Last updated March 22, 2017 at 2:46 pm
There was an announcement today from Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull that put science and innovation at the forefront of our nation’s agenda.
To put it simply, the government are hoping to alter the way that we approach innovation within Australia. They’re doing this by putting $1.1 billion into the National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). They’re putting their money where their mouth is.
As well as the focus on science and innovation, this agenda addresses issues on an economic and social level. This is “the bigger picture”. And it’s exciting.
They’re basically saying we’re changing the rules to help you do what we know you already want to do. Isn’t that a nice thing to get excited about? YES! It’s a huge move towards the future. And for everyone, this will impact and shape the future of our nation.
“Innovation” has been a keyword that’s been thrown about a lot lately. So, what is innovation? It can vary from improving an existing concept, produce or service to creating a novel idea. Let’s have a look at how exactly we are going to become the Innovation Nation as proposed through the NISA.
Taking a risk
One of the biggest key areas is incentivising risk taking. “What? More rewards for taking a risk? This goes against everything I know!” you may exclaim. Look at it this way, for those who are starting up their own business or wanting to develop a new idea or product, it’s hard to get started without financial backing.
Australia is a nation chock full of brilliant ideas and a generation willing to change the world. However, we haven’t been great at translating these ideas into money. This is what commercialisation is. Through the NISA, the government aims to create an environment within Australia that supports this. The government wants Australia to be the “innovation nation”.
One thing that our nation has been lacking in are early stage “angel” investors and venture capitalists willing to take a risk investing into new ideas. To address this, the NISA provides financial incentive in the form of tax breaks to embrace risk taking and failure.
If you feel like you’ve just stumbled upon a new language, let’s help you with the lingo. Angel investors or the early stage investor are first in, they provide the initial money, even though they take a very high risk they can also gain the most. Venture capitalists come in around the growth stage, once the business is operational and looking to start commercialising, it carries a lower risk but it still integral to ensure that great ideas don’t drop off and die.
If you’ve ever wanted to become the next budding entrepreneur or Mark Zuckerberg, the NISA aims to make this process easier than it’s ever been before. With incentive for more investors to invest their money into innovative ideas this will feedback into creating a new culture that will provide more access points to investors.
Collaboration for all
The best thing to do with good ideas is to collaborate. Another focus of the NISA is to facilitate innovation through collaboration between universities and industry, which will lead to more opportunities whilst delivering meaningful research outcomes for Australia.
The Biomedical Translation Fund is one such example. It sets out to co-invest $250 million with the private sector to increase the money for commercialising medical research. The new $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund will help spin-off and startup companies to also help commercialise research from CSIRO.
Together these funds will reduce barriers to collaboration and strengthen connections between researchers and industry. Furthermore, measurements of non-academic impact and industry engagement will be used to help determine allocating ARC funding for university researchers. Building incentives to develop research that directly benefits Australia.
International collaborations will also be fostered. This means, more opportunities to place Australia at the front of the innovation race on a global scale.
Growing talent and skills in Australia
By making innovation in Australia more attractive, the NISA hopes to overcome one of the challenges for startups which is finding the talent. The government hopes that we can maintain our talent pool and attract innovators to Australia.
The short-term goal to address our shortages for talent will take form in changes with visas to encourage those who want to start up in Australia. Conversely, we want to keep people and their skills in Australia so that our existing talent and best idea ideas stay here.
Investing in an innovative future starts with investing in the younger generation. The long-term goal is to continue the interest and investment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM). $51 million is marked for implementing a digital curriculum via programs to boost digital literacy and skills in STEM.
Building the skills that are developed through coding and STEM subjects will prepare young Australians for the jobs of the future. For students: you’ll probably be doing a lot more coding in future!
Where to from here?
We know that STEM skills will be more and more valuable and sought after in the future – this agenda addresses this. It changes our way of thinking what’s possible and has the potential to revolutionise the way we do business and conduct research.
You might ask how this affects me? I’m not an entrepreneur nor do I work in research or STEM. Regardless of what stage in life you are in, it’s likely that your future will be impacted by this agenda. Increasing automation means that jobs of today may not be around in the near future. We’re also moving from a resources based economy to the knowledge and innovation economy. If the policies outlined today work to increase the level of investment in entrepreneurial ventures, the flow on effects will create industry growth and more jobs.
The NISA is just the start. As the details will be sorted out as they are implemented in 2016, we’ll be following closely to see just what impact these changes have.
Find more about the NISA here: http://innovation.gov.au/