Australia's New Science and Innovation Agenda

9 December 2015

In early December the federal government unveiled its new science and innovation agenda. Here are some of the comments made by Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, at the launch.

Australia’s economic fundamentals are strong

The mining boom, the mining construction boom has been great for Australia. It has driven growth in incomes, but, as we have seen, the mining boom inevitably has receded. What is going to drive Australian prosperity in the years ahead? How does our economy transition? Our innovation agenda is going to help create the modern, dynamic, 21st-century economy Australia needs.

Our fundamentals are strong, we are in our 25th year of consecutive economic growth, but, we need new sources of growth if we are to maintain our high standard of living, high wages and generous social welfare safety net. Although there are challenges, there has never been a better time to start and grow a business from Australia, which can now compete for customers located anywhere in the world.

We are on the doorstep of Asia, the world’s economic engine room and our new trade agreements with China, Japan and Korea are opening up more doors in Asia for our business. There has never been a more exciting time to be an Australian business. There have never been more opportunities on the horizon for Australians. The Internet and the technologies it enables mean we are now part of a truly global marketplace. It means there are fewer barriers to entry for Australian businesses, no matter where they are located, right across Australia they can sell their products and services to just about every corner of the globe.

One of the excellent sessions that I attended at the recent Association of Superannuation Funds Australia (ASFA) conference, in Brisbane, was a session called: “Tax, Women and Superannuation” which was a broad discussion of both the issues impeding (primarily) women from achieving a financially comfortable retirement and some of the difficulties in finding a solution.

We can’t future-proof ourselves from change

Our universities, our research organisations like the CSIRO, where we are today and our workforce are world-class but, Australia is falling behind when it comes to commercialising good ideas and collaborating with industry. Australia consistently ranks last or second last among OECD countries for business research collaboration. Increasing collaboration between businesses, universities and

the research sector is absolutely critical for our businesses to remain competitive. To commercialise an idea, a great invention, a great innovation, a great piece of research and then grow it into new sources of revenue, new jobs, new opportunities and new industries.

Companies that embrace innovation, that are agile and prepared to approach change confidently and with a sense of optimism are more competitive, more able to grow market share and more likely to increase their employment. More jobs, more growth – that is the focus of my government. And, we are absolutely committed to ensuring that our students have the skills to find high wage and rewarding jobs, regardless of their qualifications or career path. We are going to do this by promoting coding and computing in schools, to ensure our students have the problem-solving and critical reasoning skills for the jobs of the future.

We cannot future-proof ourselves from change, nor should we seek to do so. But, we can ensure that our students are graduating with the skills and the agility to identify opportunities and embrace risk.

New innovation package in four key areas

the government’s innovation package that we are releasing today will incentivise and reward innovation, entrepreneurship and risk-taking by focusing on four key areas.

First, culture and capital, embracing risk and incentivising early stage investment in start-ups. You will see in this package there will be new incentives, new drivers to ensure that Australians with new business ideas, with new enterprises will be better able to find the capital that gets them started. And, you know something? Even if their businesses don’t succeed, we all benefit. We learned so much from the failure of new businesses.

We are going to drive business research collaboration, ensuring that there is greater collaboration between organisations like the CSIRO, universities, other research institutions and business to commercialise ideas and solve problems.

We are going to focus on talent and skills, training our students for the jobs of the future and ensuring that we attract the world’s best innovative talent to Australia. I said that our best assets are walking around on top of the earth, you know something, so are everybody else’s and we want to have the best talent come to Australia, whether they come to Australia for the first time, or whether they are a foreign student that has done postgraduate work here and wants to stay here and develop new businesses, contribute to the innovative economy of Australia. We want to make sure we retain and gain the best human capital that we can.

And finally, the fourth pillar of this agenda is government leading by example in the way it invests in and uses technology. Right across the board you will see there are measures to ensure that government is digitally transformed, so that it is nimble, so that you can deal with government as easily as you can with eBay or with one of the big financial institutions. We should be able to transact with government for most of our engagement on our smartphone. Digital works, it transforms, it makes it easier for business, easier for government.

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