Innovation in Australia: What is Really Needed?

In Australia many issues such as innovation, renewable energy and sustainability tend to be highly politicised–unlike in Germany where there is wider and less controversial support. The recent election in Australia highlighted the extent to which the Australian government’s policies on innovation have been called into question and subjected to criticism.

While the focus on innovation is here to stay, a recent article published by Ron Johnston (the executive director of the Australian Centre for Innovation at the University of Sydney) outlined some useful ways to think about innovation (at a more fundamental level).

This summary of his main points is use to think about and to contrast with the situation in Germany where innovation has been part of strategic and policy agenda for almost 2 decades:

Note: while all our stories focus on innovation, here is are few links to “innovation specific stories”: Innovation Powers German Economy (Report); Why Germany Dominates the U.S. in Innovation

  • Innovation is here to stay as part of a modern economy.
  • The structure of the modern economy means that innovation makes sense (actually, is a kind of default position) due to commercial competitive pressure.
  • Innovation is difficult to produce and manage because by definition it means doing what we already do better and therefore it does not conform to a simple set of rules. Rather, it means breaking the rules (which makes systematisation difficult).
  • Establishing systems of research, development, engagement and commercialisation at a national level (in Australia) remains a significant challenge.
  • What gives rise to innovation is somewhat uncertain… but it involves a combination of creativity, proximity, financial support, a supportive environment, risk taking and enthusiasm.
  • While innovation means different things to different groups, it is important to remember that it is always a means to an end, so not “innovation for the sake of it” but for jobs, growth, products, quality of life, etc.
  • Transmitting what innovation is about–its role in our society, and the impacts it will deliver–needs to be formulated and effectively communicated to a broader Australian public.

As Johnston notes:

At least some of our commitment to innovation needs to be in finding new ways to ease economic, social and psychological transitions.

Photo credit: “”. Material used in the preparation of this article has been drawn from The Conversation.


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