The controversial Innovation and Science Australia tender seeking outside consultants to design a strategy to build Australia’s innovation ecosystem has been awarded to Howard Partners, a boutique agency based in Canberra.
The contract is valued at an initial $425,000 and was signed barely one week after the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science’s Office of the Chief Economist published its comprehensive 2016 Australian Innovation System Report.
Howard Partners is a well-credentialed research consulting house headquartered within a kilometre or so of Parliament House in Canberra.
The new contract will inform the creation of a 2030 Strategic Plan for the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System to present to the Australian Government.
The agency specialises in the policy, management and communications issues, and has been a frequent supplier to the Commonwealth, as well as state and local governments.
Howard Partners principal Dr John Howard (no, not that John Howard) is considered a leading expert in Australia on the formation and interactions of innovation ecosystems.
It is understood the UK-based consulting house Technopolis Group has been brought into the project to lend its expertise in the operations of offshore innovation systems, and its understanding of best-practice innovation policy regimes.
Dr Howard has been managing director of Howard Partners for 18 years. He is also an adjunct professor at the UTS Business School and an adjunct professor at the University of Canberra’s Institute for Governance and Policy Analysis.
In relation to the Innovation and Science Australia contract, Dr Howard is expected to tap the expertise of colleagues from the UTS Business School.
Dr Howard has previously provided research assistance in the preparation of the Senate Economic References Committee’s report on Australia’s Innovation System late last year by UTS Business School dean Roy Green. It is understood Prof Green has no formal role in the ISA consultation.
The Innovation and Science Australia board is expected to release the results of its audit of Australia’s innovation system within weeks. ISA’s newly-appointed chief executive Dr Charles Day said the audit results would provide the baseline data from which the ISA would develop a 2030 Strategic Plan for the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System.
Dr Day would not comment on the appointment of Howard Partners to the consulting role being saying that the creation of a 2030 strategic plan was a big challenge and that “we look forward to working with them.”
The results of the audit – which was effectively a performance review of the local innovation, science and research system – are expected to be launched in January, with the ISA board likely to detail plans for the creation of the 2030 strategy.
The 2030 strategy is expected to be delivered to government in late 2017.
The ISA tender to find outside consultants to carry out the strategic review attracted widespread criticism and is understood to have strained relationships between the Innovation and Science Australia board and both the department and the Minister’s office.