Tag Archives: Israel

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

job growth

What are the big three drivers to job growth?

Increased collaboration, stability of policy and acceleration of commercialisation are three main drivers of innovation and job growth that must be addressed to accelerate Australia’s economy in the next 15 years.

The top three drivers were identified at the AFR National Innovation Summit today by Chairs of the boards of Telstra, BHP Billiton and Innovation and Science Australia.

The panel warned that fears around the effects of disruption on jobs must be part of the conversation, and that the effects of digital disruption through automation, and artificial intelligence were inevitable.

This disruption will affect people and jobs whether they are “in Woomera or Sydney”, says Bill Ferris, Chair of the board of Innovation and Science Australia.

“In five years we’ve seen the rise of Uber and Instagram, and the collapse of the mining boom. What is coming towards us will dwarf the change of pace [in disruption] to date,” says Dr Nora Scheinkestel, Chairman of Macquarie Atlas Roads and Director of Telstra Corporation and Stocklands Group.

Policy and R&D tax incentives

Crucial to Australia’s ability to innovate is the stability of policy such as the R&D tax incentive, which aims to encourage private investment in Australian R&D.

Along with Chief Scientist Alan Finkel, Bill Ferris was part of a team that reviewed the incentive for government to evaluate how much investment the incentive has created and the scheme’s effectiveness.

“I agree it is valuable and should be continued,” says Ferris. “Can it be improved? I think so. It’s been a $3 million cheque and the largest there has been. But there is nothing in the scheme that requires collaboration, whether CSIRO or academia.”

Incentivising collaboration is a no-brainer next step, says Ferris.

“I don’t think business is trying as hard as academia. Universities are getting on with business, creating spin-offs like QUT’s Spinifex, and Ian Fraser’s cancer vaccine. It’s very impressive.”

Stability of the R&D investment scheme is key to its success, says Carolyn Hewson AO, Director, BHP Billiton, Stockland Group and Federal Growth Centres Advisory Committee.

Hewsen says BHP Billiton was ‘deeply’ affected as a company by the collapse of the mining boom this year. “Every company is under pressure to innovate.” (See “How big companies can innovate)

“There is a role for government to address the KPIs they set around research funding.

KPIs need to move to speed of commercialisation rather than publication in tier 1 journals.”

“My concern is it is very easy for government with 3-year time horizon to make decisions on funding over a long term investment. Research projects extend out many years. To be subject to be changing regulation of government regulated by short-term political cycle is very worrying.”


How big companies can innovate

– Carolyn Hewson AO, Director of BHP Billiton, Stockland Group and Federal Growth Centres Advisory Committee

  • Hastening production
  • Accelerating technology competencies
  • Innovation hubs working to address innovative solution to specific challenges, eg. automation of trucks and drills
  • Step-up programs to build from the inside of the company
  • Partnerships with universities and CSIRO, CRCs on engineering and remote operations

Collaborate and commercialise for job growth

Ferris is optimistic about Australia’s ability to respond to the challenge to grow jobs by 2030. Agribusiness, aquaculture, cybersecurity, environmental services, renewables, and new materials were all strong potential job growth areas, he says.

“A lot more work needs to be done by business on reaching in. If we can’t commercialise around our inventiveness we won’t create the jobs that we could and that we deserve.”

Scheinkestel says the ecosystem is essential to drive innovation and job growth.

“The big message from Israel is the ecosystem created between business and academia, and in their case the military, where young people are taught strong leadership skills. They commercialise or adapt tech they have been looking at, get the backing of VC, which are supported by consistent policies from government around tax regimes.

“Again in Silicon Valley, you are talking about an ecosystem, a constellation of start-ups with shared resources and again consistency in policies and tax incentives.”

Hewson agrees that work skills are essential to our future and that there is concern about workforce skills in Australia across a number of advanced manufacturing, mining and medical sectors.

“We want to enhance global competitiveness and build on strategic collaboration within these sectors,” she says.

“It’s not just about growth, it’s about survival,” adds Scheinkestel.

Heather Catchpole

Firing up our start-ups

Firing up our start-ups

Stories of ‘unicorn’ Initial Public Offerings and billionaires in their 30s are great. But it’s the creation of quality jobs that truly makes innovation a national priority.

A recent report from the Office of the Chief Economist showed Australia added about one million jobs from 2006–11. Start-up companies added 1.4 million jobs, whereas older companies shed 400,000 jobs over the same period. But it’s not any start-up that matters; only 3.2% of start-ups take off in a dramatic fashion, providing nearly 80% of those new jobs. While Australia has a relatively high rate of companies starting up, the key seems to be getting more of them into high-growth mode.

When Israel faced a massive influx of immigrants after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990, it turned to innovation as a means of providing jobs. Given the country’s lack of natural resources, they didn’t have a choice. A population of four million people taking in one million more meant Israel had to become an innovative economy.

They grew their investment in research and development dramatically – to the point where Israel is now one of only two countries consistently spending more than 4% of GDP on R&D.

Israel has translated that spending into high-tech export success. Now, multinational technology company Intel employs over 10,000 Israelis. The Israeli Government is hands-on in its approach to de-risking early stage companies. But this is not achieved through government spending alone. In fact, the Israeli Government’s share of total R&D spending is just one-third of that of Australia, and its higher education sector is just one half. Business carries the lion’s share of R&D spending in Israel, making up 80% of the total, compared with 60% in Australia.

in text graph2

If we want jobs, we need innovation. We are in a unique period when there seems to be complete political agreement on this point. If we want innovation, we should take lessons from wherever we can learn them to develop the Australian system. A lesson from Israel is to use government spending more effectively at the early stages of company development to shift more start-ups into high-growth mode. If we could double the current 3.2% of today’s start-ups that become high-growth companies, we could provide more rewarding jobs for Australia’s future.

Israel concentrates almost 100% of its government innovation support for business on small and medium-sized enterprises. The comparable figure for Australia is 50% – a big hint for what we could do differently to fire up our start-up sector.

–Tony Peacock

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

The startup nation

Above: The Faculty of Industrial Engineering and Management at Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology. David Shankbone

As the Australian Government releases its much anticipated Innovation Statement, what lessons can we draw from Israel, the startup nation, for implementation of the statement’s plans for education?

I recently travelled to Israel as part of an Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce trade delegation which aimed to explore business and investment opportunities and to better understand Israel’s unique entrepreneurial culture and innovation ecosystem. The delegation was headed by Wyatt Roy, MP, Assistant Minister for Innovation and a key player in the development of the Innovation Statement.

The trip was a revelation, as I witnessed in a very real and tangible way that a national groundswell towards a knowledge-based economy is possible.

As Avi Hasson, Chief Scientist at the Ministry of Economy explained, Israel has accelerated from “oranges, as the largest export 20 years ago, to technology now being a $US50 billion GDP contributor”.

After an inspiring eight days studying the mechanisms of one of the world’s great start-up communities – and particularly the key role that universities play in technology transfer – I believe it is vital that Australian universities capitalise on the new focus on innovation and collaboration if we are to create our own startup nation.

‘Collaboration [is] a breath of fresh air between industry and Israel’s universities’

I saw in Israel that a culture formed from 2000 years of overcoming adversity underpins innovation and entrepreneurship there. The startup community’s innovative spirit is also formed in the crucible of military conscription, where lives are at risk and everyone is personally involved and affected.

It is something of the national character that Israelis are alert to possibilities that can make a difference, and willing to take action, quickly!

This culture is not a template Australia can replicate. However, the delegation’s visit to a number of different educational institutions allows an Australian take on the Israeli strategy.

As delegation member Jonathan Marshall, founder of Bondi Labs, put it, we were witness to “mutual collaboration – a breath of fresh air between industry and Israel’s universities”.

In Israel, everyone knows everyone, and this promotes positive channels between governments, academia and industry. For universities, the key is to find researchers who are early adopters of industry collaboration, and to experiment with small initiatives.

Demonstrating small wins in a risk-averse environment like Australia will assist in propagating advocates, and will generate incentives to commercialise technology developed by our institutions.

Israel has led the world in technology transfer from universities – spinning out new enterprises. Two in particular, Technion – the Israel Institute of Technology, and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have interesting models.

Technion, a science and technology research university based in Haifa, north of Tel Aviv, has a strong mechanism to engage entrepreneurs: every student enrolled has to take a mandatory Minor in Entrepreneurship.

This particularly resonated with Adrian Turner, CEO of Data61, CSIRO’s commercialisation vehicle. He says it reminded him of the 18 years he spent in the US’s startup nation Silicon Valley. “The system seems to be very focused on encouraging students to pursue the entrepreneurial path,” he says. The result? Technion transfers into the economy 100 student-led businesses a year, with revenues that exceed $US32 million.

‘The system seems to be very focused on encouraging students to pursue the entrepreneurial path’

Building a startup nation

At the other tech transfer leader,  Hebrew University, researchers are strongly encouraged to engage with industry.

Liaising with professionals with real-life challenges and opportunities influences academic research outcomes, in turn solving unmet market needs. Products based on the university’s tech transfer developments generate more than $US2 billion in annual sales.

Both business models are successful. As Sarah Pearson, CEO and Founder of Canberra-based CBR Innovation Network explains, “Science and innovation education permeate the culture of Israel, beginning by engaging three-year-olds in science. Parents value entrepreneurship as a career, universities foster a culture of impact and commercial outcomes, and the government supports this in a strategic and holistic way.”

A lot has been said about the need for Australian schools to provide more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. In Israel, Jon Medved, CEO ofOurCrowd, the world’s biggest equity crowd funding platform, told us Israel is “running out of geeks”.

So, visiting the science and technology education centre Technoda was humbling. Technoda attracts more than 30,000 children a year to science enrichment classes, from every ethnic group, religion and lifestyle.

With the recent opening of a second campus, just 10 kilometres north of Gaza, it is clear STEM education can and must be accessible to everyone.

From a university perspective, Australia needs to worry about the brain drain as well. Some 8000 IT students graduate from Australian universities and return to homes overseas each year.

Until the throughput of social ventures such as Code Club Australia start to drive new, local STEM talent into the Australian workforce, we must do much more to encourage this demographic of international graduates to stay and help build our tech startup community.

Universities have a major part to play in guiding future talent into an innovative environment where government, industry and academia collaborate.

We can promote this now with students playing a central role. Students must be able to access entrepreneurial education programs and easier ways to commercialise university technologies.

Israel is leading the way. It’s time for Australia to take the next step. – Stephen Rutter

Rutter_Stephen_Fill_650Stephen Rutter is Manager of UTS Business School’s Business Practice Unit. Among other things the unit facilitates engagement between faculty, industry and the entrepreneurial community. He was previously an Executive in Residence at Flinders University, where he was involved in starting up its New Venture Institute. 

See the federal government’s Innovation Statement here, and the Innovation Inquiry Report here, including the Expert Report by the Dean of UTS Business School, Professor Roy Green.

UTS Vice-Chancellor Attila Brungs talks about university and industry working together here.