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Opportunities abound in Australia’s ageing population: Report

Tuesday, 11 December 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Australia’s ageing population provides opportunities to develop a range of social, workforce, and industry research and technological innovations, according to a new government report.

 

The Australian Innovation System Report is an annual series of reports, starting in 2010, on the performance of Australia’s national innovation system.

 

The latest report suggests innovative firms of all sizes are almost twice as likely to report an increase in productivity compared to those that do not innovate.

 

Innovative firms are also 42% more likely to increase profitability, three times more likely to export, and four times more likely to increase the range of goods or services offered.

 

Encouragingly, the report shows improvements in Australia’s innovation system against the Federal Government’s targets, particularly in the areas of research and skills.

 

However, it said business framework conditions that influence innovation activity have worsened on a number of indicators in recent years, particularly around financing of innovation.

 

The percentage of Australian businesses seeking finance for innovation has declined by 40% since 2006-07, according to the report.

 

“Venture capital and later stage private equity investment in Australia has declined substantially over the same period,” the report said.

 

“Despite these trends, Australia’s framework conditions remain moderately to highly ranked internationally.”

 

The report also discusses the emerging opportunities, challenges and trends for the Australian innovation system, namely Australia’s ageing population.

 

Not surprisingly, these opportunities largely centre around healthcare.

 

“The scale of the ageing population, not just in Australia but across many countries, is likely to transform all markets where older people participate or demand services and goods,” it said.

 

“The scope for innovation in the supply of services to this growing demographic will be enormous, not least in the field of health.

 

“New global developments in health business models, notably in biopharmaceuticals, augur significant benefits for older people who tend to have greater health concerns as they age.”

 

According to the report, technological innovation will be the essential driver of market reforms.

 

“Using diagnostic technology and big-data mining, it will be possible to better identify a patient sub-population, such as aged people at risk of dementia,” the report said.

 

“Social media and new portable devices will enable improved monitoring of patients and, importantly, by patients themselves, so that more specific and effective care can be delivered.

 

“The National Broadband Network will provide a platform for a wide range of innovative and more accessible eHealth services using new/smart technologies.”

 

Just as important to the reformed delivery of health services will be the education of health professionals and aged carers, and their adoption of eHealth technologies, the report said.

 

The report goes on to highlight issues in the ageing agricultural workforce, which poses “major challenges” to the agrifood sector, suggesting this could be another area of opportunity.

 

“The agrifood industry is made up of 180,000 mostly small to medium-sized enterprises and a workforce of more than 880,000 people, with 57% based in regional Australia covering the entire food supply chain,” it said.

 

“It makes a significant contribution to the national economy, generating more than $200 billion each year and accounting for around 20% of Australia’s export earnings.”