Collaboration is essential for innovation

einstein_lawWhen we think about great innovators of the digital age (Steve Jobs and Bill Gates for example) we usually overlook an important point … despite their undoubted individual brilliance they never succeeded by their efforts alone.

Like virtually all successful innovators they had very talented partners working in the background from the very beginning (Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen) reinforcing the fact that collaborators are absolutely essential for innovation to flourish!

What’s more as their fledgling enterprises grew to dominate the digital world they do today they amassed teams of talented co-workers and most importantly numerous affiliates.

So it should not be altogether surprising that the new Turnbull Government wants our industry figures to collaborate with the country’s leading research organizations and universities as a matter of urgency.

How things change. It certainly is a sign of the times when a person or associate who works jointly on an activity or project is now officially called a collaborator i.e. something everyone should aspire to being.

I can recall when the term was used exclusively to describe a person who cooperates traitorously with an enemy i.e. something no one would want to be called, and something that often lead to summary execution.

Apparently these days the term can have both these meaning simultaneously … which is an interesting situation.

Perhaps it is a due to the paradoxic nature of innovation?
(See future blogs).

But the fact is collaboration between research organizations and industry is unequivocally something the country needs if it is to become an innovative nation in the years ahead.

Government sources tell us Australia currently ranks a lowly 31st position out of the 31 OECD counties when measured on levels of collaboration between research organizations and industry.

So it is perhaps not surprising that the recently appointed head of the new Office of Innovation & Science Australia, Bill Ferris, is making this issue a primary target for improvement in the years ahead.

Of course when it comes to R&D investment Australia lags many of the leading innovative countries in terms of percentage of GDP which has also got to contribute to the current malaise. But is that the most important factor?

Bill Ferris maintains that the focus should be on improving the D in R&D i.e. the Development side of research. And I think he’s right.

This country has always thought of itself as being high on ingenuity … necessity being the mother of invention in years gone by when the infamous ‘tyranny of distance’ compelled our early settlers to look after themselves.

However the record clearly shows that in more recent times Australia has been slow or simply unable to commercialize many great new inventions. Certainly the distance to major markets may well have contributed to this situation in the past however in a globalised ‘connected’ world this simply is no longer the case.

Placing the emphasis on the D (development) does suggest, to me anyway (that at least in the short to medium term) the government’s focus should be more on fostering entrepreneurship, building supportive eco-systems and improving marketing expertise i.e. more about improving business type skills at a tertiary level than seeking to develop more inventive ideas through improved primary and secondary education in STEM subjects.

PUBLISHER: Dr Andrew M Connery 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’. A B2B marketing practitioner and SEO/SEM consultant by profession his specialty area is overcoming local search engine bias.

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