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Asia-Pacific Symposium on
Entrepreneurship and Innovation:
National Innovation System
How Australia Keeps Failing the
Innovation Test
Professor Ron Johnston
Australian Centre for Innovation
April 2009
Historical track record – Stump-jump plough,
Victa lawnmower, Hills Hoist…
Current track record – Cochlear, Resmed,
Bishop Engineering, CSL, Barry Marshall,
Ian Frazer …
So, name Australia’s leading systematically
innovative industrial sectors?
More Evidence
“Other cities have to strive; Sydney is a
global city” (former NSW Minister)
 “ Enough about technology-based
competitiveness: we’ve got the minerals”
(senior Treasury official)
 “ If
innovation mattered so much, where is
your constituency?” (DIISR official)
Even More Evidence
The Cutler Starting Points
The architecture of Australia’s innovation
system is a generation old
The nature of innovation is changing fast
Australian Government investment in
research and innovation declined by 25%
as a % of GDP from 1994 to 2008
Productivity growth has declined from
twice the OECD average in the mid-1990s
to half of it in the mid-2000s
Cutler’s Central Findings
The supply-driven model of innovation has
limited application
Most effective innovation occurs in the
context of application
Innovation is everyone’s business, and
Governments should be leaders and
supporters of innovation, not its primary
Likely Outcomes?
No transformation of the architecture of
Australia’s innovation system
Addressing one important component
(research funding) but probably our
greatest strength*
Enterprise Connect to carry the major
burden of change
No seizing of the time for renewal to
prepare for the next business cycle
 a passive, market-failure and supply-side view of policy
roles – the economic hierarchy thinks equilibrium, not
 an over-reliance on capability development through
investment in public sector R&D;
 a narrow focus in public sector policy on science and
innovation in one or two portfolios;
 an underestimation of the implications for capabilities and
policy of the rising importance of innovation;
 an underinvestment in the knowledge to inform policy;
 a misplaced confidence in the existing institutions to
coordinate capability development
 a profound stance of risk aversion in government
Where to From Here?
Keep the pressure on to reform the
architecture of the Australian innovation
Explore the opportunities for maximising
the contribution of Enterprise Connect to
innovation in Australia
Build linkages between the universities,
research organisations and business