Archive for the ‘Region – Asia Pacific’ Category

Asia Pacific Technology Exchange wins global attention (BEST PRACTICE)

April 13, 2008


The unstinting efforts of Cockatoo member, Geoff Mullins, were rewarded on 28 March with the launch of the Asia Pacific Technology Exchange by local federal member Maxine McKew MP. She said that ‘this is the innovation economy at work.’


The Exchange is designed to help establish a Silicon Valley-style business cluster in northern Sydney.


The launch also attracted global attention – excerpt of the article in the International Herald Tribune follows.


SYDNEY — A new Australian exchange, aiming to emulate the U.S. Nasdaq index with a focus on technology and innovation stocks, was established Wednesday with plans to become fully operational by the second half of 2008.


The Asia Pacific Technology Exchange, or Aptex, is a joint venture of the National Stock Exchange of Australia and Enterprise Pacific, a not-for-profit company. Based in Sydney, the venture plans to start with a minimum of 20 listed companies. The chairman of Enterprise Pacific, Geoff Mullins, said the new exchange expected to have 200 to 300 companies listed within its first 2-3 years. Mullins said he was not concerned about liquidity on the new exchange, which had been a problem in earlier attempts to establish exchanges in Australia, because of support from brokers and from connections being forged in the Asia-Pacific region. ”We are absolutely certain that this is under way. We have stakeholders signing up, we have companies signing up and we are ready to go.”


NSX had held discussions with stock exchanges in Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, PNG and Fiji on their possible participation. Inquiries had also been received from companies in Taiwan and Korea, and it was possible that 5 of the first 20 companies on the exchange could be Asian. Mullins estimated the total market capitalization of companies listed on the exchange to initially be between $350-650 million.

Contact Geoff at

‘Current models of globalisation not working’ says Bob Brown

January 17, 2006

Bob Brown (no relation) is a former CSIRO division chief, now tracking S&T and development issues for the MuNet network. His recent editorial is worthy of serious reflection… 

Notwithstanding all the technological developments, human skills and human frailties remain at the heart of all industry. Human ingenuity conceives and refines products and processes.

 Human needs, desires and persuasion skills establish the market for the goods produced. Political, social and economic constructs determine if the manufacturing enterprise (or parts of it) will be profitable and sustainable. In the 1970’s there was considerable emphasis on robotics, automation and flexible manufacturing systems, leading to a proposed utopia of the “lights out factory”.

Since then attention has concentrated on just-in-time manufacture and, in the last decade, attention has focused on LEAN manufacture – the minimalist approach to all elements of production and management. These and other management methodologies are all fine, but the bottom line is to pay attention to what we are manufacturing and why. We are in danger of going into the ridiculous situation of making products obsolete almost as soon as they are marketed and releasing products that are obscene in their size, performance and cost – recognising that a large part of the world’s population lives in subsistence conditions. 

I have a vision that globalisation will lead to closer cooperation between industrialists, researchers, decision makers and the community for the benefit of the world’s population. Current models of globalisation and the instruments of global control – World Bank, IMF etc. – seem incapable of reshaping “Market Forces” to achieve this vision. In fact, internationally and within most nations there is a growing disparity between rich and poor.  

I don’t have any simple solutions, apart from a need for people to go back to basics and consider human values and aspirations. People often seem to expend huge amounts of energy (their own and non-renewable resources of the planet) on trivial and pointless activities.

It is here that manufacturers and researchers can surely provide some rational advice and guidance for a more sensible resolution of the problems facing the world. Weapon manufacture is unlikely to bring rational development; armies are not going to bring peace; irrational or fundamental religious beliefs will divide people into bitter enemies. You might silence opposition by punching an opponent in the face, but this is unlikely to convince him/her of the correctness of your case. 

‘Trust takes time to develop’ says AEEMA

November 17, 2005

The Australian Electrical & Electronics Manufacturers’ Association received a federal grant to identify opportunities for cluster development. The report, released early 2004, provides a very good analysis. Extract follows. 

Cluster development on its own is not a panacea for economic development, but a powerful tool for growth. There is an urgent need in Australia for companies to understand how to collaborate effectively, when to collaborate, and when to compete on a local basis. That is the executive decision to be made, rather than ‘should you collaborate’.

Clusters provide the forum for such collaboration. A workable definition of a cluster is “a system of inter-related companies, institutions and networks with common understandings, a desire for continual growth, and a level of trust which enhances the flow of knowledge.”

This departs from definitions requiring geographical proximity, and is explained by the recent emergence of spatially remote clusters and newer concepts of ‘cluster of clusters’.  A period of 3-5 years is necessary to avoid participants from walking away, rather than the ‘decade or so’ suggested by Porter.

There is a need to focus on picking the ‘low growing fruit’ to achieve early confidence-boosting success, rather than pursuing long-term outcomes that try the patience of industry participants. Short time frames need to be tempered with the fact that trust for the sharing of knowledge and conducting joint projects is a key element in a sustainable cluster. Trust takes time to develop. The development of trust must be “fast tracked” and the process needs to be made explicit in cluster membership.

The report includes draft codes of conduct and ethics for use as aids to develop trust. While commercial self-interest is a driver of behaviour, ‘social capital’ is inherent in clusters. People with a collaborative world-view are the ones best suited to, and drawn to, cluster activity. 

Optimising the mix of structural and behavioural elements is fundamental to the success of clusters. Government-driven clusters have generally not been successful – industry must play a key role in the establishment and operation of clusters in close liaison with government. 

The ‘cluster of clusters’ approach is a new dynamic model – it is aligned conceptually to an atomic structure, rather than a diagrammatic representation on horizontal and vertical planes. This is consistent with the ‘organic growth’ principle and takes account of emerging opportunities and the necessity of establishing new connections in a rapidly changing environment.

This approach redefines the current static model, which although connecting ‘silos’ of activity, is nevertheless prescriptive and limiting.  Australia should consider cluster development in terms of a lifecycle that enables a determination by both government and industry of the stage of development of a network or cluster. This could prescribe the Government’s approach to funding such entities, in the same way as the R&D grants address discrete elements of the commercialisation cycle. 

Australia has far too many small and disconnected industry bodies and networks that are individually weak and ineffective. The ‘cluster of clusters’ approach is essential in gathering small networks together to facilitate real collaboration and a cohesive industry voice through the development of critical mass. 

Contact: John Humphreys at  

‘Narooma mullet’ investment theorem

October 17, 2005

We were on the south coast of NSW recently inspecting tourism infrastructure (OK – it was a golf course!) and there’s a grizzled old bloke named Bob, paddling in the shallows. He says he’s getting some poddy mullet to use as live bait, to catch the big kingfish and jewfish that make Narooma famous.

Bob cuts a rectangular hole (about 15 cm x 4 cm) in the side of a 2 litre soft drink bottle, curves in the plastic edges, puts in a handful of Woolworths breadcrumbs and a decent sized sinker, leaves the screw cap on, and then submerges it.

After 15 minutes he wanders back out and returns with the bottle jam-packed with 15 cm long mullet. Some days it takes a couple of hours waiting to catch his bait, because mullet are pretty fickle. Bob says that it needs one mullet to pluck up the courage and dive in, then the others immediately follow. And do they cram in – absolutely amazing!

 This got us thinking about the investment buoyancy of lifestyle towns and regions, as noted in the ALGA’s State of the Regions report. Their economic drivers and infrastructure requirements differ from urban regions. And, in most cases, lifestyle regions have higher unemployment, lower employment prospects for school-leavers, more social welfare recipients, more micro businesses, and environmental issues that can polarise the community.

The broadening of these local economies is easier said than done. The challenge is to find that first mullet with courage.  

This is why the three levels of government must get into forward-looking development agendas to facilitate investment in these regions that is both economically sustainable (i.e. creating long-term rather than transient jobs) and environmentally sustainable.

Quality infrastructure – mobile phone coverage, Internet speed, university campuses, electricity and water supply, health care, good transport links – is the bait. But you cannot buy it from Woolworths.

In this regard, the progressive sale of Telstra, the nation’s telecoms asset, and other sell-offs mean the Howard Government has a once-only opportunity to fund some of the required public infrastructure in a planned manner.  

Source: The Good Oil column at 

NZ’s regional partnership program – some insights

July 17, 2005

Ann Verboeket of the Economic Development Association of NZ has forwarded some timely insights on how they are approaching regional development. Extract follows.  

NZ has a network of 8 regional councils, 74 territorial local authorities and 70 Economic Development Agencies (EDAs) – latter funded by local authorities, acting as delivery agents for programs.

EDAs were chosen as the natural partners at a regional level – they have the local networks, information sources and business links. Each region was required to develop its own a strategy. NZ was a late starter in regional economic development, but quickly modelled itself on the OECD Partnership Best Practice process. NZ focussed on existing regions with a suite of programs e.g. Cluster Development Program, Regional Polytech Development Fund, Incubator Support Program, Regional Partnership Program (RPP).   

The RPP is administered by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, and includes funding for development of the strategy, capability development and Major Regional Initiatives (MRI’s) – once the strategy is developed. A review showed that:
§          early results on practical, region-wide projects are extremely helpful in building credibility. 
§          the capability building component is instrumental in delivering on broader strategy outcomes. 

The MRI process allows regions to develop regionally specific projects that can attract up to $2 million of central government funding – with the region funding a minimum 25%. Key issues underpinning the Regional Partnership Program and MRI process include:
§          Often difficult to shift beyond local and district issues to regional -economic imperatives. 
§          A question mark is raised over the attractiveness of the MRI partnership program to large businesses.  The consultative process for them can be unwieldy, time consuming and expensive.
§          Some regions only need small scale projects to assist them to better integrate with national policies. 

The RPP has forced regions to work together – to think long-term and to integrate sustainable development strategies and build relationships. Currently 26 regional partnerships.  

“Four years later, the suite of programs has changed partnership behaviours. Not least has been an increased knowledge of a region’s strengths and advantages. It has also built a more collaborative approach to projects but has not always resulted in better alignment between business and local government businesses and Maori.  The objectives, time frames, and structures are often irreconcilable”. – Dr. Andrea Schollmann & Dr. Tobias Nischalke “Central Government and Regional Development Policy: Origins, Lessons Learned and Future Challenges” (2005).

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

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. 

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

Natural advantage of nations!

May 17, 2005

 Bob ‘no relation’ Brown reports that he has recently reviewed a book, ‘The Natural Advantage of Nations: Business Opportunities, Innovation and Governance in the 21st Century’, Edited by Karlson ‘Charlie’ Hargroves and Michael H. Smith, Published by Earthscan, 2005, ISBN 1-84407-121-9 

The book provides policies, strategies and methodologies aimed at achieving global sustainability in human activities.

An essential message is that competitive advantage and sustainability of companies and/or nations are not mutually exclusive; there are many examples of companies increasing profitability because they change practices so that sustainability is improved.

Michael Porter from Harvard Business School is quoted, “The notion of inevitable struggle between ecology and the economy grows out of a static view of environmental regulation, in which technology, products, processes and customer needs are all fixed.”  

The book includes contributions by the Natural Edge Project group.

Go to  Bob recommends the book as a great source of ideas for business & industry leaders, engineers, architects, planners and society generally. See the ManSA REVIEW at – The book is available from EA Books – see