ISA: Work needed to improve Australia's innovation, science and research

Tuesday, 07 February, 2017

ISA’s Performance Review of the Australian Innovation, Science and Research System 2016 (ISR System Review) finds that while the Australian system has points of strength, Australia is lagging behind international competitors in key areas and much work must be done to break into the top tier of innovation nations.

Bill Ferris AC, chair of Innovation and Science Australia (ISA), has today announced the release of the ISR System Review. The review establishes a new performance framework that conceptualises the ISR System as comprising interactions between actors (including businesses, investors, researchers and policymakers) and enablers (money, skills, networks, policy, infrastructure and culture) that produce our innovation outcomes.

Innovation performance is determined by three key activities: how well we create knowledge, how well we transfer that knowledge to different parts of the system and how well our businesses apply knowledge in developing new goods and services and bringing them to market.

As a nation we’re good at creating knowledge but simply not good enough at transferring or applying it,” said Ferris.

“In both our number of researchers per capita and the proportion of highly cited publications we produce, we sit in the top 10 internationally.

“We are, however, performing relatively poorly in transferring that knowledge and ultimately applying it. It is these activities that create the types of new goods and services that not only improve our lives — think breakthrough medical technologies, environmentally friendly production techniques and new ways of growing and storing our food — but also provide economic growth and sustainable jobs,” he said.

The ISR System Review suggests that this poor performance in knowledge transfer and application may be partially explained by Australia’s low rates of collaboration and mobility among research institutions and businesses compared to the best innovation nations.

Ferris also pointed to the preponderance for incremental rather than more radical and new-to-world innovation as holding Australia back.

Looking ahead to ISA’s delivery to government of its 2030 Strategic Plan for Australian Innovation, Science and Research, Ferris called for an increase in the sense of urgency around Australian innovation.

“The challenge of getting Australia into the top tier of innovation nations by 2030 must be seen as a significant national priority. We look forward to engaging with stakeholders across the country throughout the year in developing ISA’s Strategic Plan to get us there.”

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