James Riley
March 15, 2018

The debate the nation must have

Editorial

The debate the nation must have

Bill Ferris: Can we please keep the ISA 2030 recommendations alive?

The trouble with worthy and weighty industry reports on the performance of our tech and innovation ecosystems is that they’re so heavy that within a few weeks they have sunk like a stone, never to be seen or heard of again.

Well, there is no worthier or weightier report on our industry than the Bill Ferris-led Innovation and Science Australia’s 2030 strategy, Prosperity through Innovation. This excellent report and its sensible recommendations carried more weight than anything written since Terry Cutler’s excellent Venturous Australia, also disappeared and forgotten long ago.

And so down she goes! Farewell then, 2030 Strategy, we would have liked to get to know you more. Alas.

This is a terribly unkind observation, but so very true. We can only hold our breath and wait for the government to formally respond to the ISA’s 30 recommendations.

And even as Jobs and Innovation Minister Michaelia Cash’s office seems to be preparing to deep six the Strategy – and with it the promised version 2.0 of the National Innovation and Science Agenda – we will try to keep the innovation policy issue alive and the ISA report’s recommendations remembered.

The University of Sydney’s United States Studies Centre has produced an innovation debate that puts these policy questions at its heart as part of it’s Debate Papers series.

It asks the question: Is the Australian Government doing enough to support innovation?

In this debate, I was given the strange and lonely position of arguing the positive position: That the government HAS done enough for innovation in Australia.

My great friend and well known tech industry analyst Sandy Plunkett takes the opposing position, that the government has not done enough.

The point of this story is that as an industry we must keep the innovation discussion alive, and we must broaden its reach as deep into the mainstream as we can.

Obviously I am committed to this cause – but there is only so far a deep niche publication with a masthead like InnovationAus.com can ever reach.

The United States Studies Centre should be applauded for pressing on with this issue. We hope that these kinds of initiatives can get pushed out further into the community.

The United States is obviously a leader in innovation. And in recent years in particular, according to USSC Innovation & Entrepreneurship Program Director Claire McFarland, US innovators have created products and business models that have fundamentally changed the way in which we live and work.

“For Australia – with 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth driven largely by property and natural resources – future prosperity will come from harnessing new ways of thinking, new ways of doing business and new ways of developing products and services,” Ms McFarland said.

“The economic and technological realities of an increasingly innovative world economy will inevitably catch up to Australia – and Australia needs to be ready.”

“The United States has unparalleled success in innovation yet, in many ways, Australia’s government supports home-grown innovation more actively than the US government does,” she said.

“Could the Australian government do more to support local innovation and grow our own American-style tech giants? We think James Riley and Sandy Plunkett make compelling cases for both sides.”

The USSC, through its Innovation and Entrepreneurship Program, is focused on understanding the United States as an innovation leader with a view to developing insight for the benefit of Australia.

This debate on innovation gets to the heart of the innovation debate in Australia – the role of government – and (not being at all biased), I highly recommend that you read it.

We must keep the public discussion of innovation policy in Australia alive.

If the excellent Innovation and Science Australia 2030 strategy is to have any hope of producing an outcome, we have to keep it afloat by debating its issues publicly.

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