Australia’s $315b digital opportunity

James Riley
Editorial Director

The CSIRO’s data research group Data61 has taken a stab at quantifying the economy-wide opportunity for Australia presented by digital innovation and has concluded $315 billion in gross economic value can be added over the next decade.

Data61 chief executive officer Adrian Turner will unveil the new Digital Innovation report at its D61+ LIVE event in Brisbane in Tuesday morning, outlining where the nation’s next billion-dollar industries lie, and providing a strategic map where Australia can succeed in creating data-driven industries that will drive jobs and growth by building on core strengths.

Mr Turner told the study benchmarks Australia’s performance in key areas of digital innovation, and says that while the opportunities are immense there are reasons for significant concern, particularly as benchmarks are measured against the nation’s OECD economic peers.

Adrian Turner: Australia must create an unfair advantage for itself in key sectors

Put simply, Australian businesses – and the Australian economy – are not capturing the massive and growing benefits of digital innovation at the same rate as in comparable economies and against some measures Australia’s performance is poor.

Australia might have enjoyed 27 years of continuous economic growth, but the report demonstrates a real need to increase productivity and to find new sources of export competitiveness that will secure prosperity in the future.

“Every sector of the global economy has been re-defined as a result of digital science and technology and the extensive use of data,” Mr Turner said.

“This next digital wave to revolutionise existing industries and create entirely new ones is ours to capture. But the opportunity is perishable if we don’t collectively take action now.

“Progressive data-driven organisations are investing in four core areas to realise value from data; data capture, management, analysis and taking action with it.

“Combining this data with domain expertise, in areas like healthcare, agriculture and mining, is where we can create an unfair advantage.”

AlphaBeta founder and director Andrew Charlton said digital innovation had created enormous value globally and accounted for around 11 per cent of GDP in advanced economies – an annual value of $6 trillion. But Australia has lagged other advanced economies in capturing these benefits.

“Digital innovation is critical to improving our nation’s productivity and sustaining economic growth. It’s not just about creating the next Google or replicating Silicon Valley,” Dr Charlton said. “Rather, almost half of economic benefit from digital innovation comes from the adoption of new technology across existing industries.

Australia’s strongest opportunities are in focusing R&D investment and applying digital innovation to existing industry strengths where key drivers of competitiveness are already in place such as strong domestic markets and in high quality basic research.

The report identified eight high-potential opportunities for Australia in digital innovation, set to be worth $155 billion annually in the Asia- Pacific region over next decade: precision healthcare, digital agriculture, data-driven urban management, cyber-physical security, supply chain integrity, proactive government, legal informatics, and smart exploration and production.

Meanwhile, CSIRO chief executive Larry Marshall officially launched the research agency’s permanent presence in Singapore on Monday evening, putting a stamp on the CSIRO’s intensions to forge stronger research and business relationships across ASEAN nations.

The announcement coincided with Singapore-headquartered investment company, Temasek, becoming the third largest investor in the $232 million CSIRO Innovation Fund, managed by Main Sequence Ventures.

The CSIRO Innovation Fund supports new spin-outs, startups, and SMEs engaged in the translation of research generated in the Australian publicly funded research sector, including the CSIRO and universities.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said CSIRO would strengthen the bridge between the Australian and ASEAN innovation ecosystems based on new and existing long-term partnerships.

“In a more interconnected world, facing rapid disruption, our regional opportunity is for each country to play to our respective strengths, creating more new value through collaboration than any individual nation could have alone,” Dr Marshall said.

“Innovation has become too hard to do alone – it must be a team sport. It will take global collaboration to deliver the real moonshots like transforming human health through precision medicine; or sustainable management of our environment despite unprecedented industrial growth; or our work targeting every single one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.”

The CSIRO’s ASEAN director Liza Noonan said the Singapore presence would anchor the agency’s ASEAN program, supported by staff in Vietnam and Indonesia.

“CSIRO will build on the strong foundation of our existing partnerships with ASEAN governments, research institutes and business to grow the region’s scientific excellence, pathways to market, and collaborative networks, while increasing opportunities for our Australian partners on the world stage,” Ms Noonan said.

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