Archive for the ‘Innovation’ Category

Industry Statement – opportunity beckons

February 27, 2013

Australia’s long-awaited Industry & Innovation Statement, released in February, provides an intriguing opportunity for local councils.

It stems from the announcement of ten Innovation Precincts, with $500 million funding. As I’ve foreshadowed in recent months, these will be established in areas of current Australian competitive advantage like manufacturing, food, finance and resources and up to five Precincts will support emerging opportunities – their focus will be on industries with strong export potential.

Melbourne is to be a food precinct under the new arrangements, which is very interesting given that most manufacturers have moved out to Cranbourne, Shepparton, Ballarat, Bairnsdale etc. Perhaps the CSIRO and the Australian Research Council, whose influence and/or facilities lie in Melbourne, had a big say in the decision?

The reality is that for certain industries, urban agglomerations of research infrastructure, plant, equipment and workers are important e.g. finance, IT, biotech and pharmaceuticals. However this isn’t the case for the food, timber, metals and engineering industries.

The configuration and location of most of the precincts have yet to be decided.

The opportunity is thus for regional cities and towns to negotiate and lobby their way into these precincts, including the afore-mentioned food precinct, especially since the government would be open to sensible propositions at a time of a hung Parliament. We’re now scheduling meetings with the industry and regional development departments to discuss how regional hubs can be positioned in the new arrangements. If your Council has an interest in this dialogue, please contact us ASAP.

Clusters and supply chains

The Industry Statement actually uses the terms precinct and cluster interchangeably, which is nice after our decade of effort in opening federal policymakers’ eyes to the potential of clusters. We must thank my colleague Professor Roy Green (UTS) for his leadership on this.

To explain, a few years back our Cockatoo members identified some 100 industry clusters around Australia. We have been dropping hints about they could form the basis of a new industry policy, especially given that localised processes are increasingly important.

For example, in South Australia we identified clusters of differing sizes in horticulture (Virginia, Riverland, Hahndorf), seafood (Port Lincoln), automotive and engineering (northern Adelaide), wine (Barossa and Clare Valleys), food (northern Adelaide), minerals and metals Upper Spencer Gulf) The defining features of each of these clusters are the specialisation and critical mass that helps them build supply chains into global markets. I will identify more of these clusters next month.

The Industry Statement touches on the importance of supply chains. We believe there is real scope for companies to now engage with the federal government to think about how high-value global supply chains can be nurtured in association with these clusters and precincts. Once again, please forward your ideas!

Defensive measures

As mentioned above, the Statement had a defensive component, presumably crafted by the manufacturing unions. It involves increased vigilance on cheap imports via anti-dumping action. The reality is that many foreign companies are selling their goods into our market at cost just to keep their operations going. But an anti-dumping program will not prevent these practices, and anti-dumping cases are excruciating slow.

A beefed-up Australian Participation Program, to seek higher levels of Australian content in major resource and engineering projects, will also be sought. However our signing of Free Trade Agreements means that we can no longer mandate particular levels of local content for these projects.

Innovation grants

The third leg of the Statement involves $350 million in a new round of the Innovation Investment Fund program to stimulate private investment in Australian start-ups. There is also a new competitive Industry Collaboration Fund (up to $50 million a year). This is all a little murky because the offset savings are linked to reducing the eligibility of the resource companies to R&D grants.

In any event, Shadow Minister Sophie Mirabella is the one to watch. She has not yet ruled anything in or out.

THIS ARTICLE APPEARS IN THE MARCH 2013 EDITION OF LG FOCUS

Innovation of 190 Euro regions compared – Swiss and Germans shine

November 9, 2012

The Regional Innovation Scoreboard 2012 was published in early November- a comparative assessment of how European regions perform with regard to innovation. The report covers 190 regions across the European Union, Croatia, Norway and Switzerland. The Regional Innovation Scoreboard is based on the methodology of the Innovation Union Scoreboard (IP/12/102).

Results
– 41 regions in the first group of “innovation leaders”
– 58 regions in the second group of “innovation followers”
– 39 regions are “moderate innovators”
– 52 regions are in the fourth group of “modest innovators”.

Considerable diversity in regional innovation performance not only across Europe but also within the Member States. The most pronounced examples are France and Portugal. Others in that category are Czech Republic, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom

The most homogenous countries are the moderate innovators Greece, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, where all regions except one each are also moderate innovators.

The situation is similar in Romania and Bulgaria where most or even all regions are modest innovators.

The most innovative regions in the EU are typically in the most innovative countries: Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Finland. In Germany, 12 out of 16 regions are innovation leaders. In Finland 3 out of 5 regions and in Sweden 5 out of 8 regions are innovation leaders.

Only in Denmark, the majority of the regions are innovation followers, and 2 out of 5 regions are innovation leaders, including the capital region of Copenhagen and Midtjylland. The regional innovation diversity is very low in non-EU Switzerland, which according to the Innovation Union Scoreboard 2011 outperforms all EU Member States: all Swiss regions except one are innovation leaders.

UCLA’s smart deployment of students

March 6, 2012

The University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) has a really smart program – the Global Access Program (GAP) where its MBA students prepare business plans for companies aiming to crack the US market with new products.

Companies pay a modest fee, and in return they get the business plan plus the strategic thinking and ideas that underpin it.

We figure that many Australian companies must forge partnerships to crack overseas markets. We thus met recently in Sydney with UCLA reps to see how GAP can be delivered to Australian companies. We were also keen to see how it could be extended to more Australian companies.

As a separate exercise, we mulled over how UCLA might assist with our Sunrise Project (linking clusters and networks).

If YOU have companies in your midst with a likely interest, please contact us, or UCLA’s key contact in Australia, Phil Chynoweth p.chynoweth@kizmetconsulting.com.au or 0415 919191.

The Competitiveness & Innovative Capacity of the United States

February 7, 2012

 

Professor Roy Green (UTS, Sydney) does a great job keeping his friends updated with the latest policy papers. He has steered us to a very recent U.S. Department of Commerce document (joint with the National Economic Council) which explains the industry policy direction of the US Government. However the document is quite simplistic and uninspiring. Perhaps its target audience is middle America (with which we have no quarrel), but one might have expected it to emphasise global supply chains, bilateral deals with emerging developing economies, and a tax system more attuned to the 21st century. You be the judge – full document is on the web.

 The key points are paraphrased as follows.

 The U.S.economy reigned supreme in the 20th century – world’s largest, most productive, and most competitive. As the 21st century approached, alarms sounded – incomes stagnated and job growth slowed. Other countries became better educated and our manufacturing sector lost ground to foreign competitors.

The scientific and technological building blocks critical to our economic leadership have been eroding – elements of the U.S.economy are losing their competitive edge.

 Innovation is the key driver of competitiveness, wage and job growth, and long-term economic growth. Therefore, need to look to the past and examine the factors that helped unleash the tremendous innovative potential of the private sector. Among these factors, three pillars have been key:

 –  Federally supported research laid the groundwork for the integrated circuit and the subsequent computer industry; the Internet; and advances in chemicals, agriculture and medical science.

–  The U.S. educational system in the 20th century produced increasing numbers of high school and college graduates, more so than anywhere else in the world. They boosted innovation.

– The transformation of infrastructure in the 20th century was amazing – the country became electrified, clean water became widely available, air transport became ubiquitous, and the interstate highway system was constructed. These developments helped businesses compete by opening up markets and keeping costs low.

The need for the Federal government to play an important role in research derives from the fact that there is a divergence between the private and social returns of research activities which leads to less innovative activity in the private sector than is what is best for our country. However, government support of basic research can remedy this problem.

To improve the trajectory of American innovation, thoughtful, decisive, and targeted actions are needed i.e. sustaining the levels of federal funding for basic research, extending a tax credit for private‐sector R&D to give companies appropriate and welldesigned incentives to boost innovation, and improving the methods by which basic research is transferred from the lab into commercial products.

Education – the second pillar – is also critical to foster innovation and to increase living standards. The advances in education in the 20th century helped propel the economic rise of the United States. However, the education system has slipped – poor preparation in math and science and the high cost of college tuition and expenses are restricting the flow of American science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) graduates from our universities.

In the past, the US has led the way in several key areas of infrastructure development (the third pillar).  Today theUS is lagging behind in broadband Internet access and wireless communications.

 A crucial component of theUnited States’ future competitive strength is a flourishing manufacturing sector. Manufacturing creates high-paying jobs, provides the bulk of U.S.exports, and spurs innovation. Manufacturing’s share of GDP and the number of workers in manufacturing has fallen, while the trade balance in manufactured goods has worsened. The Federal government has historically played an important role in providing a level playing field and must do so with renewed vigour.

Increasing the competitiveness and the capacity to innovate goes beyond improving research, education, infrastructure and manufacturing. There are many other policies that ensure the private sector has the best possible environment for innovation and competitiveness – including incentives to form regional clusters, promotion of exports and access to foreign markets, the level and structure of corporate taxes, and an effective IP regime (domestically and abroad). The Federal government has an important role to play here.

The United States has a strong base on which to rise to the challenges. There are clear actions that can help this nation regain its innovative and competitive footing. To succeed, we must have the will to implement and to sustain the policies that will prepare theUnited Statesto continue to be an economic leader in the 21st century.

Commercialisation Australia Grants

July 8, 2011

Most of the R&D grants run by the Australian Government have been scrapped – the new approach is the R&D Tax Incentive involving tax credits.

What is left however is the Commercialisation Grants Program, a VERY GOOD and quite accessible program if you measure up. It is competitive, and offers funds to take products to market i.e. beyond the R&D stage. Applications can be made at any time.

The main elements are: 

  • Proof of concept – $50k to $250k to prove the commercial viability of new IP
  • Early stage commercialisation – $250k – $2 million to take a new product, process or idea to market.

Eligible expenditure includes labour, contracting, plant; prototyping and IP protection. Expenditure can be incurred for product development; testing and documentation; tooling-up for full scale production; market validation; and IP strategy execution.

The grant (which really a loan) needs to be matched 50:50 by the applicant. The grant is paid back once annualised sales of $100k are achieved – 5% of sales are remitted. Our guru can explain all of this. The program has been going about 18 months and 115 grants have been made to date – the success rate is rather good if you have a quality submission. Contact us on 0412 922559 for a chat.

Innovation – overused buzzword

April 6, 2011

James Woudhuysen* reports (via Alan Kohler) that the UK government’s 131-page The Plan for Growth, published with Chancellor George Osborne’s Budget speech last week, speaks of innovation no fewer than 86 times. Clearly the Coalition has become more exercised about innovation than New Labour ever was.

Yet for all the rhetoric about innovation in the Budget, both the official concept of it and the sums of money made available for it are very modest. Accountants wrote more of the Plan than did innovators: everywhere one can detect the dead hand of penny-pinchers in the Treasury.

The narrative on innovation as it currently exists is a low-carbon one (58 mentions), drawn up by Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills. Theirs is a low-investment narrative, despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that, in the 2000s, UK business investment as a share of GDP was one of the lowest in advanced economies (p21). 

*James Woudhuysen is author, with Joe Kaplinsky, of Energise! A Future for Energy Innovation, published by Beautiful Books. – go to Amazon(UK).) He’s also a contributor to BIG POTATOES: The London Manifesto for Innovation.

Science Hubs!

January 18, 2011

AUSTRALIA needs to develop at least five national scientific hubs, each with more than 10,000 researchers, says the CEO of the CSIRO, Megan Clark.

”Major shifts in how we do science and how we invest nationally are required if we are to remain globally relevant and attract the best and brightest to Australia,” said Dr Clark, giving the 2010 Lowy lecture in Sydney in November.

Sydney had an opportunity to develop a national precinct in ICT, and Melbourne could have a precinct in human life sciences and material sciences.

These ”powerhouses of innovation”, bringing together the best researchers from universities and science institutes, would require annual investments of more than $1 billion each and appropriate computing infrastructure. At present, science funding is mainly based on the excellence of individual researchers. But Australia’s main challenges – climate change, water management and prevention of chronic disease – require multidisciplinary teams, Dr Clark said.

She identified Perth as the logical site for a precinct in resource geosciences and space. Canberra likewise in plant and ecosystem science, Brisbane in environmental science and ecology and Adelaide in preventative health and nutrition.

Australia leads the world in understanding the genetics of wheat and contributed to the recent completion of the genetic sequence of cattle. We also has strengths in astronomy and space science, which could lead to more advances in communication, data handling and computing, particularly if Australia wins the bid to host the gigantic Square Kilometre Array radiotelescope in WA.

BUT in other areas – green technologies, water, environmental services – Australia has no special advantages. We have to compete fiercely, particularly when low-income markets (China, India) are driving ”reverse innovation”, with products such as Tata’s $2,000 car and cheap, high-quality medical services.

The Cockatoo Network has argued for years about the need for a concerted spatial research framework built around the competitive advantage of regions and stronger collaboration via clustering and networking techniques. We’re currently working with US agencies to link clusters as alluded to by Dr. Clark. To learn how YOU can get involved with the CSIRO, please contact us at apdcockatoo@iprimus.com.au

Source: SMH and Cockatoo resources.

Scientific Hubs

November 19, 2010

AUSTRALIA needs to change the way it invests in science and develop at least five national scientific hubs, each with more than 10,000 researchers, says the chief executive of the CSIRO, Megan Clark.

”Major shifts in how we do science and how we invest nationally are required if we are to remain globally relevant and attract the best and brightest to Australia,” said Dr Clark, who gave the 2010 Lowy lecture at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney on 19 November.

She said Sydney had an opportunity to develop a national precinct in information communication, and Melbourne could build on its strengths to develop one precinct in human life sciences and another in material sciences.

These ”powerhouses of innovation”, bringing together the best researchers from universities and science institutes, would require annual investments of more than $1 billion each and appropriate computing infrastructure. At present, science funding is mainly based on the excellence of individual researchers.

But Australia’s main challenges – climate change, water management and prevention of chronic disease – require multidisciplinary teams, Dr Clark said.

Scientists not only need to understand fundamental aspects of a problem, such as information about temperature, rainfall, wind patterns, ocean currents and ocean acidity, when considering climate change, they also need to understand how all these factors interconnect.

Dr Clark identified Perth as the logical site for a precinct in resource geosciences and space. Canberra could build on its expertise in plant and ecosystem science, and Brisbane on its strengths in environmental science and ecology. ”Adelaide is emerging as a centre for preventative health and nutrition,” she said.

On a world scale, the big problem will be how to do more with less as the population increases.
”Globally we face the challenges of securing our food, water and energy needs in a world of finite resources,” said Dr Clark, whose lecture is entitled Science and Australia’s Place in the World.

She said these challenges would create opportunities for Australia, as a result of its expertise in advanced minerals and energy projects, and in plant and animal science.

Australia leads the world in understanding the genetics of wheat and contributed to the recent completion of the genetic sequence of cattle.

This country also has strengths in astronomy and space science, which could lead to more advances in communication, data handling and computing, particularly if Australia wins the bid to host the gigantic Square Kilometre Array radiotelescope in Western Australia.

In other areas, such as some green technologies and water and environmental services, however, Australia has no special advantages, she said.

The nation would have to compete fiercely, particularly when low-income markets in China and India are driving ”reverse innovation”, with products such as Tata’s $2000 car and cheap, high-quality medical services.

The Cockatoo Network has been arguing for some time about the need for a concerted spatial research framework built around the competitive advantage of regions and stronger collaboration via clustering and networking techniques. We are currently working with David Dodd (DADCONSULT) and other US agencies to link clusters as a means of driving hubs and clusters as alluded to by Dr. Clark.

If you would like more information on how your region can participate, please contact us at apdcockatoo@iprimus.com.au

Source: SMH and Cockatoo resources.

Foley’s short-sighted cuts rock South Australia

October 18, 2010

SA’s lead economic agency, the Department of Trade and Economic Development, has just copped budget cuts of $100m over 4 years – and staff numbers are to fall from 200 to 120.

SA Cockatoo members are aghast – funding disappears for the nine Business Enterprise Centres, the Small Business Helpline and the SA Youth Entrepreneur Scheme, Innovate SA and the Technology Industry Association. The export and investment attraction functions have also been severely cut.

Treasurer Kevin Foley – facing criticism on numerous other fronts, even his mobile phone bill – said the cuts were to deliver election promises and marked a refocusing of DTED’s priorities around four sectors – cleantech, advanced manufacturing, knowledge-intensive services and resources.

Foley has a very short memory – the SA economy would be up the proverbiall creek had it not won the big federal Defence contracts 3-4 years ago, and the feds have been pumping in adjustment assistance to shore things up. How much longer is the federal government going to do the heavy lifting?

Another hub in Victoria – get the drift?

October 18, 2010

The federal and Victorian governments have provided support (unidentified) for the first IBM global R&D laboratory anywhere in the world.

It will employ 150 highly-skilled staff and PhD students, located at the University of Melbourne where researchers can work side-by-side to help tackle international issues e.g. managing natural disasters, using natural resources efficiently, fighting diseases, boosting agricultural yields, harnessing the power of biotechnology.

Premier Brumby said the project cements Victoria’s reputation as the ICT capital of Australia following the National Broadband Network’s decision to build their hub in Melbourne, and the release of the government’s $110 million ICT strategy.

MD Glen Boreham said “Aligned with its drive to build a Smarter Planet, IBM has been drawn to Australia by the availability of world-class talent, the innovation environment, continent-scale opportunities and Australia’s robust economy.”