CSIRO, BCA on how to kick-start Australia’s ‘commercialisation engine’

Denham Sadler
National Affairs Editor

Australian businesses of all sizes can take practical steps that will “kick-start the commercialisation engine” and speed up a technology-led recovery from the pandemic, a new report from CSIRO and the Business Council of Australia has found.

The report – ‘Unlocking the innovation potential of Australian companies‘ – was released on Tuesday morning, offering practical ways for Australian companies to overcome barriers to commercialisation and enablers which should be implemented.

It includes a matrix with nearly 40 questions across six key areas for SMEs and larger companies to answer, and is based on interviews with tech giants including Atlassian, Google, Microsoft, Telstra and Cochlear.

“Australia has the potential to lead the world in a few key markets by harnessing the power of science-driven innovation, using it to ‘build back better’ from the pandemic and embed resilience to future disruptions into their very DNA,” CSIRO chief executive Dr Larry Marshall said.

“Commercialisation is an engine that will drive us to a technology-led recovery, but innovation takes a team. To really deliver on a bold, technology-led recovery, we will need business and research driving together to win.”

CSIRO chief Dr Larry Marshall

The report was completed in partnership with the Business Council of Australia (BCA).

“We can’t afford to be a nation that gives away our best ideas to be scaled up and commercialised overseas. By drawing on business know-how and real-world examples, this is a how-to guide for Australian businesses to position themselves and the country for the future,” BCA chief executive Jennifer Westacott said.

In the report, the BCA said that a number of its members want the government to play a greater leadership role in promoting innovation and commercialisation.

“It was generally acknowledged that policy coordination and certainty in areas such as energy or digital uptake, such as through ongoing government signalling to the business community, could significantly help companies with their decision making around science and technology investments,” the report said.

The businesses also called for more incentives for collaboration, a level playing field in strategic technologies and a reduction in regulatory barriers.

The research looks at the role of large local companies in achieving greater commercial outputs for science and technology, and how companies can address the major barriers to commercialisation.

“To truly reimagine and reinvent our industries, to access new markets, and to build in resilience at the foundations, we must embrace the full power of every part of our science and technology,” Dr Marshall said in the report.

“Inventions from science, delivered as innovations through technology, will be crucial to Australia’s future prosperity, but industry partnerships are the way those inventions will become innovations that move markets and have impact. In short, we need to kick-start the commercialisation engine that will speed us to a technology-led recovery.”

The framework is an effort to prevent Australians from missing further opportunities when local research is commercialised abroad, Ms Westacott said.

“At times we have been a nation that gives away some of our best ideas to be scaled up and commercialised overseas. Missed opportunities such as modern solar cells, the black box and the pacemaker. We can’t repeat the mistakes of the past and allow good opportunities to slip through our fingers,” she said.

“We’ll have to take a team Australia approach to building a more innovative, more diverse and more advanced economy.”

The report identifies the key barriers to commercialisation as being low levels of cross-sector collaboration, a lack of comprehensive innovation strategies and talent and skills capability mismatches.

“It is intended to inspire and instigate high-level discussions with corporate and government leaders in Australia on how to improve commercial outcomes from science and technology,” it said.

“By adopting these steps, Australian companies can partner with domestic and international companies, governments and research organisations such as universities and CSIRO, to bridge the commercialisation gap and unleash technology-led economic growth.”

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  1. Nick Apostolidis 2 years ago

    Good to see thought given to this issue. We need to nurture a trusting relationship between researchers and industry. Once this is done it is amazing what can be achieved.

  2. Perhaps the federal government could lead by example, investing in local innovation in their procurement. What possible scenario causes a local innovation that ‘satisfies’ every single RFP requirement, to not even make the shortlist on a federal government procurement process?
    Why is it not the default option to ‘buy local unless not fit for purpose’?

  3. Tim Herring 2 years ago

    I welcome this report and look forward to reading it in more detail. Hopefully it will give Government a guide to how to encourage innovation and research.
    The danger is that it encourages short-term thinking – which governments love – but which runs the danger of putting extra hurdles in the way of funding for research projects. Some of the most worthwhile research does not produce a short-term, industry friendly output, but rather creates new industries in a longer timeframe. As long as this report and the tools it contains does not lock-out fundamental research projects, then that is fine.
    I hope my fears are unfounded. Now I need to read it thoroughly with that in mind….

  4. It’s very pleasing to see a greater focus on commercialisation, particularly university research. SME’s are mostly blind to knowing university IP exists for licensing or new start-up ideas. And if they did, navigating the university system to find potential IP isn’t easy, nor is securing a deal. I’ve always thought that a central portal of university / research institute IP, accompanied by a marketing program would have raised the awareness and uptake of research and commercialisation outcomes.

    A far better idea than mine was launched in 2018, Leading Edge Only., a global platform boasting 600+ universities / research institutes, along with other innovators, listing their IP to be matched with business challenges.

    What is pleasing is that Australian universities are seeing the opportunity to use a platform like this. And even more pleasing is the enquiry rate from Australian business. Maybe a digital intervention to Australia’s low commercialisation rates was always the solution. Leading Edge’s data will tell us!

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