Innovation Precincts or a Rose by a Different Name…

RoseWill ‘Innovation Precincts’ by any other name be able to deliver a better future for a collaborative Australia? I hope so. However a few things need to happen first and to continue to happen concurrently with the progress of this Government initiative, so that it doesn’t follow in the footsteps of similar ‘collaborative’ initiatives that have provided a local anesthetic at the most and haven’t provided greater impact on Australian economy or long-term future.

Following is a media  interpretation of Minister McFarlane’s presentation at a foreign company-driven business forum. Neither the Minister, nor the management of the ‘Precincts’ rushed out with informing the supposed stakeholders or the industry.

At the  end of the article are further insights, that should add fresh, grass-roots aroma to the initiative.

The following original  article published by: Joe Kelly The Australian November 29, 2013

[QUOTE:] INDUSTRY Minister Ian Macfarlane has flagged a plan to bolster innovation and development while identifying the need for a larger government role in aligning the work of research institutions with industry needs.

Speaking at Shell’s Innovation Open House in Canberra yesterday, Mr Macfarlane indicated he would build on and develop the former Labor government’s plan to establish a series of innovation precincts around the country and flagged a possible announcement on the plan before Christmas.

Chief Scientist Ian Chubb also warned innovation collaboration between Australian businesses was “not good enough” and cited figures showing Australia was ranked 28th in the OECD for collaboration among large firms and 27th for collaboration among small to medium-sized enterprises.

Mr Macfarlane said the lack of collaboration between business was a “graphic” failing and that he intended to “pick up” on the former Labor government’s plan to create specialised precincts designed to bring firms, research institutions, technology experts and business service providers together to bolster innovation.

“I don’t think anyone has a clue what a precinct is,” he said. “But if you describe them as collaborative centres of excellence and if you then pulled in people at an extremely high level, I think you could put together a model that will bring about some change in that space.

“So can I just say, watch that space. There could be something that will interest you all before Christmas in that area.”

The former Labor government said it would invest $500 million to create 10 innovation precincts as part of its $1 billion jobs plan in February this year. It announced two manufacturing hubs in southeast Melbourne and another in Adelaide and a separate food hub for Melbourne.

Speaking as part of a panel discussion alongside Professor Chubb, Royal Dutch Shell chairman Jorma Ollila and the editor of The Australian, Clive Mathieson, Mr Macfarlane said one of his priorities over the next three years would be ensuring universities and industry were more engaged with one another.

One option canvassed was better targeting Australian Research Council grants to ensure research work was geared more to industry needs.

“The universities are working in a space that industry isn’t associating with,” Mr Macfarlane said. “The challenge that I have, that I’ve fully taken up and accept is that, over the next three years, I’m either going to pull industry into the university space or, more likely, pull universities into the industry space and get universities talking to industry about what they should be researching.” Another option under consideration by Mr Macfarlane was the placement of senior university researchers with major companies to help work on commercial projects.

Professor Chubb also highlighted the differing priorities of research institutions and commercial outfits, noting that business spent 52 per cent of its research and development money on engineering while universities only spent 9 per cent in the same area. While business spent another 28 per cent on ICT, universities only spent 4 per cent.

“I think that we need to ask why is it like that, and does it make it more difficult than it should be,” Professor Chubb said.

More reads on:”


Pre-Conditions to Success of the “Precincts” Initiative:

  1. VISION FOR AUSTRALIA [Expanded reference information: Here]
    • Vision for the ‘Precincts’
    • Clear Mission – Unwavering guide for agile and strategic Decision-Making
    • Non-Negotiable Principles – a Simple framework that provides flexibility along a strategic direction
    • Marketing and ‘Brand’ Strategy – it’s not about engineering and science but about connecting people with ideas and resources
    • Strategic Communication – to keep connecting the organisation with the right ‘customers’ and broader business community.
    • Industry and University are not natural allies – they need an independent Catalyst to connect and TRANSLATE the message to the common language;
    • Education of Business Leaders on how to ‘use’ available knowledge of Universities;
    • Creating physical network for participation and exchange of information – regular, consistent, mutually beneficial content – using Off-line and On-line platforms.


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