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Better collaboration needed to boost innovation: Report

Wednesday, 24 October 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

A more collaborative effort is needed to foster Australian innovation, which is at risk of being swamped by the mining boom, according to an in-depth new study from the University of Sydney Business School.


The three-year study, led by Associate Professor Catherine Welch, followed 25 firms from start-up phase to commercialisation.


The firms were spread across drug development, medical devices, renewable energy, and the information and communication technology industries. The research was backed by healthcare firm Merck & Co, Inc.


With the end of the mining boom fast approaching, the study highlights the huge imperative for Australia to commercialise innovation products, services and processes.


Innovation from concept to successful commercialisation can take 20 years or more, according to the researchers, so political and commercial adjustments need to be made as soon as possible.


The researchers warn the pathway to the global marketplace is more complex than commonly realised.


Former Merck executive David Anstice, who played a key role in the study, says innovation and entrepreneurship are critical to growth in an economy such as Australia’s.


“The resources boom will not sustain Australia forever,” he says.


However, he also points out innovation isn’t a one-man job, insisting it will take a more collaborative effort in order to have an impact.


“We backed this research because Australia needs a better understanding of how the links between research and commercialisation fit together,” Anstice says.


“The study shows that everyone involved in innovation – from university scientists to company managers and financiers – needs to be actively engaged in global research and industry networks right throughout the pre-commercialisation process.”


“In order to succeed in selling globally, innovations need to be globally connected even before they are market ready.”


Welch, who could not be reached for comment, told The Australian Financial Review a common frustration expressed by entrepreneurs is the lack of consistency in government policy.


“Innovation is not just a single discovery, it’s usually a chain of discoveries that happen over time,” she said.


“What you need more than anything is a degree of continuity.”