Government must 'curate' not 'control'

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Australia is on the "back-foot" and has "under-invested" in supporting innovation-based companies translate their discoveries.

Dr Buzz Palmer and Dr Vishaal Kishore of 'The Actuator', Australia’s national medical technology accelerator, have authored a new report looking at what the country needs to do to match other countries in fostering the potential significant economic contribution of innovative industries.

The report is focussed on medical technology but the authors say the over-arching findings are applicable to any technology based industries.

According to Drs Palmer and Kishore, the evidence of under-investment in Australia is evident by the fact it now has one of the lowest rates of intellectual property based start-up formation in the world. It also has one of the lowest rates of venture capital investment.

"Our governments and innovation players need to realise that innovation and entrepreneurship do not just mean ‘digital’," says the report. "A pathological focus on digital, on fast wins and peripheral innovation - rather than on deep innovation – does not capitalise the obvious opportunity presented to our nation – and there lies the significant challenge."

They say Australia is weak on frameworks and policies that bring the whole 'ecosystem' together.

"Perhaps worse are ‘program regurgitations-with-a-new name’. What has never worked before is unlikely to work now...," they say.

They have identified the additional challenge of governments wanting to control the ecosystem, rather than facilitate it, which is counter-productive to fostering innovation. 

"We obsess about the role of government and we think the report suggests a different role - curation.

"Government works by control - if you adopt the ecosystem approach then you cannot control, but you can connect and curate. Government also has a role in procurement, in supporting Australian innovation, as a customer.

“We are at the bottom of the pile when it comes to industry participation and we all have to see our collective responsibility in changing that.”

They are optimistic, describing a new "willingness" to have the necessary conversation that may not have been there two years ago. 

"There is far too little involvement of ecosystem players in policy design. A deep, vital, and enthusiastic pool of insight and assistance is out there, and stands ready to help governments design new, exciting and effective interventions", they add.