Fernando Fischmann

Innovation will be key to future economic growth

16 August, 2016 / Articles

Nearly a year ago, Malcolm Turnbull made innovation and technology an upbeat centrepiece of his jobs and growth agenda. The innovation space seemed to light up. But Mr Turnbull’s ideas boom did not play well at last month’s election.

Most voters may have smartphones and pay their bills over the internet. But many, including in the suburbs and regions, did not feel as excited as Mr Turnbull to be living in the age of disruption and hipster start-ups. They may even have felt threatened by the new economy and drawn to the isolationism of Trumpism and Brexit.

This is troubling because innovation and technology is a key to sustaining Australian prosperity as we transition from the nation’s biggest ever resource investment boom. This was one of the themes of The Australian Financial Review Business Summit in March. It’s timely then, to follow up with our inaugural Innovation Summit that will bring together nearly 400 high-level researchers, policymakers and business leaders over two days to focus on how to make the most of the nation’s research, innovation and entrepreneurship capability.

Some things remain clear. First, a wave of technology and innovation is transforming the global economy through consumer markets and now through “the internet of things”. Second, Australia retains world-class research capabilities in our universities, medical institutes and research bodies such as CSIRO. But, third, and with exceptions, Australia has not been as strong in translating our pure research strengths into practical and commercial value. Fourth, we have become complacent during our resource boom prosperity.

Now that prosperity is turning down, the political system has become bogged down in arguing over shares of a shrinking pie, rather than investing in prosperity for all. And, finally, our human capital is starting to fall behind our competitors in Asia when it comes to scientific, technology and tech-commercial skills.

That’s a big agenda for the innovation community and for Mr Turnbull’s new Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Greg Hunt, who will address our summit on day two. As Mr Hunt notes, innovation is not just about start-ups. It is about all industries and enterprises, even apparently every day businesses as pizza making and delivery.

Domino’s Pizza chief executive Don Meij – who also will appear at the summit – reckons his digital labs in Brisbane hold the key to expanding his global scale business. This is the broader point Australia’s innovation culture needs to grasp.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.




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