We punch above our weight in science and tech research in Australia, unfortunately, the commercial returns from this great work have historically been poor. We need to build a system like the Innovation Corps run by the National Science Foundation in the US that works with researchers using lean startup methods to support more successful commercialisation. There are pockets of expertise in doing this sort of thing, but it mostly sits in accelerators that treat this as proprietary knowledge, so it doesn't spread very far. If we run it centrally, with delivery hubs around the country as the NSF does, we can improve our success rate in creating high-growth tech-based startups. By tapping into existing resources and expertise, this can be a light touch program financially, with a very large potential impact.

user picture Tim Kastelle · 2 years ago · 220 votes · 15 comments
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Sadly Australia DOES NOT punch above its weight in terms of research. That’s the line we’ve been fed for years – but it is NOT TRUE. We have appeared to “punch above our weight” primarily because the developing world – Asia, South America, India, Africa and the former Soviet Republic contributes very little to research. If we do a much fairer OECD (our peers) comparison then we are well behind. Refer our Chief Scientist Ian Chubb http://www.chiefscientist.gov.au/wp-content/uploads/OPS6-Paper-for-print.pdf Australian universities are also NOT world leaders in ground breaking research and innovation. The sooner we face up to that and formulate real plans to address the gap the better. Aust is not even in the top 100 innovative universities - refer http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/09/15/idUSL1N11K16Q20150915 A handful of very old anecdotes won’t cut it. The longer we stay in our denial the more we fall behind, as Asian university rankings continue to climb. We need to get on with real actions to address the gap.
Steve Zanon · 2 years ago
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This should be a winning idea. Why? Because by delivering a program for researchers/scientists successfully builds the connection between research and industry in Australia. How? By providing simple tools and programs such as the Lean Launch Pad (LLP) and Lean Start up to our National Innovation System. Speaking from firsthand experience in both having participated in and now delivering LLP to researchers in our National Innovation System - this is having an impact in changing mindset & culture, improving market based understanding and knowledge of where the value resides in ones tech/research project/patent. It is a great program for helping Australia improve the translation of research $ investment into commercial outcome.
Sarah King · 2 years ago
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I've heard recently that Australian engineers and technologists are rated #2 behind Norway in problem solving capabilities. Coming from an industry and business background I've generally sought the right researcher input to augment industry's problem solving capabilities and focused on identifying how to either make or save money from the solutions. This leads almost invariably to successful money-making or money-saving (is this commercialisation?), especially if one adds in an 80/20 analysis to ensure we understand whether a smaller part of the total innovation can deliver the greater part of the economic, social or environmental outcomes. Maybe our national Innovation systems could benefit from some additional emphasis on seeking the right research for the opportunity rather than seeking the right opportunity to use the research. Just a thought.
Ian Dover · 2 years ago
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I would like to see the programme rewarded with a low % interest in the equity of the venture. Eg 3-5%. Lean yes. Should be regional as well as big cities.
Richard Ferrers · 2 years ago
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A working example of this in Australia is VCAMM which calls itself an Intermediary Technology Organisation. For example they helped put Australia on the international Carbon Fibre map.
Phil Morus · 2 years ago
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Just attended a lean startup event in Wellington hosted by Creative HQ. Topic of leveraging commercial applications discussed at length by the attendees, many of whom strive for the public good in their work. Counterpoints made by attending venture capitalist dealt with issues of IP and ownership. Topic turned quickly into discussion of the dampening effect VC behaviour has on getting the 'right end result'. Outcome was around using the disciplines of design thinking + lean startup build-measure-learn to promote better uplift of successful end products. My caveats are around effective stage-gating of innovation funding and avoiding too many startups of either similar nature or indifferent end user impact. Australia has the right sort of profile to come up with its version of Innovation Corps: it's a less difficult prospect than what was done in the US. Their results demonstrates it can be done.
Rohan Light · 2 years ago
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I agree with all of that Philip. And I'm not advocating copying at all - but rather adapting, which is how good innovation often works! The key point is that this is one approach that effectively connects research with industry at the early stage, so that research outcomes are more closely connected with genuine market needs.
Tim Kastelle · 2 years ago
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Tim, been at the interface between gov/uni/private sector - key observation - one of the reasons for the failure of commercialisation in this country are the fundamental gaps between the three - interventions disproportionally favouring/designed for one sector rather than meeting the needs of all three. AKA interventions to date being primarily driven from a top down /centralised programmatic view taken by Universities/Gov. Innovation Centres/Hubs have been created and most of the money has gone into a shinny new building and the admin of a centrally developed program. Not saying their shouldn't be any. But cannt just simply do as we have done before - nor simply copy someone else s program. We should be avoiding simply building innovation centres and programs for the sake of it without first addressing the significant gaps between the sectors involved - aka - simple things such as alignment of research cycles to industry etc etc.
philip browning · 2 years ago
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Should it only be for successful commercialisation? Why not more specifically for economic or social success? I became I scientist to contribute knowledge to improve Australian and global economies and societies - I wish to avoid as many commercial agendas as possible.
Marcus Newton · 2 years ago
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Absolutely, this is a no-brainer, must be done for Australia to remain relevant as a developed economy. This will be the future!
Retha Scheepers · 2 years ago
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