Can Australia transform to become a top tier innovation nation in 12 years?

Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation released by Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) details the strategic imperatives Australia must pursue to develop into a world-leader.

The 116-page report makes 30 recommendations for education, industry, government, research & development and culture & ambition, that can further support Australia’s innovation system.

ACS President, Yohan Ramasundara, welcomed the report.

“In 2017 we launched a 5-year strategy based around three pillars – Capacity, Capability and Catalyst – and it is pleasing to see ISA calling for Government and industry to embrace these principles," he said.

"We agree with the notion of Government being a catalyst for innovation, with greater facilitation collaboration and agility."

The report comes as Australia awaits the release of the national Digital Economy Strategy from the Department of Industry Science and Innovation.

Minister for Jobs and Innovation, Michaela Cash, said the Government welcomed this report and has already begun implementing some of the recommendations.

“Innovation is creating the jobs of tomorrow.

“Every Australian can benefit from and be innovative regardless of age or job, and for us to become a top tier innovation nation, we need everyone to be involved.”

The report paints Australia as struggling to keep up with global trends, particularly in the education sector, and calls for major changes.

Chair of ISA, Bill Ferris, said making these changes could bring considerable prosperity to the country.

“Australia is in a $1.6 trillion global innovation race, where the prize at stake is a bigger share of global wealth, better jobs, and the best access to the products of innovation for addressing societal challenges,” he said.

“Yet we are falling behind our global peers, particularly in student performance in science and mathematics, and in business investment in research and development.

“This is more than a canary chirp in our economic mineshaft, it is a clarion call for national action.”

Educating innovation

The report outlined that a transformation of the current education system is required to ensure future growth.

“ISA’s vision is that Australia has a world-leading education system that equips all Australians with the skills and knowledge relevant to 2030,” the ISA says.

It pointed to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development that show a 3% dip in scientific literacy amongst Australian students over the past decade.

To bring students back up to speed, it recommended strengthening training for teachers both pre-service and in-service, with closer attention paid to STEM subjects.

It also recommended a review of the Vocational Education and Training (VET) system so that it can “be made responsive to new priorities presented by innovation.”

“Because the VET sector is focused on preparing people for work…it plays a key role in ensuring Australians can harness the opportunities from innovation,” the report continued.

“A serious examination of how the sector can best play such a role should be undertaken, building on recent research by the National Centre for Vocational Education Research.”

It called for greater access to metrics of VET success, such as employment on graduation figures, to begin the examination.

Ramasundara said he hoped the changes could forge stronger partnerships between industry and educators.

“The proposal to optimise the interaction of industry with schools through the work of the STEM Partnership Forum will be a key element of helping students become job ready for when they graduate from higher education and into the workforce," he said.


ISA also pointed to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as a sector that can significantly drive Australia’s innovation.

SMEs have shown to generate a greater return on government investment per dollar, and the report urged for increased government expenditure on research and development (R%D) in the sector.

“Last year we had record jobs growth and it is small high-growth firms that are significantly contributing to the creation of these jobs,” said Cash.

“Through further investment in the small and innovative business sector we can ensure we continue our record jobs and GDP growth.”

Small businesses scaling up in size were also identified as a key driver to employment and innovation.

146,000 jobs were created between 2012 and 2016 from SMEs scaling.

The report suggested that continuing investment into small companies showing high-growth will boost Australia’s international competitiveness.