Tag Archives: Tony Peacock

collaborate

Collaborate to learn, learn to collaborate

One of the most marked changes in science and innovation in Australia in recent years is the attitude to collaboration. As we hold Collaborate | Innovate | 2017, there doesn’t seem to be any argument or concern over the importance of collaboration. It’s one of those things that is so well accepted that it seems strange to even remember when the value of collaboration was questioned and even argued against.

A decade ago, it was not uncommon to be virtually shunned in the scientific community for advocating a multidisciplinary approach to a problem or seeing industry as a partner to work with. The image of the lone scientist plugging away at a problem was often raised as the ideal way of doing science – if he or she was just left alone, well-funded, great things would happen.

The turnaround in attitude has been marked. I’ve seen a presentation from a demographer claiming that the fastest growing job in Australia is baristas. But I reckon Pro Vice-Chancellor Engagement, or some variation of that title, couldn’t be far behind. Universities and other research organisations have scrambled hard over the past few years to improve their level of interaction with industry. There doesn’t seem to be any resistance to the argument that Australia must improve its level of collaboration between the academic and industry sectors.


“It is in all our interests to learn more about the process of collaboration itself, so that we can continually improve.”


Winning the argument for more collaboration is only the first step. It doesn’t automatically follow that the resulting collaborations will be optimal, or even productive. Successful collaboration consists of getting a series of things right. Done right, collaboration means the whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts. Done poorly, it can be a mess.

That’s why Collaborate | Innovate | 2017 doesn’t just hammer away on the need for collaboration. It concentrates on the skills needed for good, productive collaboration. Collaborators need to be trusted partners and that can take more time and more effort than people anticipate. Collaborators may not be ready at the same time, or there may be a big differential in power or culture. These are speed bumps, not barriers.

The collaboration potential of an individual or organisation is not set in stone. It can, and does, change over time. It can be enhanced with experience, education and culture. Similarly, a dud policy can kill it off. It is in all our interests to learn more about the process of collaboration itself, so that we can continually improve.

The Cooperative Research Centres Programme has more than a quarter of a century of experience in relatively large-scale, complex collaborations. The money is of course vital to enabling great collaborations to deliver brilliant results. But collaboration is much more than an ingredient in seeking funding – it is a key to unlocking great innovation, which will result in much greater rewards than any government funding program. Deciding to collaborate is important; learning to collaborate well is vital.

Find out more at crca.asn.au

– Tony Peacock is CEO of the Cooperative Research Centres Association and founder of KnowHow.

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Australian Innovation System

Australian innovation system in focus

The most comprehensive review of the Australian innovation system ever conducted was released this week by Innovation and Science Australia (ISA). If it was your child’s school report, you’d be saying we better have a serious discussion over dinner.
 
The conversion might go something like:

ISA: “We’ve had this discussion before, Australia. We’ve got your report and it’s OK but when are you going to really step up?”

Australia: “It’s not bad though. The Knowledge Creation teacher likes me.”

ISA: “It’s not a matter of whether the teacher likes you, or you like the teacher. We just want the best for you and if you are going to have a great future, you’ve got to put in the hard work across the board, not just in the areas you enjoy. Everyone likes you, Australia, but that’s different to doing the best you can.”

Australia: “Yeah, I know I could do more in transfer and application, but you want me to be like Israel or Singapore and they never have any fun and just work all the time”.

 ISA: “We’ve never said you can’t have fun. But at some stage you need to put your head down and get on with some serious work.”

Australia: “Yeah, yeah, I know….”
 
You get the picture. The full report on the Australian innovation system can be found here.

The report concentrates on the three areas of knowledge creation, knowledge transfer and knowledge application and establishes 20 measures across these. Clear benchmarks are set out between Australia’s performance and the average of the top five OECD performers, which gives a pretty clear guidance for future improvement.

The 20 measures were whittled down from an initial group of over 200 and they’ll be the basis for measuring the impact of future policy change. The report’s performance assessment is fairly general across the three key areas, rather than specific at the program level.

The rubber will hit the road during the coming phase as ISA pulls together a strategic plan for innovation and science in Australia to 2030. It’s hard to disagree at the moment when the conclusions are that we need to do better in a number of general areas. The contentious part will come much more in the strategic planning and implementation stage where change will be needed.

The performance review, which runs to over 200 pages and more than 700 references, provides an excellent baseline for future evaluation and Innovation and Science Australia deserves credit for publication of this important body of work.

It has the potential to become the reference material for judging performance of programs and their contribution to an overall Australian innovation strategy. At the very least, the assessment identifies which programs are regularly, thoroughly and transparently reviewed and those that are not.

An obvious part of the coming strategic plan will be to ensure all parts of the Australian innovation system are independently reviewed on a regular basis so their contribution to the overall strategy is maximised.

But this is not just a report for the government or ISA, where they should be tasked to simply fix things. It should be used across business, research organisations and all levels of government because it pulls together international data and lays out clearly where we stand as a country.

The assessment is a solid base to build on and could give the much needed longer-term vision needed for innovation in Australia.

– Dr Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association

Click here to read the Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016.

This piece on the Australian Innovation System was first published by the CRC Association on 7 February 2017. Read the original article here

CRC funding

CRC funding priorities: a welcome change

Minister Greg Hunt has signalled a potentially very important change to the Cooperative Research Centres Program. He wants to have the ability to call for, or prioritise, national interest themes in future  CRC funding rounds – for both Cooperative Research Centres and CRC-Projects. The CRC Association fully supports the Minister’s move.

Priorities for CRC funding rounds are not new. A number of existing CRCs were established as a result of the “priority public good” stream under the previous Labor Government. Ministers have often signalled several priority areas at the commencement of the funding round.

However, sometimes the priorities given were simply too vague to garner a meaningful response – I well remember debates about what “social innovation” meant when it was given as a priority. Calls for CRCs out of sync with the normal competitive funding round have also occasionally caused some confusion.
 
Through his media release today, Minister Hunt is doing things a bit differently. Firstly, he is seeking the views of the community on what issues should be prioritised.

Secondly, he is clear that any prioritised areas will need to be competitive and assessed on their merits in line with the normal processes.

Thirdly, and very importantly, he has said that the CRC program is open to all sectors and any prioritised areas will be in the national interest.

He has even gone further and named some example areas that many people would perceive as excluded by the current guidelines. 

The fast turnaround for consultation will allow for the coming Round 19 of the program to be impacted by the change.

– Tony Peacock

CRC funding
Tony Peacock is the CEO of the CRC Association and founder of KnowHow.

This article on CRC funding was first shared by the CRC Association on 21 December 2016. Read the original article here.

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The spirit within

Australia's innovation sector

Rethinking Australia’s innovation sector

Tony Peacock takes a closer look at Australia’s innovation sector compared to the rest of the world. 

Innovation and Science Australia, the new body created in last December’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, has not sat idle during the election period. The Office of Innovation and Science Australia wound up a series of strategic workshops in Canberra yesterday, developing a 15-year Strategic Plan for Australia’s innovation sector. The plan will develop over the next year and will be a vitally important guiding document in setting direction for Australia’s innovation sector to 2030.

As is the case with many workshops, the facilitator asked each participant to make an opening observation, and mine surprised the person next to me. I was surprised at her surprise. It was basically that even the depiction in graphics of innovation as a linear process that moves from knowledge creation to knowledge transfer through to knowledge application can be fraught. It can over emphasise the expectations on universities in our innovation system. Our system is relatively highly reliant on universities already and we have to be very careful not to expect them keep doing more and more. The primary role of universities is to teach and their biggest impact in the innovation system is to develop talent. All universities also conduct research, but in Australia, we rely on university research much more heavily than most countries.

To illustrate, I’ve pulled out the OECD figures on who performed R&D in four countries in 2013 (the latest year with information for Australia, the USA, Germany and Israel). I chose these particular countries because we often hear comparisons between their systems and ours. Relative to other countries, Australia is roughly twice as reliant on universities to perform our total national research effort. Business in Australia performs relatively less research than business in the other countries but it is important when framing strategic directions to remember that in Australia, businesses still do double the research of our universities. Business is absolutely not sitting at the end of a knowledge generation process waiting to be fed.

This is not at all a criticism of universities. Australian universities are an unmitigated success. They do a brilliant job of teaching Australian and international students at both undergraduate and graduate levels. They do brilliant research. There is no doubt they can do better at engaging with industry, but most have lifted very significantly in that space already. How much more can we genuinely expect? Many universities are expressing concerns that they are cross-subsidising research with teaching dollars already (a fraught argument itself because students are attracted to high reputation universities, who largely drive reputation through their research profile). But they are probably leveraged about as far as possible.

Surely the key strategic issue in Australia’s innovation sector is to drive more business innovation? Relative to the rest of the world, our businesses do less research, but they are still the largest part of the innovation system as a whole. We need to think of business as the main player it is in performing R&D and how we can encourage yet more business research to enhance national prosperity. The people at the Office of Innovation and Science Australia are on to it and they acknowledge that there is “no simple way to fully describe its (Australia’s innovation sector) components or dynamics”. Perhaps that’s because in many ways it is not a “system” at all, which makes the task of strategic planning that much more difficult. It is certainly a task worth supporting.

This article was first published by the Cooperative Research Centre Association on 13 July 2016. Read the original article here.

Excellence in Innovation Awards

Top 25 R&D Spin-off Awards

Featured image above: Top 25 winners accepting their awards with Refraction Media‘s CEO, Karen Taylor. Left to right: executives from iCetana, Refraction Media, Vaxxas, Fibrotech Therapeutics and SmartCap Technologies. Credit: Dave Dwyer Video Production and Photography

The Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRCA) presented the Top 25 R&D Spin-off Awards last week at their annual conference, The Business of Innovation. The awards honoured the Top 25 Science Meets Business R&D spin-off companies – a list of Australian businesses that have successfully moved their R&D from the lab to the marketplace.

The Top 25 companies were compiled by Refraction Media and supported by data from Thomson ReutersThey were judged by a panel comprising of: Dr Peter Riddles, biotechnology expert and director on many start-up enterprises; Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO and Executive Director of AusBiotech; and Tony Peacock, Chief Executive of the Cooperative Research Centres Association.

For each company, the panel considered total market value, annual turnover, patents awarded and cited, funding and investment, growth year-on-year, social value, overseas expansion and major partnerships.