Tag Archives: Silicon Valley

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

founders

Founders fuelled by STEM

As a full time angel investor and venture capital investor I spend a considerable amount of my time meeting with founders from all walks of life. Ten years back that group would have largely consisted of a few random, risk-taking entrepreneurs and a bunch of computer science grads punching out code. My, how times have changed.

In this current “Innovation Era” it seems the whole world is seeking to get digital and disrupt something. The backgrounds, skills and mindsets in the startup scene are now far more diverse… and what a huge asset that is to the local ecosystem and future of innovation in Australia.

Most comforting to me over the past few years has been the increasing number of founders I’ve encountered from some formal STEM background that’s not just computer science, and how they are putting their ideas to the test. Diversity of thinking, ideas and actions seems to be the DNA of a healthy ecosystem. If we are to create a vibrant, sustainable innovation ecosystem in Australia then we must promote this sort of risk taking through academia and into commercialisation programs.

On a recent tour of Silicon Valley with the current cohort of the muru D accelerator program from Sydney, I had the pleasure of spending time with the founders of astro-educational startup Quberider and underwater inspections company Abyss Solutions.


“It was a pleasure to see these young STEM professionals stand up, pitch and impress some of the world’s most experienced startup investors with their passion and ideas that have true global application.”


Solange Cunin launched Quberider while still studying a Bachelor of Science and Engineering at UNSW, majoring in aerospace, aeronautical and astronautical engineering. Quberider’s director Sebastian Chaoui is undertaking a Bachelor of Engineering and Mechatronics at UTS, majoring in robotics and automation engineering. Abyss Solutions founder Masood Naqshbandi has a Masters in Materials Chemistry and Photonics from the University of Sydney. His highly qualified team hold a number of PhDs and masters degrees between them.

It was a pleasure to see these young STEM founders stand up, pitch and impress some of the world’s most experienced startup investors with their passion and ideas that have true global application. Their diverse skills, intimate knowledge of their subject matter and practical “can-do” attitudes put them in great stead to impress. So did the experiences they shared visiting one of the leading hubs of global startups and innovation.

If we are to create a truly innovative society in Australia that can help make the world a better place, then we need to foster entrepreneurialism among the excellent talent from our leading universities. Support from corporate incubators and accelerators to share business acumen will further accelerate their success. Supportive global capital will surely follow.

Andrew Coppin

Director, Bardama Startup Fund, Affirmative Investments and Timezone Group International

Read next: Attila BrungsVice-Chancellor and President of UTS, sheds light on how we can equip new generations of graduates with the right skills to compete in a changing global market.

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