Less than five percent of Australians think Australia is a global leader in innovation – underlining the need for a national strategy, according to new government-commissioned research.
The research found 64 percent of Australians agreeing that more risks needed to be taken “to get innovative”, particularly in sectors other than IT.
Respondents identified advances in health as the most important reason for Australia to innovate, followed by jobs and better living standards.
And they identified “a need to ‘open the eyes’ of students and parents how science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will open doors to new and different career opportunities into the future.”
In unveiling the topline research findings, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said the results reinforced the need for the Government’s $1.1 billion national innovation and science agenda, announced in December last year.
The lack of awareness of Australia’s innovation success stories – Pyne cited Cochlear as well as CSIRO’s wi-fi patents – was couched as a catalyst for an advertising campaign to sell the new innovation strategy.
Fairfax reported that the Government will spend $28 million on the campaign to convince taxpayers to support the investment into what the Government sees as a forthcoming “ideas boom”.
“This campaign, developed using the research, will be designed to help change the culture around innovation and science in our businesses and engage young people to help inspire our future entrepreneurs,” Pyne said in a statement.
“It will also raise awareness across the board about grants and new capital raising measures to any Australian wanting to take a risk on a new business venture.”
Pyne noted that one of the challenges in selling the national agenda will be cultural change.
“Australia must make a cultural shift to being a nation that is more inclined to take a chance on its ideas,” Pyne said.
“The research shows businesses in general can identify more reasons to not innovate than to innovate.
“The campaign will encourage businesses to overcome this natural resistance.”
ACS CEO Andrew Johnson believed that Australians were ready for change.
“There seems to be a consensus across the country that we need to reinvent ourselves,” Johnson said.
“That creates excitement, and you can see from the amount of positive feedback that there are large numbers of stakeholders who are keen to put up their hands and be part of developing and driving new business models."
Where there remains some contention is how exactly Australia should go about this reinvention into an innovation leader.
Business leaders, for example, remain divided over the extent to which learnings from international ‘model’ innovation cities and countries are applicable in Australia.
For its part, the Government has proposed a series of initial reforms and promised more to come.
If Australians are on board with the need to pivot, so it seems are education authorities on the need to incorporate STEM into school curricula – another finding of the Government’s commissioned research.
The Education Council – which consists of education ministers for all Australian states and territories, as well as representation for the Australian and NZ Governments – endorsed a National STEM School Education Strategy in the lead-up to Christmas.
The strategy lays out two overarching goals: to ensure students finish school with strong foundational knowledge in STEM and related skills, and to ensure students are inspired to take on challenging STEM subjects in senior secondary years.