Review highlights lagging performance

June 20, 2017

More collaboration between business and research is required to bring new goods and services to market, says ISA’s Tim Powell.

In early February, Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) – a statutory board tasked with providing whole-of-government advice on all innovation, science and research matters – released the Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016 (the ISR System Review).

The review’s findings demonstrate that, while the Australian ISR system has its strong points, we are lagging well behind comparable countries and without concerted action we are bound to fall farther behind.

Our innovation performance is determined by three key activities: how well we create knowledge; how well we transfer that knowledge to different parts of the system; and how well our businesses apply knowledge in developing new goods and services and bringing them to market.

The assessment of these key activities, as compared to similar and competitor nations, is summarised in a novel “performance scorecard”. This scorecard, which includes 20 relevant metrics, will allow ISA to track the ISR system’s performance into the future.

Creating knowledge is, as expected, a point of strength. In both our number of researchers per capita and the proportion of highly cited publications produced, we sit in the top 10 internationally.

However, the scorecard also confirms our relatively poor performance in the transfer and application of our knowledge creation into new products and services. This is partially explained by our low rates of collaboration and mobility among research institutions and businesses.

In the proportion of researchers employed by businesses we came in at 28 out of 36 comparable countries. Perhaps of most concern is that out of OECD countries we came in last for collaboration between business and research institutions. Collaboration, of course, is essential for the exchange of ideas, sparking creative insight and driving innovation activity.

While the ISR System Review contains no recommendations, it is now the ISA’s task to prepare a strategic plan for the Australian innovation, science and research system to 2030.  

This plan will be delivered to government later this year following consultation with stakeholders. Throughout the plan’s development, ISA will seek to draw upon stakeholder expertise in addressing key questions, such as:

How can we bring more firms, in more sectors, closer to the innovation frontier?

How can government become more innovative?

What does an innovative Australian workforce capable of meeting future challenges look like and how can it best be built?

How can we ensure Australian innovative businesses are seamlessly connected to international value chains and flows of knowledge, capital and talent?

The 2030 strategic plan offers a chance to outline a broad vision for Australia’s medium and long term, without sacrificing the ability to make recommendations to government for adjustments to the ISR system that are needed now. This will be a challenging piece of work that promises to deliver real value for the ISR system.

The Cooperative Research Centres Association is a powerful voice for the interests of the sector and ISA look forward to drawing upon the association’s expertise.

– Tim Powell, ISA

Find out more: Innovation & Science Australia

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