Research collaboration with unis “very unsatisfactory” for business

A reliance on primary industries, the impact of globalisation and replacing local manufactures with imports has led to Australia’s labour productivity growth being the lowest in 60 years, according to a new report from independent Commonwealth agency, Industry, Innovation and Science Australia.

And what we need, but aren’t getting, is research that can be commercialised.

“Despite Australia’s relatively high standing in science and research performance, and focused policy effort to support collaboration and commercialisation, industry-research collaboration and commercialisation outcomes remain low,” IISA states in a new report.

There’s a reason for that; “the dominant Australian innovation policy discourse is that universities and research institutions are the source and supply of innovation.”

But this is simply not the case, the report says. “Small and medium enterprises are the engine room of innovation in most economies. Unlike publicly funded institutions, SMEs participate in the commercial environment in which innovation outcomes are incentivised.”

And where people work at different speeds. “Businesses engage in rapid (weekly or monthly), low-cost, iterative testing of relevant assumptions on market scale, product performance and business model viability. By contrast, tertiary institutions engage in activities that are conducted over years and have few cycles, if any, focused on customer validation for value or relevance.”

Lest anyone miss the point, “initiatives designed to support industry-research collaboration presuppose the requirement to work with universities. Outcomes and commercialisation performance have been unsatisfactory.”

So what is to be done? Among a mass of recommendations, IISA has ideas to support the supply side of innovation by SMEs, including;

  • “De-coupling the requirement for industry to engage publicly funded research organisations to be eligible for government innovation support programs” Universities that do participate will need to, “address relevant questions for industry to advance innovation and commercialisation.”
  • Support researchers with entrepreneurial mindsets.
  • Independent brokers who can lower “friction costs” between industry and academia.

Fortunately, announces IISA, the time is right for change. The Universities Accord, the National Reconstruction Fund and Industry Growth Program “present an opportunity to reset national commercialisation outcome metrics and methodology through the lens of industrial transformation and growth of sovereign capabilities.”



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