Australia might have but months to reframe the national innovation discussion and make it relevant to the wider population, according to Deloitte Australia’s Robert Hillard.
Speaking at a Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) event on innovation in Melbourne, Hillard – who is national managing partner of consulting – warned that time was running out for Australia to make innovation real.
“We’ve gone through the hype cycle,” Hillard said.
“We’ve gone through the period when we can afford to have a loose conversation about how innovation is important.
“We’re at an absolutely critical juncture where we have to make it count. We probably have literally only a matter of months left as a business community to make this really count.”
Hillard said there was a “ticking clock” against innovation because the public had become confused about what it meant to them.
“When we talk about innovation more widely and we survey the wider Australian population, people see innovation as being something that is directly associated with making Sydney into Silicon Valley,” he said.
“It’s about tech. It’s about creating the next unicorn, putting a unicorn on Bondi.
“That can’t be the conversation. That doesn’t play to the Australian core. You have to make innovation relevant.”
While the Government is showing some urgency in reframing its innovation policy to deal with the lack of buy-in, it is now a question of whether this occurs fast enough to change the public perception.
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science secretary Glenys Beauchamp told the same CEDA event that the Government was aware it had to shift gears.
“Innovation is not just about tech start-ups, and we heard a lot about this in the caretaker period in terms of how innovation as a word didn’t really resonate with the broader economy,” she said.
However, she believed Australia needed to take innovation seriously if it was to remain globally competitive – and she said her own department needed to practice what it preached.
“I think I feel extra pressure with innovation in our name in making sure that we do keep up with citizen and business needs out there, and we endeavour to practice what we preach in looking at new ways to do business,” she said.
“I think we used to be a portfolio that, as I recall coming in, had a lot of ‘programmatic confetti’ - and provided a lot of little grants, not looking at the growth and prosperity of the future, but in the sense supporting industries of today.
“We’ve certainly changed our approach and indeed in line with the Government’s [innovation] agenda.
Beauchamp believed Australia wasn’t “doing so badly” on innovation, citing a statistic that “innovation accounts for around 60 percent of productivity growth in Australia”.
“But whether we’re doing enough in all aspects of innovation is certainly another question,” she said.
“When the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) was launched part of it was to create a culture of innovation here in Australia, and I think we’re just starting to tip that in the right direction.”