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So what the hell happened to innovation in Australia? We chat with Dr Charles Day to find out!

Innovation was at the heart of Malcolm Turnbull’s agenda in 2016.

Repeated ad nauseum in the lead up to the election and supported with a $10.1 billion investment, innovation was the shiny new basket the Australian Government was putting all of its eggs in.

But since the coalition scraped through last July, we’ve barely heard a whimper about this crucial transformation of the Australian economy (plenty though on the evils of burqas and same-sex marriage!)

So to find out a bit more we hit up Australia’s foremost innovation expert, Dr Charles Day (CEO of Innovation and Science Australia and Rhodes scolar) to give us a quick update on the state of play in Australia:

Which Australian industries are leading the way in terms of innovation?

We see good examples of innovators in a wide range of industries, so it’s not so much that particular industries are ahead or behind, but rather that particular firms are ahead or behind. For example, we see exciting developments in firms such as Textor in manufacturing, The Yield in agriculture, and Anatomics in Medical Devices.

With brain drain persisting as a problem in Australia, what does Australia need to do to keep our best minds here and attract investment from overseas?

I disagree that brain drain is a problem for Australia.

We are increasingly attractive to talented innovators from around the world, and should work to capitalise on that by ensuring we have strong innovation conditions locally and an accommodating immigration system.

At the same time, we shouldn’t lose too much sleep about talented Australians spending time overseas – they are developing valuable skills and experience, and can contribute much back to the country in future.

We just need to ensure we are an attractive destination for them to return home to!

Innovation is always held up as a virtue, but with automation displacing millions of jobs, disruptive technologies transforming the world at breakneck speed and environmental concerns growing every year – do we need to be more careful and thoughtful in our approach to innovation?

We certainly need to be thoughtful in how we adopt new technologies, but we should also recognise that innovation is the key to solving the pressing challenges we see around us in society, so it is a force we need to harness rather than one we need to fear.

Innovation will also be essential to ensure we have an improving standard of living even as our ageing population means we have relatively fewer working-age Australians to support the labour force.

What’s the current focus for Innovation and Science Australia?

Innovation and Science Australia is still a relatively “young” organisation, but we are taking a long-term perspective on developing Australia’s innovation system. Our strategic plan for the innovation system out to 2030 will be released in the near future, and we look forward to working with stakeholders from across the innovation system (government and non-government) to tackle the challenges we have identified and work together to ensure Australia reaches its full potential.

We believe Australians should be confident but not complacent as they look ahead to an innovative future.

What advice do you have for young Australians looking for a career in science and innovation?

My advice to young Australians looking for a career in science and innovation is to work hard, follow your passions, and be prepared to take some calculated risks.

The journey of innovation is generally hard, often scary, but also hugely rewarding in all sorts of ways.

Importantly it’s a team sport – so don’t think you need to be a “lone genius” – work out how to work with people whose skills are complementary to you, and you will be able to take on even bigger challenges than you ever thought possible.

Dr Charles Day will be speaking alongside renowned global speakers at the Creative Innovation 2017 event on 13-15 November at the Sofitel Melbourne.

About the author

Riordan is Techly’s News and Social Editor. He promises to tweet more at @riordanl

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