Personal ownership of innovation can help Australia shape Asia
If Australians are worried about our place in the 21st Century then they need to become personally involved in building it.
Many world affairs are ultimately indifferent on the livelihoods of Australians. Refugee crises that have spawned across the Mediterranean, seemingly impulsive military withdrawals that have undermined the security of millions and the non-sensical trade war between China — has for the most part unaffected Australians.
There’s naturally been ripple effects which have bounced our stability somewhat but this pales in comparison to what it’s like for many others. Through a combination of geographical isolation, integrated trading partnerships across the world and a relatively stable political and economic environment that has been mostly reacted to world events rather than instigate them — Australians have been fortunate to feel only a few bumps.
But this has led to an amount of complacency that was tolerable a few decades ago, but is now fatalistic for the next few decades. To many, there has been little incentive to lead ourselves and shift the burden of responsibility for self-growth onto our own shoulders. Now as Asia begins to seriously titrate its influence onto the global order, Australians need to place themselves at the table that will design this new landscape.
To mobilise our nation, we need to mobilise our nation’s population into self-designing and self-realising our own goals rather than belittling over the movements of other nations. To do this, Australia needs to restart its sense of innovation. We need to have a set of unique abilities that makes us unique.
It’s embarrassing that for a nation as developed as Australia that only CSL, Cochlear, Telstra and Aristocrat Leisure (a gambling company mind you) were the only Australian features in the world’s top 1000 R&D investors. Interestingly, a McKinsey & Company study has shown that investing in innovation is correlated with an increase in company profits.
A USYD study showed that the top three barriers to innovation according to board members were an access to talent, a lack of financial recourses and a short-term financial focus. Much of this is addressed in the aforementioned McKinsey study which centres on the notion that it’s up to CEOs and senior management to embed innovation into a company’s operations. One of their suggestions is a ‘green box’ — an amount of company profit that has to come from innovative investments.
There’s an underlying issue with innovation that rests on the ability of talent. Australia isn’t a magnet for emerging talent and that sense of importance has to begin with senior management — of which only 3% of board members had science and technology expertise according to the USYD study.
Failure to seriously invest in skillsets that are fruitful makes it unsurprising that while Australia ranks 8th out of 38 OECD countries for starting a new business — that 97% of them fail. This means that of the 77% of all economic growth that emerges from new businesses, it will be only the remaining 3% that generate this as described in a study by the University of Melbourne. How unsurprising then that Australia is last for start-up growth out of the 27 OECD countries measured.
It appears that much of these problems begin at the low-level of technical ability. Software provides a great opportunity for many to begin their entrepreneurial journey because of the low barriers to entry and the amount of ownership an individual can exert.
What’s great about Australian individuals learning to code is how it can bypass many of the problems that have undermined the Australian start-up ecosystem for the past few years including a crackdown on R&D tax credits and changes to the 457 visas which stimulated an inflow of international talent.
By empowering individuals to code, we’re allowing them to leverage the digitised ecosystems that millions of others across the Americas and Europe are using as well. There has never been a greater time to exact personal weight on a national issue through the use of software because of how easy and lightweight it is to get involved.
To ensure this is explicit — I’m advocating people to prioritise any ideas they have to be software based. In general, Australia’s infrastructure for supporting start-ups or young entrepreneurs isn’t mature enough to support more complex or technically sophisticated ideas.
Inconsistent federal policies has meant that companies which have been reliant on R&D tax credits or other types of subsidiaries have become effectively castrated. So then it becomes obvious — don’t rely on these external, so-called ‘supporters’.
If Australians want to have a role in shaping Asia then we need to ascend above the operational inefficiencies and individually consolidate our contribution. Allowing Australians to develop their own abilities means we enrich our nation’s global contribution. Enriching our contribution is enriching our voice.
If we want to be heard then we need to build our own microphone.