Breaking the rules … and being misunderstood


The new Turnbull Government is seemingly committed to fostering innovation in this country; but is this policy really practical or is it purely political rhetoric?

Let me start off by putting it on the record that I am 100% behind the notion of promoting research and funding the commercialisation of new ideas in Australia.

However, the new Minister for Innovation, Christopher Pyne, has already highlighted the fact that as a nation we are coming last out of 31 OECD countries in terms of university / industry collaboration rankings which strongly suggests to me the government acknowledges that we have an awful lot of work to do in this area.

As someone who has been actively involved in the R&D field since 2001 I must confess that I still remain to be convinced; that is despite my willingness to accept the Canberra-driven campaign at face value.

Let’s examine my concerns here. These are what I consider are the five fundamental requirements involved for any inventor / researcher to make innovation really happen.

In order … (and incidentally you need all of them), the innovator must:

1) Have a great idea … (the easy part)

2) Access to adequate locally-based equity funding and government support (still a long way to go)

3) Possess the courage to question traditional mores and the willingness to knowingly break rules and customs to achieve necessary break-throughs (my personal experience suggests this is a major, and often un-surmountable, hurdle for would-be innovators working within large research organisations)

In addition, innovators require a supportive eco-system to sustain them, specifically delivering:

4) Culture change. The political acceptance of numerous short term losses and regular large scale failures in return for a small number of massive long term successes. Failure rates of over 95% for all new innovations are the rule world-wide and will likely discourage on-going investment by successive more risk-averse future institutions (top-down culture change is always a challenge and the bigger the organisation – government and/or university – the bigger the challenge)

5) Overcoming temporal concerns. It usually takes 10 years or more for a truly disruptive innovation to evolve from its initial inception through to final commercial acceptance, (given the electoral cycle on-going Government support is not assured – in fact, based on history, it is highly unlikely)

To my mind to become a successful innovator in this country requires some essential personal characteristics.

The individual must be an ‘exceptional’ (talented and multi-skilled) person. In addition they must single-mindedly strive to realise their personal goals despite the plethora of challenging hurdles – which are obvious to most observers, including themselves.

Here’s to being Exceptional in Australia!


PUBLISHER: Dr Andrew M Connery is the Director of Innovation at CTPM Australasia and has been active online since 2001. Andrew completed his PhD at the UOW’s Sydney Business School in 2015 his doctoral dissertation ‘Overcoming Barriers to the Introduction of Perceived Disruptive Innovations in to Rigid Efficient Systems’.

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