a lot more independent in your research and teaching away from the daily cut and thrust of politics that senior bureaucrats have to deal with. When you work in policy in government, you’ll quickly discover that there is no silver bullet, or ‘right’ economic or policy theory for a lot of social, environmental or political problems.  Many of the major of problems of today are ‘wicked’ in nature i.e. climate change, pollution, or indigenous disadvantage etc. and not easily resolvable.  And, as government’s and ministers change so do their priorities and political agendas and consequently their appetite to address some problems and not others.”

So, how do you solve big problems as a policy officer? “You apply as many different lenses (tools, frameworks and approaches) to look at problems and take into account different stakeholder views,” Mark reckons. “When dealing with a problem on a large scale, you will need a range of solutions to address different symptoms caused by the problem and you need to work across jurisdictions and government agencies. No one agency or level of government has the answer or capacity to address the wicked problems. As a Policy Advisor, you will need to be able to think out of the box and apply innovation to your thinking. This is why broad based course such as political economy and economics are very useful for students try to understand global issues and public policy approaches.”

When it comes to forming students who are ready for the work-force, Mark Cloney is positive. He is encouraging when it comes to industry placements. As a Professor of Practice, Mark has been a strong advocate for pushing industry partnerships, collaboration, and blended learning. “A lot of the tools students need today come down to having a broader skillset rather than narrow knowledge gained from a particular discipline or course.  It is about how they use the knowledge obtained through their degree to collaborate, problem solve and innovate more broadly. This is what is demanded in a knowledge based global economy”.

Mark says, “Universities are great places to explore your interests, and try out new things. Students should take advantage of that but always with an eye to future employment.”

© 2017 Business Newsroom

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑