The majority of Australia’s ICT industry and science community wasted little time backing the Government’s $1.1 billion innovation statement – but some still have some reservations whether it will stand the test of time.
Microsoft Australia managing director Pip Marlow said she was “delighted to see the package of policies and reforms because a comprehensive suite of measures will be required if we are going to be able to compete with innovation leaders like the US, Israel, the UK and Singapore”.
Marlow said the statement “addressed many … areas of concern” and urged bipartisan support for the proposed measures.
ACS President Brenda Aynsley OAM called the announcement a "bold innovation policy statement".
“ACS supports the government’s mission to significantly modernise our national approach to innovation," Aynsley said.
"If we are to prosper in the digital age and grasp the opportunities being created by the attendant disruption, we must address issues like entrepreneurship and commercialisation, collaborative research between business and universities, ICT skills development, lifelong learning and building an agile and flexible workforce."
Internet Australia CEO Laurie Patton lauded Turnbull for providing “much needed encouragement to those of us who believe Australia can truly become a great innovation nation.”
But he warned against allowing innovation to become a "politician's toy" in the run up to the federal elections.
"No one has a mortgage on ideas in this area. It's not just about deciding what we need to do, it's about deciding to do it together, collaboratively, and with an agreed national agenda,” Patton said.
"Australia has the potential to lead the world into the digitally enabled global economy of the future but we need a bipartisan strategic approach if we are to become a serious player".
StartupAUS CEO Peter Bradd credited Turnbull for moving quickly after only a short time in the top job.
“It’s fantastic to have this at the top of the political agenda,” Bradd said.
“The innovation statement announced today is a great start, and shows clearly the government is intent on real action rather than just rhetoric.
“Both sides of politics are now recognising the critical importance of innovation to Australia's economy - and the vast opportunities we can harness if we are smart and act quickly.”
The founder of co-working community and start-up hub River City Labs, Steve Baxter, welcomed the statement – which put innovation issues “at the top of the national agenda” – but expressed disappointment at some of the measures.
“In my view, there has been too much emphasis placed on the traditional support for university and education sectors in today’s announcements,” Baxter said.
“Left unaddressed, this will be to the detriment of our global positioning.
“To compete on the world stage, we need to put the focus on supporting the people with real skin in the game, in the trenches of our start-up community.”
However, KPMG’s national chairman Peter Nash welcomed the broader appeal of the innovation statement.
“As the Government has recognised today, innovation is not just about start-ups. It’s about transformation and new thinking in existing businesses,” Nash said.
“Critically it’s about businesses staying in Australia and engaging with disruptors. Collaboration is key. It’s not been our natural strength and we need to lift our game.”
TechnologyOne founder Adrian Di Marco urged the Government to capitalise on the current wave of “positive energy around the technology scene in Australia”.
“It is important that the Government takes a long term view, and is committed long-term to these initiatives,” he said.
“What we don't want is a change of heart, like what happened with the forestry industry years ago, which saw the industry implode and many investors hurt.”
Professor Beth Webster, director of the Centre for Transformative Innovation at Swinburne University of Technology, concurs.
“A major problem with innovation programs in the past has been their transience and over-engineering,” she said.
“Most programs and policies have only lasted 6-8 years and they disappear before industry is aware of them.
“Longevity requires more than the intent of the government of the day. It requires either bi-partisan support or an Act of Parliament to ensure the program is not cancelled at the whim of a new minister or government.”