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CSIRO identifies the key mechanisms that businesses can adopt to drive innovation and build resilience

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The CSIRO has released a new report The Value of Science and Technology that lists the five main barriers to innovation in Australia and the respective solutions that businesses can adopt to overcome these challenges.

The main barriers identified by the report are:

  • Declining innovation investment: investment into R&D innovation has been declining and is not targeting long-term goals or addressing future challenges
  • Poor research commercialisation: there is a lack of collaboration across industries, between industry and research, and internationally, which is creating under-commercialisation
  • Skills gap: there is a skills mismatch and shortage in areas relevant to innovation, and businesses are unable to absorb knowledge and adapt to new ideas
  • Resistance to overseas ideas: not enough Australian businesses are looking outside the domestic market for innovations to adopt
  • Wariness of new technologies: Australian businesses demonstrate a cultural aversion to risk

CSIRO Futures Lead Economist, Dr Katherine Wynn, explained that innovation and technology is crucial to Australia’s economic recovery post-COVID-19.

“Science and technology have always played a key role in supporting Australia’s growth and productivity, with examples in this report like Cochlear hearing implants, Google Maps, canola for biofuel, PERC solar cells, and x-ray crystallography,” said Dr Wynn.

“But as investment in innovation has dropped in recent years, we’ve seen our economy start to slow and weaken, and now we’ve been hit with COVID-19, so science and technology are more critical than ever.”

Changes in gross domestic product (GDP), multi-factor productivity (MFP) and business expenditure in R&D (BERD)
Source: ABS, CSIRO

The report claims that Australia’s slowing productivity has been caused by “declining innovation-driven technological progress” and “declining labour productivity and migration.”

Increased innovation will help businesses become more productive at an individual level, through automation, digitisation and computing, and lead to long run increases in productivity at the state and national levels.

Despite the dropping investment in innovation, there are also opportunities for business growth domestically and internationally.

“If businesses act now, there are plenty of opportunities to enhance how they navigate the innovation cycle and realise greater value from their investments, including improved productivity, protection from market shocks, stronger international competitiveness, and social and environmental benefits,” said Dr Wynn.

For instance, businesses can take advantage of the skills gap to support upskilling, interdisciplinary programs and work-based continuous learning.

The report also identified solutions to help businesses overcome barriers to innovation and bolster Australia’s economic recovery through science and technology.

  • Mission-led innovation: industry, research organisations, government and the community should work together to solve major challenges facing society using measurable goals
  • Targeted investment: R&D investment should be supported by incentives that encourage solutions through to commercial and broader applications, instead of exclusively focusing on the nature of problems
  • Promote a ‘growth through innovation’ culture: Australia must shift from a siloed ‘commodity culture’ to one where businesses are willing to take risks, change product lines and be proactive with competition

“During this COVID-19 crisis, Australian businesses have an opportunity to reflect on their long-term goals, to make decisions aligned to achieving them, and to determine how to use science and technology innovation as part of the solution,” the report said.

“Now is the time to overcome complacency and reassess the validity of the long-held expectation that productivity and economic growth will continue without marked change.”


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Ann Wen
Ann is a journalist at Dynamic Business with a background in commercial law and research. She is interested in SME tax law, public policy and Australian innovation.