Archive for June, 2005

Pietermaritzburg cluster of theology

June 17, 2005

Silverhawk, our resident analyst, has discovered a celestial cluster, established in 1990.

 Pietermaritzburg (South Africa) has long been a thriving centre for theological study.

It is home to St Joseph’s Theological Institute, School of Theology of University of Natal, Evangelical Seminary of Southern Africa, and Federal Theological Seminary – all independent institutions and operating in isolation from each other. 

The Pietermaritzburg Cluster of Theological Institutions was launched in 1990. The Declaration of Intention stipulates that each participating institution is autonomous and has its own credo, its own denominational and ecumenical links, its own ethos and style. However, each institution commits to providing a contextual theological education in a changing South Africa.

The Cluster seeks to enhance the richness and the diversity, which each institution brings to it. The Cluster has made it possible for students of one institution, through means of cross registration, to follow courses in another. A computerized system links the various libraries.

A publishing venture, Cluster Publications was launched in 1991 and has since become a very professional enterprise. In order to cement the bond and facilitate interaction between the various institutions annual Cluster events bring together staff and students. These include Cluster Worship, a Cluster Celebration, a Cluster Staff Day and a Cluster Sports and Fellowship Day. 

Making Canberra work for you’ workshops

June 17, 2005

My company, in partnership with other Cockatoo associates, is running workshops all over Australia.

Below is an extract of one of the eleven modules. This module deals with ‘Developing Action Plans’ and is proving very popular. Contact us for more details –

§          Be clear and focussed – Canberra is a madhouse of paper and scraps of information. Ministers, staffers do not want to read a document twice. Submissions must have a summary – what is it, why, where, how much, and outcomes!
§          Project a sense of ‘Strategic Intent’ – Canberra runs on strategies. Proposals must fit strategic thrust.
§          Have a vision – the ‘gee whiz’ factor.
§          Use project champions – credible proponents, relevant to the issue. Use them as sanity checks.
§          Connect, Follow-up, Connect, Follow-up, Connect… 

New research helps Sydney become a ‘smart city’

June 17, 2005

A new research paper, ‘Innovation at the Edges: The role of Innovation Drivers in South West Sydney’ identifies some of the unique drivers of innovation in metropolitan regions.

It suggests that regional councils can spearhead innovation development through low-cost initiatives, such as encouraging networking opportunities and establishing channels to transmit information freely. 

Produced by the AEGIS Research Centre at UWS, the paper also creates a blueprint for future innovation policy development by ‘unpacking’ the established concept of innovation and applying it to where we live.   

AEGIS Chief Investigator, Dr Cristina Martinez-Fernandez says “This study shows that boosting innovation doesn’t necessarily mean massive cash injections. It’s about encouraging business sectors, regional organisations and the community to connect with each other in new ways, explore the expertise and knowledge that already exists on its doorstep, and investigate opportunities for new links with the Sydney metropolitan area.” 

Dr Martinez-Fernandez says most previous studies have focused on the economic factors that drive innovation, ignoring social and environmental factors. “The most successful companies are those that have a strong sense of responsibility for and interaction with their local community. Elements such as liveability, accessibility and community engagement are seen as strong innovation drivers,” she explains. 

An important innovation driver is knowledge intensive service activities, or KISA.  They require a high level of intelligence or expertise in areas critical for the company’s innovation – the number of knowledge providers in the region, what expertise they have, and whether local businesses know how to find them.”   

The study says that Campbelltown is well placed for development as a regional innovation hub – education, knowledge, accessibility to services, jobs and mobility.  Camden is seen as an attractive place to live with a significant ‘quality of life’. Wollondilly can gain significant advantage through developing innovation drivers such as knowledge intensity, knowledge transmission, and accessibility. 

To access the report, go to

Yorkshire – Virtual Enterprise Networks (VENs)

June 17, 2005

 1,000 enterprises around Yorkshire have been urged to embrace a pioneering new initiative called Virtual Enterprise Networks, to compete with big contracts that would otherwise be beyond their reach.  

The CEO of Yorkshire Forward explained that ‘the VENs are unique. They bring together a number of businesses with the right skills and resources to form a virtual factory to deliver specific contracts –  something that has never been achieved before.’ 

He added ’Everyone, from suppliers to global contractors, is trying harder and harder to get noticed in this fiercely competitive market place. And unless we take this opportunity to forge alliances that allow us to compete effectively for national and international contracts, our region’s businesses are in danger of being left out in the cold.’ 

Outside the conference hall, key players from the aerospace industry such as Boeing and Rolls Royce were spreading the work about VENs. Tim Walton, director of e-business at Rolls Royce, said that while the ‘dot com’ boom had bust, virtual businesses were here to stay. In fact they are growing. He encouraged SMEs to embrace the VEN idea, even though it challenged old assumptions about working with rivals and competitors. ‘Experiment with the technology, learn by doing, try a pilot, and where successful roll it out’ he said.  

Visit for more details. 

(VENs are an advance on the partnering programs that were introduced during the 1990s in Europe, North America, Australia etc. to basically generate productivity gains in the building and construction industry. The difference is that VENs can be truly virtual networks, by virtue of email and internet. – Editor) 

Forestry cluster mapping in WA

June 17, 2005

 Mapping clusters is increasingly well accepted as a way of understanding a region’s strengths but the WA Department of Education and Training is extending this by testing the approach for anticipating training and skills needs. 

The state’s timber industry is being used as the “demonstration site” for the project which will also involve a series of presentations by US-based cluster expert Stu Rosenfeld to industry and TAFE college managers and staff.

 While the cluster studies emphasise the importance of workforce skills, the WA project is ascertaining whether the research techniques used to study clusters can help with the vexed issue of determining skills needs and labour market demand. At the very least, viewing any industry as a dynamic set of interconnections and relationships – as cluster theory requires – is a useful first step.  

The timber industry in WA has three basic segments – hardwood plantation, softwood plantation, and native hardwoods. Each sector has undergone substantial change over the past decade and is still adjusting.
§          The most high profile has been the native hardwoods – significant changes to traditional logging practices and the resulting constraints on supply and increases in timber prices. These changes have created great pressure for far more value-adding, with the flow-on implications for skills development.
§          The hardwood plantation industry has expanded dramatically throughout the South-West and Great Southern regions, encouraged by taxation concessions and the changing demography of many rural communities e.g. farmers nearing retirement age, young people heading to the cities.
§          Softwood plantation sits somewhere between these two extremes – with value-adding becoming increasingly important as these timbers are processed to be used in housing, construction, furniture etc. 

This diversity makes the timber a fascinating and useful “laboratory” for examining and testing possible ways cluster mapping techniques might be applied. Cluster studies tend to focus on relationships within the particular system, and then look at capability.

The capability of a cluster clearly has a significant skills component, but the questions are often more general and include capacity in a range of areas e.g . financial, technical, R&D, infrastructure etc. Assessing skills needs in these types of exercises is invariably a part of the research but it is very often undertaken from a more general perspective.  

What’s been developed here is a hybrid approach that concedes that while definitive answers are not possible, a significant amount of context can be added to the picture. The approach begins with cluster study methodologies and then incorporates additional industry analysis to emphasise the dynamic and systemic nature of these clusters. It appears this can assist in labour market planning but probably more to complement existing methods rather than replace them. 

Cheers Peter MorrisTelesis Consulting, Fremantle WA – phone 08 – 9336 5500, or 0417 916 575, or 

China & the global economy

June 17, 2005

Bob ’no relation’ Brown’s newsletter continues to stress the challenges of the globalised world.  

From time to time I have commented on China as the workshop of the world and a growing partner for global collaboration. Recently I heard a talk by Professor Jonathan West, an Australian who is currently a professor at Harvard Business School and is about to establish a Centre for Innovation at the University of Tasmania, connected with the University of Melbourne.  

In the talk Professor West said that many people in countries, such as Australia, have seen the developments in China as a market of 1.3 billion new consumers keen to buy imported products. However, the key to China’s growth is not cheap unskilled labour, it is cheap skilled labour, says Professor West.

He indicates that China is currently graduating 500,000 engineers every year and this number is increasing. He says: “An engineer that would be paid $150,000 a year in the United States earns $120 to $150 a month in China…China has a cost-structural advantage that is so great it is difficult to think of any product that can be made and transported that China won’t have a structural competitive advantage in. So what we are seeing is not just that China is emerging as a great new market, but it’s emerging as a great new competitor in a wide range of products that are taking us by surprise.”  

He goes on to consider the garlic, the wine and the vegetable industries in China and Australia. He says the Australian garlic industry is facing disaster because Chinese garlic is going into Australia at one-tenth the cost of the Australian product.

From a late start, China now has more area under grapevine than Australia with wine makers (after studying in Australia and elsewhere) producing excellent wine – and Australia annually sells just over half a million dollars of vegetables to China, while importing over $40 million. He concluded that as we look forward to the future, nations like Australia must make investments in their industrial capability and expertise to be able to compete with China, as well as sell to it. As he has indicated, the challenge is massive, much larger than many people have recognised.  

Transcript of West’s talk available at

‘Researchers and companies wary of collaboration’ warns Silverhawk

June 17, 2005

I recently made a submission, on behalf of Clusters Asia Pacific Ltd.,  to the House of Representatives Inquiry into Pathways to Technological Innovation. The concluding section is as follows: 

The particular relevance of clusters in the context of the Standing Committee’s enquiry is that they provide pathways to innovation. Clusters are a connectivity mechanism at a number of levels: 
§          Engaging otherwise unconnected researchers.
§          Engaging researchers with the ‘right’ type of companies i.e. to take research to the market.
§          Linking Australian companies with overseas companies with a significant place in global markets. 

There is a plethora of examples of Australian inventions failing the commercialisation test. In our experience, the chief failing is the lack of robust innovation pathways. The standard excuses put forward for this are the lack of venture capital, the small size of the Australian market, the proliferation of SMEs, lack of faith in our home-grown science, and lack of government support. CAP argues that they are the symptom, rather than the cause.

The overwhelming evidence is that researchers and companies are wary of collaboration. In an increasingly competitive market place, people with ideas and intellectual property are reluctant to connect to others. As Frank Wyatt and Hugh Forde (SA-based CAP members) have identified, firms need to be taught how to collaborate. 

The role for the Australian Government should thus to facilitate collaborative research efforts by funding a national cluster program. There are numerous precedents among other national governments – Canada and Sweden are two obvious examples. 

The reality is that the State governments are picking up on the importance of clusters, and Victoria, SA, NSW and Queensland have cluster programs in place. However the bulk of the public R&D expenditure and  support mechanisms (e.g. Cooperative Research Centres, Centres of Excellence) are federally funded.  

There is thus a huge opportunity for the Australian Government to use clustering concepts to achieve better innovation outcomes. 

Spokane, Washington – leveraging alumni

June 17, 2005

People grew up in your neck of the woods, and moved on…people have visited for annual events and moved on…people went to school there and moved on.

Do you see the trend here?…they all move on!  

Jack Schultz, the author of Boomtown USA (featured often on this blog), says that Spokane, Washington State, has a program that markets the city to alumni of the universities and colleges in the region.

They concluded that for 4 years (sometimes more) these students build nostalgic connections to the community, but once they get their degree they leave town.  When Spokane recognised that there was a crop of productive, contributing citizens slipping through their fingertips they did something about it.

The Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce has printed postcards that economic development groups can use in the “Homecoming Spokane” campaign. They’re following up the cards with alumni events, profiling recent returnees in alumni magazines, and promoting the city at sporting events around the country.  They sent leaflets to 300 alumni in Washington, DC. – 50 attended a reception, and one has moved back to Spokane and two others are thinking about it.

Visit to read stories of returnees and the lives they’re building in Spokane.

Cluster concepts underpin SA’s $6 billion defence win

June 17, 2005

I am very glad Adelaide won the $6 billion Air Warfare Destroyer contract last month. The city has the competitive advantages and strategic infrastructure to make a good fist of it. And now we don’t have to worry so much about South Australia becoming a big donut needing federal support to prop up its economy.   

We knew about the role of the Defence Industry Teaming Centre in bedding down clustering concepts in Adelaide, so we asked Hugh Forde, the cluster guru there to provide a read-out. 

“It was a significant demonstration of collaboration at many levels to extend a classic cluster. Winning the contract will activate a latent cluster whose linkages and connections have been growing and strengthening since the formation of the industry leg of the cluster some 10 years ago, via the Defence Industry Teaming Centre.

The cluster will now become productive with the engagement of major international players and other external economies coming into play. 

How did it really happen?

Person to person contacts by senior ASC executives showed the value of relational power in facilitating international technology transfer and knowledge exchange.

Locally, the strategic alignment of the State Government Defence Unit with the Defence Industry Teaming Centre laid the foundation for a Skills Institute that will provide the skilled manpower needed to deliver best practice contract performance.

At firm to firm level, the Defence Industry Teaming Centre has been preparing itself over the past three years to win work by developing the collaboration competencies and alliancing skills of its member firms.  

Latent clusters abound. Industry perseverance and steadfastness is required to make them productive. It may be a long time in coming but it can be worth the wait.” 

Hugh Forde at