Key challenges to innovation in Australia
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO)
detailed two features of a highly functioning innovation system. First, high
levels of connectivity between businesses, government and research
organisations to facilitate the stocks and flows of knowledge. Second, high
levels of R&D talent within organisations that absorb new technologies and
Australia has a history of research and technological advancement.
Australia's highly educated population and world-class research facilities were
highlighted in evidence.
However, a common contention raised throughout the inquiry was that, while Australia
performs well in research, producing a wide range of intellectual property from
basic discoveries to applied discoveries that are worth commercialising, such innovation
is not developed into tangible wealth creation including employment.
An instructive example of this argument was provided by the then Vice‑Chancellor
of Monash University, Professor Edward Byrne AC:
Australia has superb research universities for a country of
our size and considerable additional investment in CSIRO. We have produced a
lot intellectual property ranging from basic discoveries to applied discoveries
that are worthy of commercialisation. It is widely recognised however that we
fall short in this area with a failure to develop innovation in this country
into tangible wealth creation including job creation. There is a common view to
which I subscribe that Australia must develop an increased presence in niche
and clever industries to sustain our economy at its current level of affluence
in the decades ahead.
The ATSE also noted that Australia's poor ranking in measures of
translating research into economic outcomes means that the profitability of our
businesses are negatively affected.
Similarly, CleanTech Pty Ltd submitted:
At the highest level and as well recognised, Australia
produces some excellent research outcomes but struggles to bring these concepts
to fruition in a way that provides economic advantages for the country. Through
Australian CleanTech's international work, we frequently find surprise that
Australia does not support commercialising its excellent research to a greater
extent. The return on investment in research is therefore good when considering
global reputation but poor when considering economic payback.
The Department of Industry (Department) noted that 'radical innovation'
in Australia is less common than incremental innovation, with a recent survey
finding that 70 per cent of innovation investment is directed to incremental
innovation, compared to 30 per cent directed towards radical innovation. The
Department stated that other developed economies have a much higher proportion
of radical innovation. The Department suggested:
A more balanced mix of innovation capabilities will enhance
Australia's ability to compete in the global economy and better exploit
emerging market opportunities. While the risks associated with radical
innovation are generally much greater than those associated with incremental
innovation, the rewards and benefits to businesses, the economy and broader
society can also be far more significant. For example, evidence shows that
firms at the leading edge of radical innovation tend to dominate world markets
and to promote the international competitiveness of their home economies.
While the commercialisation of research and innovation was emphasised in
evidence to the committee, the view was put that pure research, which is
looking three, five or ten years ahead, should not be integrated with
commercial development and innovation.
CSIRO also recognised the need for a balance:
A national innovation system that balances investigator-led
research, mission-directed research, in-firm research, and that supports the
translation of publically funded research outputs into the private sector,
would help the Australian economy better shift to a focus on production of high
value goods and services which is essential to managing the structural
adjustment arising from the slowing of the mining sector and also differentiate
ourselves in the quickly developing Asia-Pacific region.
It is also important to note that, while the sciences are critical to all
forms of innovation, not all science is the equivalent of innovation: the
importance of scholarship for its own sake – conducted independently of an
underlying commercial motive – should not be overlooked. In particular, the
committee wishes to highlight the importance of the Australian Government continuing
to support excellence in all forms of research. This will require the
maintenance of a rigorous system of peer-review, in order to ensure that
Australia's high international standing in science and research is protected
While the significance of the sciences to innovation can hardly be
overstated, especially in relation to the core STEM subjects (science,
technology, engineering and mathematics), it would be equally unwise to
overlook centrality of the arts, humanities and social sciences in a
future-oriented innovation strategy. The jobs and industries of the future will
depend on a workforce that can harness the wide-ranging skills that are fostered,
collectively, by the sciences, the arts, mathematics and technology. The final
section of this report will explore these connections in greater detail.
Another area of concern raised in evidence was that of access to risk
capital. The Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN)
made the point that high risk capital was a core component of a vibrant
Evidence to the committee suggested that government could play a substantive
role in 'de-risking' industries and early stage ventures in order that it
becomes more attractive to potential venture capitalists.
Along with the lack of a risk appetite and openness to new ideas
reflected in a shortage of risk capital for early stage commercialisation, the
committee received evidence of a range of other barriers to innovation and a
strong innovation system.
The key themes that emerged during the inquiry included: the need for stability
and certainty in relation to both funding and policy settings; coordination,
cross-sector collaboration and a strategic approach to building innovation
capability; nurturing start-ups and the need for an innovation culture; and an
education system (including schools, vocational education and universities) focused
on the development of skill sets and knowledge creation to ensure that
Australians are fully equipped to engage productively in the future economy.
These themes were encapsulated in the evidence of Professor Deborah
Hodgson, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation at the University of
Innovation works. Its outputs add value and deliver economic
growth and opportunities, but it does not happen by accident. It takes a
vibrant and productive ecosystem, and particularly catalysts. A key catalyst is
likely to be the support of all levels of government and incentives that will
support entrepreneurial activity and investment in building critical mass in
regional research assets, and the onward translation of research are both key
policy drivers. These might include targeted tax breaks for companies setting
up in regional Australia, removal of regulatory burdens for start-up businesses
or incentivising angel inventors through the tax system.
The remainder of the chapter considers these key themes in greater
detail and provides recommendations directed at securing Australia's innovation
R&D funding and policy stability
In 2012, changes were announced to the Prime Minister's Science, Engineering
and Innovation Council (PMSEIC). As part of the reforms directed at making it
more 'relevant and responsive to the immediate challenges' of the nation,
PMSEIC's terms of reference were modified to provide for a greater strategic
approach to Australia's science, engineering and innovation.
Then in October 2014, as part of the Industry Innovation and Competitiveness
Agenda, PMSEIC was reformed and reinvigorated as the Commonwealth Science
Council (CSC). The CSC was established to 'bring together the leaders of
Australia's industry, research and government to advise on national priorities
for science and research'.
A key theme underpinning the inquiry was that innovation requires not
only consistency in policy approach but also stability in governance
arrangements for advisory bodies, including the CSC, which provide expert
advice to inform policy making.
In its submission to the inquiry, GSK argued that, for the success of
its operations in Australia, the most important factor is the maintenance of a
stable and predictable policy environment.
The ATSE argued that government programs can have a diminished effect due to 'inconsistency,
constant changes, small scale, and lack of effective evaluation'.
Representatives of research institutions argued that government funding must be
maintained 'and every effort made to increase it'.
The view was put by Professor Attila Brungs, Vice-Chancellor at the
University of Technology Sydney (UTS), that Australia's innovation system 'lacks
a coherence nationally and, importantly, a continuous approach around
innovation'. He argued that it needs to be 'holistic, largely bipartisan and,
importantly, not stop-start as programs and funding go but with long-term
certainty of policy and programs'.
These views were supported by many other submitters to the inquiry.
As part of shifting focus away from an emphasis on publications and to change
culture, the Medical Technology Association of Australia argued in favour of
key performance indicators in relation to research and development funding,
which should be focused on working with industry and commercialisation.
Ms Susi Tegen, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Medical Technology
Association of Australia informed the committee that, while the research and
development tax incentive was an important initiative, it usually takes up to
15 years for a company to go from an idea to commercialisation to making some
money. As a consequence, there is a need for incentives by way of support and
policy setting along the way.
Taking a more positive view of the Commonwealth's research and
development tax incentive, CSL, a leading manufacturer of biopharmaceuticals,
took the view that it remains, especially for smaller firms, a valuable aid to
the development of new products, which frequently require a significant early
commitment of capital.
Additionally, from the perspective of a national strategy for improving
Australia's innovation capacity, CSL pointed out that private sector research
and development, while it does not rival the university system, produces
significant knowledge spill-over effects. Given the benefits that these spill
over effects produce, both economically and culturally, CSL took the view that
a strong case can be made for government support of private sector research and
Shifting away from public sources of funding incentives for Australian
innovation industries, Mr Trent Bagnall, Co-founder of Slingshot Accelerator
Pty Ltd, expressed the view that the best place to get venture capital funding
for a start-up company was the United States (US) because investment in high
risk or the early stages of development is not palatable in Australia.
In addition, Mr Bagnall argued that Australian superannuation funds could be
provided with incentives to invest in local innovation projects, including
Australian super funds under management now exceed $2
trillion and are the fourth largest in the world. Virtually none of these funds
are directed towards early stage high-growth companies. This lack of capital
is, in my mind, the biggest hurdle in stimulating the innovation economy in
Australia. While I understand that investments in high-risk technology
companies are unpalatable, I also realise that underfunded start-up companies
have a low chance of scaling on a global basis.
This view was echoed by Dr Krystal Evans, the CEO of BioMelbourne
Network, a peak industry forum representing the Victorian biotechnology
industry. In her evidence to the committee, Dr Evans observed that removing
barriers to investment by venture capital firms, including superannuation
funds, has been successful in countries that are comparable to Australia in
terms of economies of scale. In view of the high value of Australian
superannuation funds, a range of opportunities exist to link Australia's
innovation sector with local venture capital. As Dr Evans explained:
This has been a successful approach for countries of similar
economies of scale. For example, Canada's venture capital industry is nearly
four times the size of Australia's, and is driven, in part, by local pension
funds. With a value of around US$1.62 trillion, managed funds represent an
opportunity to invest in Australian innovation, offering an attractive return
on investment to super funds as well as enhancing the greater economic
The committee recommends that the Australian Government commits to
maintaining stable, coherent and effective administrative arrangements for
innovation policies and programs, based on a long-term strategic framework and
a target to lift investment in research and development to three per cent of
Innovation system leadership and coordination
In recognition of the need for a coordinated, coherent,
whole-of-government approach to innovation, many OECD member countries have
national strategic roadmaps to foster innovation and enhance economic impact.
Leadership is required to drive Australia's innovation agenda through
mechanisms which build culture and capability while supporting collaboration.
As the Chief Scientist noted, the Australian Government has the opportunity to
lead the widespread cultural change that is required to achieve an innovation
The OECD observed that:
Implementing reforms to foster innovation may prove
difficult. Strong political leadership and efforts to develop a clear
understanding by the various stakeholders of the problems and the solutions –
including the costs they involve – can all help to communicate the need for
reform and facilitate acceptance.
In terms of governance, the point was made that there needs to be leadership
across the whole value chain, not only in relation to investment in employment
Evidence to the committee emphasised the need for government to act as a guide
and facilitator in innovation. Dr Geoff Garrett and Professor Mark Dodgson
noted in this regard that government is the 'only part of Australia's
innovation system that can take an overall view, and consciously shape its future
Further, the Chief Scientist observed that:
Innovation performance and national competitiveness can be
enhanced through a forward-looking, long-term and whole-of-government strategy.
Australia's innovation system was described in evidence as comprising
'disjointed fragments that do not add up to a comprehensive system'.
At the same time, comparatively little government funding is directed at
networking and connectivity which are the core elements of an innovation
As a means to address this, the Chief Scientist noted that:
A successful innovation strategy will encompass the many
interdependent parts of the ecosystem. It will be a whole-of-government agenda,
linking the needs in different sectors of the economy to the capabilities in
which the government invests.
It was noted in evidence that Australia is listed as last by the OECD in
relation to collaboration between innovation-active firms and education
institutions and that good work is 'lost in translation', failing to make an
impact on jobs, wealth creation or improved quality of life. In light of the
need for greater coordination, the view was put that government could play a
critical role in driving collaboration and in providing the transformational
The point was also made that achieving greater coordination in relation
to policy and programs requires a driver. The view was taken that an
independent government agency be established to administer and drive this
whole-of-government approach. Such a body would be responsible for maintaining
a continuous and consistent approach to innovation policy across government
agencies. It would work across portfolio boundaries to achieve an integrated
government approach to innovation.
The committee recognises the importance of a continuous and consistent
approach to innovation across the whole of government. Such an approach would
enable greater policy alignment within the current system, the identification
of gaps, and would promote policy consistency over time. The committee also takes
the view that a central, coordinating lead agency is essential if Australia is
to have a coherent and effective innovation system.
As innovation can no longer be viewed as an adjunct to economic policy
and growth, government leadership is required to place innovation at the centre
of efforts to achieve sustained economic growth. Furthermore, as the Business
Council of Australia noted, now is the time to move beyond a continual
redefining and researching of innovation.
A government-driven approach to innovation which supports the creation of an
environment and culture that incentivises innovation and enables risk taking is
fundamental. Such an approach should not only articulate the interconnection of
policies involved in the innovation system but also engage stakeholders in undertaking
policy foresights, setting innovation policy and developing early responses to
challenges and opportunities.
The committee recognises the importance of a continuous and consistent
approach to innovation across the whole of government. Such an approach would
enable greater policy alignment within the current system, the identification
of gaps and promote policy consistency over time.
The committee recommends the establishment of an independent government
agency with a mandate to administer and coordinate innovation system policies
and programs. Such a body would be responsible for maintaining a continuous and
consistent approach to innovation policy across the whole of government.
Strategic approach to building innovation capability
The process of innovation – which can be summarised as the translation
of an idea or invention into a good or service that creates value – is central
to the production of a range of economic, social, cultural and environmental
A fully effective innovation system, which is successful at both facilitating
research breakthroughs and making them commercially viable, requires a
comprehensive strategic perspective. The need for a coherent strategic
perspective, especially on the part of government, was repeatedly raised
throughout the inquiry. For example, Dr Geoff Garret and Professor Mark Dodgson
pointed out that:
Government can act as a guide and facilitator in innovation.
Investments in research, education and skills and infrastructure are crucial,
but government can value add beyond this. Government is the only part of
Australia's innovation system that can take an overall view, and consciously
shape its future direction. To do so, it must see Australia's poor innovation
performance as a systems failure.
As a number of submitters pointed out, including the Australian Chief
Scientist, Professor Chubb, Australia possesses many advantages as a
destination for investment in innovative technologies and industries.
These natural advantages, however, have not always been translated into a
corresponding increase in the levels of innovation seen in this country.
In a recent international comparison conducted by the OECD, Australia
fell behind some of its major competitors, including the US and Germany, with a
relatively poor innovation efficiency ranking of 81st of 143
Moreover, Australia is one of only three nations to fund research and
development activities, both within academia and in industry, without basing
those investments on an overarching innovation strategy.
As Professor Chubb's submission makes clear, Australia's capacity to
transform the fruits of its research and development activities into new
products, services and processes remains limited by structural barriers, including
the lack of strategic coordination by government.
As the OECD has stated:
...there is a realisation that a co-ordinated, coherent,
'whole-of-government' approach is required.
A number of submissions to the inquiry, including Professor Chubb's,
made it clear that the lack of a 'whole-of-government' approach to innovation
strategy is one of the major reasons that this country has struggled to
translate its high calibre research and development achievements, in both
academia and industry, into innovation efficiency and effectiveness. Submitters
identified a range of structural barriers that make it difficult to unite Australia's
research success with effective innovation, including: an aversion to risk
taking behaviour; an impeded flow of people and ideas; and a lack of
integration between the public and private sectors.
In relation to the structural and strategic barriers that currently
inhibit innovation in Australia, the CSIRO pointed out that a critical aspect
of making investments in research and development productive, let alone
commercially viable, is the free flow of knowledge, particularly within the
private sector. Just as importantly, the flow of knowledge between the public
sector, especially universities, and private industry is a significant
determinant of innovation success.
However, while Australia's overall research workforce is average in size
for a country with a population base of nearly 24 million people, with
approximately four scientists and engineers for every thousand people, only 30
per cent of this country's research and development workforce is employed in
industry. Compared to other advanced economies – such as the US, where the rate
of employment in industry is closer to 80 per cent – Australia rates poorly on
the level of industry-led innovation.
In its submission to the inquiry, the CSIRO noted that this imbalance
has a negative effect on the overall capacity of industry to absorb and
generate new ideas. A 'silo-effect' is very much in play:
Australia...compares particularly poorly with innovation powerhouses
US and Japan who have almost 80 per cent of their R&D workforce in
industry. This low percentage not only limits the ability of Australian
industry to undertake its own R&D activities but also limits
business-to-business collaboration and business-to-research organisation
Given the imbalance in the distribution of Australia's research and
development workforce, which forms one of the key barriers to collaboration
between the private and public spheres, the CSIRO suggested that a 'dual'
strategy is likely to be the most successful in addressing Australia's
innovation shortfall: firstly, strategies should be put in place to grow
in-firm capacity for research and development in Australian technology
companies; and, secondly, the levels of business-to-business and
business-to-researcher activity will also require a significant expansion.
The CSIRO also pointed out that an effective innovation strategy – which
would have to be co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Government – requires that a
greater proportion of this country's national investment is directed towards
industry-led models. These forms of investment will assist large, globally
connected firms to invest in significant research and development activity:
It is these larger Australian-domiciled firms and
multi-national corporations that drive a disproportionate level of R&D
activity and innovation; and that provide access to global supply chains for
Australia's SME's and researchers. Additional support mechanisms are also
required to encourage engagement with the global innovation supply chain.
Echoing the CSIRO's call for a coherent and co-ordinated strategy to
build Australia's capacity for innovation, the University of Melbourne pointed
out that one of the key barriers to innovation is the gulf that continues to
separate the university system from the private sector. This is especially
noticeable and damaging on a cultural level:
While research will have relevance to industry, at time
opportunities are missed. Leveraging the research capacity for business
requires a better understanding of culture and capabilities between different
industry sectors and universities.
In order to bridge the gap, which is often cultural in character, the
University of Melbourne suggested that one of the most effective mechanisms to
ensure collaboration and integration between the university system and the
private sector is co-location. In practice, this would require the creation of
precincts, such as the Science Park at the University of Cambridge, where the
co-location of expertise could produce a range of inter-disciplinary and
cross-sectoral approaches. This would help to ensure, for example, that
research projects are co-designed by the end-user:
Precincts enable the co-location of expertise at critical
mass to drive interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral approaches, ensuring
projects aim for powerful outcomes and are co-designed by the end user. Silicon
Valley is widely regarded as the global hub for innovation, but other cities
such as Tel Aviv, London and Berlin have developed innovation ecosystems that
bring together research and higher education institutions and industries to
The lack of integration and collaboration between universities and the
private sector, which greater co-location might help to remedy, also produces
the consequence that Australian universities do not, as a rule, regard industry
as a source of support for research and innovation.
Professor Deborah Hodgson, the Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and
Innovation at the University of Newcastle, explained that, in 2013, the
research income of the university was $172 million, of which only $50 million
was industry related. The manner in which universities recognise and reward
performance, and the implications of this on incentivising greater
collaboration with industry, were central to the inquiry. Professor Hodgson
You have got academic researchers who have worked
historically to get publications to receive grants through these competitive
grant schemes, and also researchers get promotional credibility through the
number of journal publications that they get and the number of grants that they
get through the competitive grant schemes. They do not usually get reinforced
or get incentivised for the number of patents they deliver, the number of
dollars they bring in through industry grants. It is a cultural shift that has
to occur at the university level but also through government schemes supporting
universities to try and incentivise university faculties to work in that space.
In addition to the challenge of creating the necessary incentives to
produce effective collaboration between industry and the university system,
Professor Hodgson also pointed out that concerns over intellectual property have
hampered efforts to link university research and private sector
commercialisation. She explained that the barriers are often cultural and
professional in character:
For a lot of academics, working with industry has been seen
as a barrier to productivity. They see that their intellectual property can be
tied up for long periods of time and it can restrict the time in which they can
get their publications out. For promotion, for academic progression, you need
to be seen producing a certain number of publications per year to reach your
criteria to promote. Anything that slows down that ability to progress
publications is, by academics, seen as a barrier for career progression.
The committee recommends that the Australian Government, as part of its
long-term innovation strategy, includes policy options to address the
structural and strategic barriers that inhibit innovation, including: measures
to enhance collaboration and the free flow of knowledge between the university
system and the private sector; increasing the size of the research and
development workforce employed in industry; and ensuring that public funding to
support science, research and innovation is long-term, predictable and secure.
Local and regional innovation ecosystems
The committee was informed that a recent World Economic Forum report
highlighted that Australia's start-up ecosystem is lagging behind those of many
other developed nations. Reasons include a lack of emphasis on entrepreneurship
and education, limited engagement with universities and a poor culture of
support for entrepreneurs. The Australasian Information Industry Association
noted in this regard that:
Entrepreneurialism will drive innovation and create jobs and
account for over half of all employment creation in G20 countries, so we need
to seize the opportunity presented by innovation and move from a position where
we are laggards to leaders in this part of the economy.
Evidence to the committee highlighted the challenges for entrepreneurial
start-up companies in securing adequate venture capital. Between 2003 and 2013,
the US invested US$285 billion compared to Australia's US$4.5 billion.
Investors in the US are expected to put $84 billion into local start-up firms
in 2015 while Australian investors are forecast to put in $250 million.
A thriving venture capital industry was recognised as a key component of
an innovation ecosystem, which not only supports start-ups but also serves as a
major means of attracting entrepreneurs overseas.
In its submission to the inquiry, Charles Sturt University, one of
Australia's leading regional universities, pointed out that the development of
local and regional innovation ecosystems is closely connected with the goal of
regional development. Importantly, the factors that help to shape local and
regional innovation ecosystems, such as learning capability, research and
development intensity and inter-firm relationships, are all variable across
different regions. As a consequence, there is no possibility of a 'one-size-fits-all'
In its evidence to the committee, Charles Sturt University also observed
that the creation of local and regional innovation ecosystems faces a major
hurdle, which can be summarised under the heading of the 'Regional Innovation
Paradox'. This barrier to effective innovation at a regional level is a
consequence of the greater need to fund innovation in lagging regions, along
with those regions' lower capacity to absorb effectively public funds that are
intended to promote innovation.
According to the evidence presented by Charles Sturt University, there
is a clear connection in poorer regions between the higher levels of funding
required to increase the competitiveness of firms and a lower capacity to
absorb the funding that is directed at promoting innovation:
...the more innovation is needed in poorer regions to
increase competitiveness of the firms, the more difficult it is to absorb
public funds for the promotion of innovation in those regions...Lagging regions
tend to under invest in research and development and innovation activities and
appear to face difficulties in utilising public resources for
innovation...Businesses do not demand innovation inputs and the research and
technological infrastructure is not embedded in the regional economy...Hence a
fragmented Regional Innovation system.
While there is no straightforward solution to the fragmentation that is
often seen in local and regional innovation ecosystems, Charles Sturt
University pointed out that the funding arrangements that are currently in
place for rural research and development corporations are particularly
successful. At present, revenue from industry levies is matched by Commonwealth
funding. This form of co-funding acknowledges that a combination of private and
public benefits flow from the research that is funded by this arrangement. As
Charles Sturt University's submission makes clear:
The model provides for industry to have a say in guiding
research priorities and directing public investment to priority areas. The close
involvement of industry also provides for greater likelihood of the application
of the research in practice. The Australian Research Council plays a strong
role in facilitating research collaboration through Linkage Projects. There is
also an ongoing fundamental role for the Australian Research Council to support
pure research across all disciplines.
The committee recognises the fact that regional innovation ecosystems
can act as a catalyst for industry development and transformation, through
start-ups, business and research networks and infrastructure. Therefore, it
recommends that the Australian Government work with the states and territories
as part of a collaborative effort to support local and regional innovation
The committee recommends that the Australian Government, working in
collaboration with State and Territory governments, adopt a range of measures
to support the role of local and regional innovation ecosystems.
Education for an innovation future
Evidence to the committee highlighted that education in entrepreneurship
is limited. In addition, the committee heard that the linkages between the
sciences, both pure and applied, and the humanities are inherently important
for effective innovation. Moreover, such linkages are vital for the development
of new and innovative technologies.
A recent New Work Order report by the Foundation for Young Australians
found that many young Australians are not being prepared for the future. The
report concluded that 35 per cent of 15 year olds are not digitally proficient;
30 per cent are not financially literate; and almost one third lack sufficient
problem solving skills.
In stark contrast, an estimated 75 per cent of future jobs will require
expertise in science, technology, engineering and
mathematics (STEM) disciplines, while 90 per cent of future jobs will
involve digital literacy.
Furthermore, the report highlighted that, at present, almost two-thirds
of Australian students are being trained for jobs that will either no longer
exist in the future or will be totally transformed beyond recognition.
According to the study, 58 per cent of students, along with 71 per cent of
vocational education students, are on a career path that may disappear or be
Much of the evidence presented to the inquiry focused, in a general
sense, on the centrality for innovation of the STEM disciplines. For example,
the Chief Scientist for Australia, Professor Chubb, wrote that a reliance on
STEM is 'at the core of almost every national innovation agenda'.
However, while the importance of STEM was widely recognised, some
submissions questioned the sole focus on these disciplines and instead
highlighted the contribution of design and the creative industries.
The submission from the UTS also argued that design-led innovation complements
The Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences and the
Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres noted that, despite many
calls to extend Australia's innovation system to include the humanities, arts
and social sciences (the HASS sector), innovation policy remains firmly focused
on the STEM sector. They identified three ways in which the HASS sector
contributes to innovation: facilitation, fostering a climate of innovation and
the translation of ideas into innovations through the 'creative' industries.
The joint submission from The Council for the Humanities, Arts and
Social Sciences and the Australasian Consortium of Humanities Research Centres
also observed that the successful commercialisation of STEM-led research often
relies – in an implicit but significant sense – on the knowledge and
understanding provided by HASS scholarship. The authors of the submission,
Emeritus Professor Steven Schwartz and Associate Professor Robert Phiddian,
pointed out that an innovation that might appear, on the surface, to be
entirely dependent on research in the STEM disciplines will often be anchored
by HASS scholarship:
...consider the complex issues of land and water use in the
Murray Darling Basin. Despite working with the world's best hydrology and soil
science, scientists will not be able to implement a successful water
conservation regime without understanding the values and needs of the people
and communities involved. What seems on the surface to be a set of technical
issues is really an amalgam of the history of Indigenous and European
settlement, sociology, demography, individual and group stories and a
"sense of place". Without the cultural and social understanding
provided by HASS disciplines, good science cannot successfully become applied
Importantly, while the commercialisation of research and innovation was
emphasised in evidence to the committee, the view was put that pure research,
including that conducted in the HASS disciplines, necessarily looks three, five
or ten years ahead, and should therefore not be lumped together with commercial
development and innovation.Although
the close connection between research, innovation and successful
commercialisation was not questioned in the evidence provided to the committee,
the vital importance of pure research, conducted for its own sake, was
highlighted by a number of submitters. In its submission, for example, UTS
It is essential that the Government continues to provide an
avenue (i.e. Category 1 funding) that deliberately aims to advance knowledge
and is assessed through a peer-review process that is, to some extent, agnostic
of the "demand pull". Not only is this good for each discipline area,
it is essential for Australian society and culture to balance investment in
medical and STEM disciplines with the arts, humanities, business and economics
The committee recommends that the education system be accorded a central
focus in the Australian Government's long-term innovation strategy, thereby
acknowledging the central importance of the interplay between the STEM subjects
and the humanities, social sciences and creative industries.
Senator Chris Ketter
Navigation: Previous Page | Contents | Next Page