February 12, 2013
I listened to part 3 of Mark Dodgson's series on Innovation in Australia on The Science Show at Radio National. Dodgson argued for argues for the importance of innovation in creating a prosperous society and then said that Australia was hopeless at innovation.
Dodgson says about Australia that:
We have a massive productivity problem and need to rebalance our economy to hedge our reliance on resources. Innovation-driven growth is the only way forward. Yet apart from a few lone voices we have never had a comprehensive innovation research capacity in Australia.
Australia came late to the commercialization of university research, and when it did, it was based on an old strategy of science discovers and business applies. The new strategy is collaboration across diverse groups in different sectors and firms in different industries.
A good example of just how bad Australia is at innovation can be seen in the energy field. The electric energy industry has remained relatively bottled up and stagnant for most of the last 100 years. The game-changing technology has not developed from within the industry, but outside of it, and the utilities and regulatory entities continue to resist the disruptive renewable energy technologies rather than foster innovation.
It is an industry that has been notoriously averse to promoting or accepting change. Even though Australia is meant to be transitioning its economy to a low carbon one, innovation in the energy industry is somewhere between dire straits and dead. Stagnation is the ethos of the fossil-fuel energy industry.
Innovation is needed in the areas of climate change, sustainable society and the information society. The Australian public bureaucracy won't lead as it is innovation averse and has a culture of compliance and its hierarchical structure thwarts initiative to developing a national innovation system. I cannot think of any Australian city that has an explicit innovation focus and substantial programmes to attract talented people and innovative organizations to an innovation hub, even though they some have deep research capabilities and extensive technological infrastructure.