NSW to hold ideas summit for innovation policy reform

Joseph Brookes
Senior Reporter

The reset of New South Wales innovation policy will get underway early next year at an ideas summit for industry, universities and all levels of government. Collaboration, diversity and converting the state’s innovation inputs into impact have been flagged as early focus points.

The event will mark the start of the Minns government’s own innovation ‘blueprint’ after scaling back several initiatives of the former state government.

Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology, Anoulack Chanthivong this week announced the summit will be held in February.

Minister for Innovation, Science and Technology Anoulack Chanthivong opening the InnovationAus Awards on Wednesday. Image: Phil Carrick

“The summit will build on previous consultations to build on the big ideas and the body of work that already exists,” Mr Chanthivong said while opening the InnovationAus.com Awards for Excellence on Wednesday night.

“Our goal will be to create a cogent and coherent roadmap for the innovation sector. We need to raise our ambition and add new high impact approaches to our toolkit.”

The minister has faced questions about deep cuts in the October budget to the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade, which led to a significant restructuring of Investment NSW.

On Wednesday, Mr Chanthihvong said “tough choices” had to be made because of fiscal pressures, but the move back to an innovation blueprint does not necessarily mean less support for the state’s innovators.

“This shouldn’t be taken to mean that the blueprint will do away with support for the sector. But it does mean we need to work hard to justify that spending.”

The move to an innovation blueprint, announced in September, is being driven in part by the new government’s desire to better understand of the impact of various programs, including the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade’s $1.8 billion spend on grants and subsidies last year.

“The Blueprint must take us beyond the tired old model that sees a complex and confusing tangle of programs by a substitute for a clear and innovative strategy,” Mr Chanthivong said.

But the end goal remains the same – supporting research and commercialisation while reducing barriers for startups and helping them scale into job creating, export firms.

Mr Chanthivong name checked recent local scale ups Advanced Navigation and Hysata – two innovative companies that have commercialised local research and now export around the world — as the model to follow.

He said the government is only one stakeholder in the innovation ecosystem but has a crucial role in creating the conditions and encouraging the collaboration that helps the companies succeed.

“Place-based approaches such as innovation districts are one way to achieve this. Research networks such as the NSW Smart Sensing Network are another. But I’m keen to hear fresh ideas about how to push the convening and coordinating role of government to maximum effect,” Mr Chanthivong said.

Long standing barriers like an under representation of female founders and Australia’s struggle to convert innovation inputs like tertiary education and research and development into tangible benefits.

“Every state in every nation right now is involved in the battle for the best ideas and the best talent,” Mr Chanthivong said.

“It’s our capacity to attract and generate those things, and our ability to commercialise that which will future proof our economy.

“The road to higher living standards and better jobs is paved with innovation.”

Federal assistant manufacturing minister Tim Ayres also told the awards event that “the era of complacency about Australia’s place in the world is over” and urged a joint effort to take full advantage of public investment in innovation.

“The world moves fast and the competitive position keeps changing,” Mr Ayres said.

“And we want to make sure that we are working with you as a government to build the solutions, build resilience build industry capability, and build competitiveness.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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