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National Innovation Forum: Call for Best Practice Case Studies

For more information on the forthcoming LBS Northlink National Innovation Forum, see the conference website.

The focus of the LBS/NORTH Link National Innovation Forum is on delivering international and national speakers, and case studies, of successful university-industry collaboration, including examples of business incubators and accelerators. It is an opportunity to engage with industry and government perspectives on how we can continue to improve university-industry interactions and engagement, particularly for startups and SMEs in the Australian context.

We are now calling for case studies on the themes of the Forum. Case studies will be reviewed by the Forum academic panel, and those accepted will be made available to Forum participants. The best two case studies will be selected for presentation in a session at the Forum.

The deadline for submissions of abstracts is Monday 28 August 2017. A template is available via the corresponding Eventbrite page. Please submit the case studies through the online submission form.

If you have any questions, please contact Tim Marjoribanks.

Forum Themes

  • The role of incubators, accelerators and TTOs (Technology Transfer Offices) in facilitating sustained university-industry innovation and engaging startups and SMEs
  • Understanding the global forces shaping opportunities for business innovation (including for startups and SMEs) over the coming decade
  • Business perspectives on enablers and barriers to university-industry collaboration
  • Developing innovative ecosystems and facilitating their leadership and coordination
  • Regulation and legal framework of the innovation ecosystem (patent law, licensing, federal and state jurisdictions and university policies)
  • The economic, political and societal framework in which businesses and universities operate (incentives, competitiveness, regulation, competition policy, innovation and technology policy)

Important dates

  • Monday 28 August for case study submissions
  • Friday 1 September acceptance notification to successful authors
  • 27/28 September National Innovation Forum


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. A central element of the statement was to substantially increase university-industry collaboration on the basis that such alliances have become a prominent feature of the knowledge-based economy, dealing with the speed of transformation, and economic disruption. The statement also recognised that Australia lags behind university-industry partnerships internationally and in translating research into commercial outcomes (i.e. innovation efficiency).


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.


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 (

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,

What does it mean to be part of the LBS incubator team for My Big Idea?


By Anne Brouwer

In September I was asked by the La Trobe Business School to be part of the incubator team of My Big Idea Australia. It’s a project organised by the Australia Futures Project to encourage Australians to submit ideas for a better Australia on a range of areas such as: concern for future generations, effective healthcare, caring for the elderly and economic growth. Ultimately over 1200 ideas were submitted and 10 winners were announced. Our team went to Sydney for a two-day workshop on how to further develop two of the ten winning ideas but also to learn how to lead such a workshop ourselves. Those Australians that submitted ideas but didn’t win were given the opportunity to take part in a full day workshop on further developing their ideas. Therefore, on the 8th of October 2016, La Trobe Business School hosted a successful start-up bootcamp, called Minihack, delivering on its My Big Idea promise to train 500 Australians to be positive change makers. All Australians in Victoria involved in My Big Idea were invited.

A small but very motivated number of Victorians worked a full day on their ideas. Everybody brought their own ideas to the table ranging from tackling the obesity epidemic, setting up a system that provides legal advice for indigenous people in incarceration to an app for reducing meat-intake for a more sustainable world. It was incredible to get to know all these ideas, to hear about how the participants came up with the ideas and also to see the various stages the ideas were in. One participant’s’ idea was already picked up by the local media, another one already developed an app and some were upscaling themselves in specific skills as to better execute their idea.

The day was coordinated by La Trobe Business School’s Professor of Entrepreneurship, Dr Alex Maritz, who gave the welcoming presentation to participants in the morning. He spoke about ways for participants to refine, pitch and build on their idea and encouraged participants to share their idea with others in the room. The approach is learning by doing. The workshop participants were divided in small groups and received mentoring, support and advice from myself and several other La Trobe Business School staff members, including academics and PhD candidates. LBS Staff included Associate Professor Vanessa Ratten and PhD candidates Claudia Shwetzer and Ana Amirsardari.

I sat together with three lovely women, all three having very different ideas: using big data to tailor health care services better, a platform to bring home cooks and people who do not like to cook, can’t cook or those looking for some social interaction over dinner together, and setting up mental health healing centres where the use of a mindfulness program reduces and prevents long-term mental health problems.  I was impressed with how the ideas developed throughout the day and how well everybody got along. There was a great vibe in the room the whole day.

The feedback at the end of the workshop was incredibly positive. Contact details were exchanged and a My Big Idea Minihack Facebook Page had emerged.

For me, being the only team member with no entrepreneurial background, working with the LBS’s incubator team existing of highly successful academics and professionals, was a great experience. It was also great getting to know all these amazing people and their ideas. All in all, both the workshop in Sydney as well as the mini-hack at La Trobe University were great events bringing together lots of creative minds developing innovative ideas to make Australia even better!

Anne Brouwer is currently a PhD candidate at La Trobe Business School.

Hanna Sarkkinen: “Since the Bootcamp session my brain has been buzzing with ideas.”

By Hanna Sarkkinen

Last April when I was creating my website for my Lets Mind Project, I found the My Big Idea Competition by coincidence. Reading up on the competition, I decided to participate with my idea, “The Mindful Mental Health Movement”. So far I have had a great experience!

My Project: The Mindful Mental Health Movement

The Mindful Mental Health Movement idea was born out of my own personal experience. From my professional experience as a nurse, I already know how prevalent mental health issues are, both in our society and globally. But when I struggled with mental health problems myself, I quickly learned how strong the stigma surrounding mental health issues actually is. This made me realise how people are often undereducated about mental health. Drawing from these experiences, I wanted my initiative to address this gap in education, when it comes to mental wellbeing.

Since starting my website I have heard so many stories of people struggling with their mental health. If anything, these stories have shown me that no one is immune to mental health problems, and how it is crucial for people to know that mental health and physical health often go hand in hand. As the World Health Organisation, WHO, states “There is no health without mental health”.

Research all over the world has shown that one of the most effective tools for both mental and physical wellbeing is mindfulness. It can be used to maintain a healthy mental balance, or improve this balance significantly. Because of this, I wanted to make sure our programme included mindfulness training, and make sure that this training would be accessible and achievable for all.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recently revealed that in 2015, 3027 lives were lost to suicide. Every one of these suicides is one too many. I am hopeful that through our programme, we can improve these statistics for the better, and give people the knowledge, tools and techniques to keep their mind healthy, while also teaching them about how to get help when they are unwell. Through the Mindful Mental Health Movement we want to spread the message in communal spaces like schools, universities, workplaces, and community houses. We want our programme to be accessible to everyone, because offering these tools to everyone is the way to tackle the mental health stigma.

My Big Idea Start-Up Bootcamp at La Trobe Business School

On 8 October 2016, I attended the My Big Idea AU bootcamp day in Melbourne that was organised by La Trobe Business School. The bootcamp was an amazing opportunity for us participants to learn about startups and entrepreneur principles. Coaches and mentors from La Trobe Business School shared their valuable knowledge with us and taught us different techniques to test and develop our ideas. The atmosphere throughout the day was one of excitement, curiosity and support. Everyone was delighted to be part of this Bootcamp and embraced the opportunity to make a positive impact on our society. For me personally, the most important message of the day was to be brave and believe in yourself. Don’t be afraid of failure or mistakes because all great ideas have once started from a small “maybe dumb” idea which has been developed to a great success.

The Bootcamp was a start session for the My Big Idea AU online entrepreneur course, in which I am participating too. Since the Bootcamp session my brain hasn’t stopped buzzing and I have millions of ideas in my head about the Mindful Mental Health Movement. The next step for me, is to test my idea with a greater group of people. Based on this test, the next step is to take the concept in the right direction, and to make sure my idea correlates with the needs of the clientele. I am really excited to take these steps, as I learn more about start-ups. I am excited to master the tools to bring my idea to life and make it a success! And, most importantly, I hope that I can make a change in someone’s life.

Hanna Sarkkinen is a 32-year-old nurse from Finland currently living in Australia. She is a passionate surfer, snowboarder, nature lover, and the creator of the
Lets Mind Project.

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