Innovation can be a difficult concept to put a finger on, even – it seems – when it is part of your ministerial portfolio.
The Federal Government announced on Monday a $1.1 billion package to fund the “ideas boom” of the next four years.
“Our innovation agenda is going to help create the modern, dynamic 21st Century economy Australia needs,” Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said.
But it seems much of the nuts and bolts still require some ironing out.
Asked at a National Press Club address on Tuesday to define innovation, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne seemed unable to provide a direct answer.
“Obviously the Treasury, the Tax Office and others will be advising the government about these things,” he said.
“Innovative businesses are typically small startups that are finding it hard to attract investment and venture capital from the usual financial lenders.
“Because our banks, as much as we love them, they are very conservative, they are very risk averse and they haven’t had to be very risk enabling.”
But what do people in the industry actually think their field is? The New Daily put this question to some industry leaders.
Brad Furber, University of New South Wales Michael Crouch Innovation Centre
“In its essence innovation is about finding a better way,” according to Michael Crouch Innovation Centre’s Brad Furber.
Small or big ideas could prove to be game-changers, but people were most interested in ‘transformative’ or ‘disruptive’ ideas.
“[Disruptive innovation] changes the rules of the game,” he told The New Daily.
“Of course transformation is the true game-changer, which is coming up with something that is a breakthrough.”
Surprisingly, large companies with the means to create innovation were often the most resistant as the defended the “status quo … and new technology could disrupt them”.
“If you have a mind that says I am open to new ideas, I am open to improvements, I am open to challenging the status quo, if you are open to that you can encourage innovation,” he said.
John Innes, Business Innovation Group director
Business Innovation Group (BIG) seeks out these ‘disruptive’ technologies, with the commercial potential to be applied across the world.
“[For BIG innovation] has got to be a game-changing business model, or it has got to disrupt the industry,” BIG director John Innes said.
“To be a disrupter means you are totally rewriting the ground rules for that industry, that means new revenue models, the old rules just don’t apply.
“You aren’t bound by the history of the past 20, 30, 40, 50 years.”
Big companies find it difficult to cope with innovation, he said, because of laborious internal processes to approve previously untested products.
“It creates niche markets and that is where the smalls guys can absolutely disrupt,” he said.
Ian Scott, Inventor
Ian Scott is part of the group of individuals, businesses and organisations driving new ideas and told The New Daily anyone is capable of innovation.
“Innovation is something that is a need in the community, be it a product or a service, that is not available but needed,” he said.
The 87-year-old Adelaide resident is proof of this – four years ago he developed an ‘oyster schucker holder’ which allowed the everyday person, without specific knowledge of the industry, to safely enjoy the marine snack.
“It was missing in the industry,” he said.
“There is no real limit to innovation, because we as a society are changing in our knowledge and needs of processes and products … what we need today is opening the door to innovation.”