It’s hard to think of anything less innovative than the use of the word ‘innovation’.
Way back in 2008, I had one of those “ah, yes!” moments when I read a Blog suggesting that the word be retired, so meaningless it had become. It was actually a significant epiphany for me – at the time, I was the editor of a publication called Australian Innovation…
Almost a decade later, its overuse and abuse has only become more chronic. And more often than not, it’s actually people who are short of ideas who end up throwing the word into a discussion. It’s a lazy way to fill the vacuum; a statement of empty, directionless intent.
And yet, the practice of innovation – which the author of the aforementioned Blog suggests could be more usefully described as ‘significant positive change’ – has only become more important. Businesses are acutely aware that they must live and breathe that positive change if their success is going to be both substantial and sustainable.
One of the Prime Minister’s first acts upon taking office was to set in train the preparations for the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA), which actually attached tangible goals to the elusive concept of an “innovative culture”: the facilitation of early-stage financing; improving business-research collaboration; skills development; the leveraging of public sector procurement.
Since then, the imperative for significant positive change has been further emphasised: in August, Australia slipped two places in the 2016 edition of the Global Innovation Index. At 19th, we lag our New Zealand neighbours by two places, together with regional competitors Singapore (6), Korea (11) and Hong Kong (14).
There are things we do well: we’re number one in terms of keeping our kids in school and in the top ten for access to and use of ICT, for example.
But while we’re also in the top 10 for enrolments in tertiary education, we’re way down at number 79 when it comes to graduates in the key disciplines of science and engineering.
And then there’s the domain of “innovation linkages”, where we languish in 37th spot. This includes the key measure of collaboration between research organisations and business, which Ai Group recently highlighted in our Joining Forces research report.
These aren’t issues that can be fixed overnight, so is it too early to look for a progress report on NISA, which was launched with much fanfare last December 7?
For its part, the current review of the Research & Development Tax incentive is sending mixed messages about Australia’s commitment to private sector innovation, threatening another phase of major disruption to this important program. Inviting feedback on the recommendations of the report is the right approach – it’s critical that the Government listens closely to industry before deciding on a course of action.
On this and all the other initiatives under the NISA umbrella, time will tell if government policy conveys a true grasp of the meaning of innovation.
What is your definition of innovation? And what would your business like to see in terms of ‘innovation policy’? Have your say by leaving a comment below.
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