Can rethinking technology transform our economy?

Study ranks Australia as an innovation laggard, but the race isn’t over yet

It's not exactly a snail's pace, but Australia isn't really keeping up with global innovation either. Recent evaluation of 26 OECD nations has revealed that although Australia naturally lends itself to technological innovation, there is yet a way to go before the country's economy can fully capitalize on that potential.

The study was conducted by U.S.-based Forrester research and aimed to demonstrate how governments can improve their innovative strategies, and hence their economies and geopolitical statuses, by building on their comparative strengths in the global arena.

Instead of operating as single research and development entities, nations could more effectively use existing inventions, skills and services by collaborating to form multi-country innovation networks, researchers say.

Within such networks, individual countries would be required to specialize in only one or two of four roles: Inventors, who formulate new ideas; Transformers, who develop those ideas into marketable products or services; Financiers, who fund the activities of inventors and transformers; and Brokers, who bring the network together by forging relationships among partner nations.

"Essentially, not being good in one of the roles doesn't mean that you're a bad innovator," explained Navi Radjou, Vice President of Forrester Research. "You can be an innovator in different ways; in order to be a good innovator all you have to do is partner with other nations or with universities to take some great ideas or inventions to market."

Sadly, when its current situation was evaluated against other OECD nations, Australia was revealed to be somewhat of a non-performer in all four roles, oscillating between Forrester's bottom two labels: 'Contender' and 'Risky Bet'. Australia ranked 10th in the Broker category, 15th as a Financier, 17th as an Inventor, and 23rd as a Transformer.

It was a poor result for a nation that Radjou acknowledged to have excellent institutions and good government-funded research and development (R&D) agencies, as well as being well-positioned as a society with a West European-style culture that is also in close geographic proximity to Asia.

"The brain power is there, but just the raw brain power isn't enough," he said. "Where we can find limitations is [how Australia is] taking inventions and bringing them to market."

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