Husic opens door to innovation metrics response

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

A buried report on improving innovation measurement and policy decisions may yet receive a government response, with Industry minister Ed Husic on Wednesday saying he is “absolutely happy to consider” providing a public reply to the 2019 findings.

The report was commissioned handed to the former government in late 2019, but never released or acted upon by the Coalition.

It was released publicly last year at the direction of Mr Husic, who said he wanted its findings out for discussion. But at the time, he stopped short of an official government response to proposed sweeping changes.

Proposed sweeping changes to innovation measurement and policy response may yet get a government reply

The final detailed report, Improving Innovation Indicators, found “major gaps in innovation data capture, metrics and analysis” and offered a roadmap to fix them.

Among its 16 recommendations is the call to set up a whole-of-government entity to lead and report on national innovation efforts based on more sophisticated data. The entity would also deliver an annual innovation ‘scorecard’ to track progress against other countries and drive productivity in Australia.

“A precondition for developing successful policy that supports innovation is that we measure innovation well and report on it regularly as part of an ongoing national conversation. What you measure, you optimise,” the report authors, then-chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel and then-head of the Treasury’s regulatory reform taskforce Mark Cully, wrote.

Dr Finkel and other experts have said despite the delay in its publication, the report still offers an opportunity for the government to act.

Asked about an official response to a report that was designed to improve government decision making, Mr Husic said it may yet be provided, more than three years after the former government received it.

“I’m absolutely happy to consider that and see how we form that response up and be able to provide that response publicly,” he said after his address at the Press Club on Wednesday.

However, Mr Husic said his focus remained on the new government’s “big things” like a $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, quantum and robotics strategies, and a rare update to the national science priorities.

“I’ll often get people say, ‘oh, we need to do a policy on this. We need to get an industry policy out or we need to get this and that.’ I would rather, for the energy that is expended in getting that work done, let’s just get stuff done now, practically,” he said.

Mr Husic is currently in negotiations with Senate crossbenchers about passing the government’s flagship policy, the National Reconstruction Fund.

He added the government and his department are approaching policy development in a “deliberative, considered way” and is taking on board several findings.

“I can assure you a lot of the thinking that we do and the framing around policy development does take into account other work, as it does in talking with people in industry, in academia, in science and researchers as well. [It’s] about how we can best serve the nation in the way that we develop policy.”

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