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La Trobe Business School

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Meet the new Dean and Head of LBS

Jane Hamilton is the new Dean & Head of the La Trobe Business School.  Business Newsroom sat down with her to ask her some questions about her long-standing relationship with LBS, her new role, taking on challenges, how she relaxes, and more.

 

 

Where do you come from and what brings you to La Trobe University?

I was a student at La Trobe University, at the Bendigo campus. Back then it was still the Bendigo College of Advanced Education, which became part of La Trobe in the 1990s. After finishing my degree I joined the staff as a tutor, and gradually worked my way up. I have been associated with La Trobe for about 30 years. I took an opportunity to work at the University of Technology in Sydney from 2000 to 2005 because I wanted more experience and exposure with my research. But after that, I came back to La Trobe because it is a great place to work.

 

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

Being part of the LBS for nearly 30 years means that I’m very familiar with what we do. However, this is a new role for me so it gives me the opportunity to help LBS find a new direction for the future, and we’re working on a strategy to help us do that. We want to keep everything that’s good about LBS and build upon that. This means providing education that meets students’ expectations for the new world of work, help students get interesting jobs and prepare them for anything that might come to them in the future. I want all LBS students to have a fantastic experience with us.

In terms of research, LBS has great strengths in several areas. We have a number of research centres, and we would like to see them flourish. In particular, the two largest ones, the Centre for Sport and Social Impact and the Research Centre for Data Analytics & Cognition, are well connected with outside parties. We also have many academics that are experts in their fields and very highly rated internationally. Several of our research disciplines are rated above world standard and I would like to support them to keep continuing their good work.

Several of our staff come in as early career researchers. I would like to help them develop their skills in research so that they too can have a career in research. I would like them to have a satisfying career, feel connected within the school, have the possibility to engage with business and the community around them and allow them to produce research that is meaningful in a variety of ways. Their work might impact the way people do business, it might impact on the academic research field, or impact on people’s personal lives. There is a wide range of research happening within LBS and we need to support that to make our research output even stronger.

 

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

I just loved being a student. Up until then, it was the most interesting thing that I had done, it was a joy to challenge myself and learn new things.

I wish I would have had a little bit more self-belief. When I started doing research I was so nervous about standing up in front of people and presenting my ideas. I didn’t know whether I had done a good job or not. Looking back, I did a good job and I just wish I had more confidence and more belief in myself.

 

Have you always been ambitious?

Yes and no. It’s not so much about ambition. I never thought I would be in a particular position, I wasn’t ambitious in that sense, but I do enjoy taking on new things and I think all ambitious people do. I think ambitious people enjoy the process of learning. Taking on a new position like this is where I get that joy of learning. When you’re a student all is new, and then when you’re in a job for too long it can get a bit stale, so you need to give yourself a new challenge and that’s what I like to do. You take on a challenge, you master that, and take on another challenge and you master that, and that constant stretching helps you develop.

I didn’t know that I was going to end up in this position, going from an LBS student to becoming the Dean & Head of School for LBS. It was quite a journey and I probably didn’t know what I was going to do, but every step of the way I challenged myself and took on that stretch, and it was very rewarding. I learnt this process over the years so probably if I knew this back then I would have taken more steps earlier, but that’s life.

 

What do you do to get rid of stress?

Lately I have been going for runs and I have been really enjoying it. If I don’t feel like running, I’ll go for a walk. I enjoy getting up early and going out. It helps me to get into work fresh and feel prepared for a long day ahead.

During my weekends I like to go outside and work on our bush block, walk around in nature, something like that. I don’t do very ambitious things, I like to do something that is out of work and outside. Just get basic, not having to talk to people or think about things too much. It gives me that contrast with my job.

I like to take at least one day during my weekend where I turn everything off so that I can just have that break. I work quite long days during the week, and sometimes you need to do some work on the weekend to get ready on Monday, but I do try and work really hard during the week so that I can have a bit of space on the weekend. Taking a break is important.

 

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

“Can I get you a coffee?” and I will always say yes! A simple “how are you today?” is also fine, ask me what I think of the cricket, or the footy. That will get me engaged in a conversation.

 

Professor Jane Hamilton was appointed as Dean and Head of La Trobe Business School in April 2018 and brings a wealth of experience and expertise to this important leadership position. Jane is a Professor of Accounting and holds a PhD from Monash University and a Masters of Accountancy from the University of New England, having completed her undergraduate studies in Bendigo. She brings a unique perspective to the role of Head of School, having worked at La Trobe’s Bendigo campus since 1989. Jane was Associate Head of the Business School from 2015 to 2018 and had responsibility for regional campus operations, international partnerships, and third-party teaching. As well as her experience in senior management positions, Jane has a distinguished record of teaching, research and partnership engagement at both La Trobe University and the University of Technology, Sydney.

Another successful Financial Markets and Corporate Governance Conference

From the 4th till the 7th of April La Trobe Business School hosted the 9th annual Financial Markets and Corporate Governance Conference (FMCG) and associated PhD Symposium.

The conference was supported by Monash University, University of Queensland, Victoria University of Wellington, and the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and the Pacific Basin Finance Journal (PBFJ).

 

PhD Symposium

The PhD Symposium was a major success with more than 30 PhD candidates from 16 universities from all over the world. LBS PhD Candidate Nader Atawnah won the PhD Symposium Best Paper Award in stream 1: Accounting information/ Disclosure practices/ Earnings quality for his paper “Corporate Tax Avoidance and Foreign Competition: Evidence from Industry – Level Import Data”.

Nader Atawnah receiving his PhD Symposium Best Paper Award.

 

Other PHD candidates that won a PhD Symposium Best Paper Award were:

 Bharat Raj Parajuli from the University of Utah – Asset Pricing/Emerging Markets /Financial Markets/Market Microstructure.

 

Tom Stannard from Victoria University of Wellington – Banking/Behavioural Finance/Corporate Finance/Financial Economics.

 

 Hasibul Chowdhury from University of Queensland – Corporate Governance/Social Responsibility.

 

Chanyuan (Georgina) GE from Macquarie University – Funds Management/Risk Management/Quantitative Finance.

 

Conference

More than 100 researchers from all over the world presented papers at the 9th annual Financial Markets and Corporate Governance Conference (FMCG). Presentations were given in the following streams:

  • Accounting information/ Disclosure practices/ Earnings quality
  • Asset pricing/ Emerging markets/ Financial markets/ Market microstructure
  • Banking/ Behavioural finance/ Corporate finance/ Financial economics
  • Corporate governance/ Social responsibility
  • Funds management/ Risk management/ Quantitative finance

Keynote speakers included world-renowned academics such as Professors Robert Faff, Ron Masulis, Tom Smith and Avanidhar Subrahmanyam.

 

Keynote speaker Professor Avanidhar Subrahmanyam from the UCLA Anderson School of Management

 

Researchers that won a Best Paper Award were:

Ankit Jain from the Indian School of Business (ISB) in Hyderabad – Accounting Information/ Disclosure Practices/Earnings Quality

 

 Ying Dou from Monash University, Jason Zein and Ronald W. Masulis, both from the University of New South Wales – Banking/Behavioural Finance/Corporate Finance/Financial Economics.

 

Md Emdadul Islam and Jason Zein, both from the University of New South Wales – Corporate Governance/Social Responsibility

 

Conference Dinner

The Conference Dinner was held at the Melbourne Aquarium and included an industry-focused keynote by James Fazzino. James joined La Trobe as a Vice Chancellor’s Fellow in November last year. Prior to this, he was the CEO of Incitec Pivot. The keynote focused on the strategic takeover of Dyno Nobel and its impact on Incitec Pivot´s value.

James Fazzino giving his Keynote

 

The evening also saw Professor Stephen Brown and Professor Ferdinand Gul recognized for their outstanding achievements. Professor Stephen Brown was recognised for his work in theoretical and empirical research in finance and Professor Ferdinand Gul in empirical research in auditing and assurance.

Professor Stephen Brown receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award

 

Professor Ferdinand Gul receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award

 

Founder of the Financial Markets and Corporate Governance Conference and Conference Chair, LBS Professor Balasingham Balachandran finished the evening with a walk through history from FMCG’s humble beginnings all the way up the current 9th year. His thank you address focused on the participants that make the conference each year even more successful.

Founder of FMCG & LBS Professor Balasingham Balachandran

Another world ranking rise for La Trobe

La Trobe University has continued to improve its world ranking, today recording its best ever result in the respected Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU).

La Trobe University is now rated at 301 in the world, a leap of more than 200 places in just two years – to be Australia’s most improved university.

The record ARWU result in its 50th year places La Trobe in the top 1.4 per cent of universities globally.

The University has now cemented its position in the top 400 of all three major world university rankings. The latest QS ranking has the University at 360 in the world. The Times currently ranks La Trobe at 377.

Vice-Chancellor Professor John Dewar said the string of pleasing results was testament to La Trobe University’s incredible research capabilities and staff expertise, combined with close connections to industry and employers.

“The numbers speak for themselves – La Trobe is well regarded as a quality institution with a focus on excellence, industry engagement, student employability and research on issues that matter,” he said.

“We have a great team spread throughout all of our campuses. We continue to attract strong interest from around the world and across the country from high-profile academics wanting to join the team and students coming here in search of the best possible preparation for a successful career.”

La Trobe has risen from 21 in Australia to 15 over the past two years.

The ARWU ranks universities with several indicators of academic or research performance, including alumni and staff winning Nobel Prizes and Fields Medals, highly cited researchers, papers published in Nature and Science, papers indexed in major citation indices, and the per capita academic performance of an institution.

This post was originally posted on the La Trobe University web pages.

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’s Angela McCabe’s research project features on Clarivate Analytics State of Innovation website!

LBS lecturer Dr Angela McCabe

Recently, La Trobe Business School Lecturer in Management, Dr Angela McCabe’s research project has been featured as a case study on the Clarivate Analytics (formally Thomson Reuters)– State of Innovation Website. The article also features Angela’s colleagues from University of Melbourne and INSEAD.

Clarivate Analytics is a leading provider of intellectual property and scientific information, decision support tools and services that drive Innovation for governments, academia, publishers, corporations and law firms as they discover, protect and commercialize new ideas and brands. The State of Innovation website highlights research projects featuring Clarivate data.

Dr Angela McCabe summarized her research project as follows:

Our research examines climate change research from the perspective of management studies, to clarify the communicative and evaluative dynamics by which research spreads and diffuses across disciplines. We seek to examine how the metrification of the sciences facilitates ‘evaluative tournaments’ that act as de facto ‘arbiters of truth’ in the realm of climate change. We examine how evaluative tournaments — represented by practices such as rankings, impact factors and citation scores — accord greater value to one understanding of climate change over another. In our analysis we are drawing on a custom dataset provided by Clarivate Analytics comprising over 3500 climate change articles published in Nature and Science from 1980 to today.

Access the full case study on the Clarivate Analytics website.

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.

The perks of being a PhD student rep


By Anne Brouwer

Why would you become a student representative?

Let me rephrase that.Why would you want to read 30-page policies? Why would you want to spend hours in meetings? Why would you choose to put yourself out there and speak up to higher management? Why would you want to deal with other people’s problems? Why would you want to be the one to open up a can of worms?

You won’t believe this, but it’s actually quite fun!

Of course, there is the feeling of satisfaction for serving the greater good. I can’t deny that it feels awesome to help fellow graduate students when they have issues concerning their PhD journey.

There is the unique experience of learning how educational institutions operate, of realising how complex universities are and getting a sense of the politics behind it.

There are the networks you make, not only with fellow graduate students but getting to personally know the people in charge! You know, the ones that help run this joint, like the Dean, Associate Vice-Chancellors, Pro-Vice Chancellors, School Graduate Coordinators and so on. They are the kind of people that might come in handy when you need an extension, reference or a job.

Talking about jobs, extracurricular activities definitely boost your resume. I have built up a wide array of examples for future job interviews that show leadership skills, project management, resolving conflict situations, organising events, time management, teamwork, etc. I hate to say it, but it’s important to show your future employer that you’re more than just a person who holds a doctorate. Let’s face it, our future prospects in academia don’t look all that great, especially not when all you have been doing is your PhD, just like all the others holding doctorates out there.

But, as I said earlier, it is also just really fun. Going to exclusive events, getting free food and drinks, making new friends among your fellow PhD students, learning that the students in the other College aren’t as scary after all, and just getting the opportunity to hang out with people you would otherwise never come across.

Another great thing about being a student rep is that it allows you to get away from your PhD research without feeling too guilty about it. I quickly realised that working full-time on my PhD research was not going to work for me. It is mentally draining, I have a short attention span, and I’m easily bored. These three years should not only be about working hard on my research, but also for some socialising, fun, and freebies as well!

And if you think “it doesn’t matter because nobody will listen to us”, you’ve got it all wrong. When I started out as a graduate student representative about a year ago, I quickly came to realise that La Trobe takes its graduate student reps seriously. When we raise issues, action is usually taken straight away and feedback that we give on candidature policies actually gets incorporated.

If you are like me and allergic to people who only complain and don’t do anything to make their problems go away, and if you read this blog thinking being a student rep could indeed be fun, then shoot me an email (a.brouwer@latrobe.edu.au) and let’s talk about how you can get involved!

Anne Brouwer is a PhD Candidate and a Research Scholar in the La Trobe Business School at La Trobe University. 

She has completed a Master of Science degree from both the Technical University Munich and University of Wageningen, and holds a Bachelor of Commerce from Zuyd University of Applied Sciences. Her research interests are in green marketing, greenwashing and sustainable consumption. 

She is the student representative for the ASSC College on the Board of Graduate Research and the student representative for the La Trobe Business School. 

Outside LTU activities she travels around the world (whenever her schedule allows it), volunteers as a marketer for a non-profit organisation, hikes around Victoria and cycles a lot. She tweets from @AnneRBrouwer.

This post was originally published on the RED Alert Research Blog.

LBS Associate Professor Elspeth Frew on Radio National’s Nightlife

LBS Associate Professor Elspeth Frew

Recently, LBS’s Associate Professor Elspeth Frew was interviewed on Radio National’s “Nightlife” for an hour discussing dark tourism, together with her research collaborator Dr Leanne White.

During the program there listeners across Australia called in to speak about their experiences at various dark tourism sites and how these visits had impacted them.

To listen to the full episode, 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.

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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