none

REBUILDING INNOVATION REQUIRES A LEAD FROM GOVERNMENT

14-09-2018
by 
in 

Since Industry Update last published Australia has acquired a new Prime Minister and yet another Industry and Science Minister.

I congratulate Karen Andrews, the sixth person to take responsibility for the portfolio since 2013.

These ministers have not all had the same title. Minister Andrews’ title reverts to the traditional “Industry and Science”, and it is good to see that science has a voice at the Cabinet table.

But a notable and regrettable omission from her title is the word “innovation”.

We have come full circle. After being virtually banned from Government discourse under Tony Abbott, then returning enthusiastically but briefly under Malcolm Turnbull, the word “innovation” has been dropped once more.

Why make a missing word into an issue? Because of the challenges confronting Minister Andrews, and the Morrison Government in the time that is left to it.

According to the most recent ABS and OECD data (2015-16), Australia’s Gross Expenditure on Research and Development (GERD) has dropped to 1.88 per cent of GDP.

That is down from 2.10 per cent in 2013 and 2.12 per cent in 2011. The OECD average in 2016 was 2.34 per cent of GDP.

When the GERD figure is broken into its component parts, the trend is relentlessly downward.

Business Expenditure on Research and Development (BERD) dropped from 1.18 per cent of GDP in 2013 to 1.00 per cent in 2015.

Government Expenditure on Research and Development (GOVERD) slid from 0.21 per cent of GDP in 2014 to 0.19 per cent in 2016, and Higher Education on Research and Development (HERD) was just 0.58 per cent of GDP in 2015, down from 0.63 per cent in 2013.

These figures reveal a nation that is not investing in its future.

Without investment in R&D, we cannot broaden our knowledge base as an advanced industrial society. Our participation in the global economy will decline, and we will be less and less able to create new, high-skill, high-wage jobs.

The Government has been reluctant to take an active role in reversing the decline in R&D, not only through its own direct investment but through support for innovation programmes, higher education and the publicly funded research agencies.

Since 2013, a net $2 billion has been cut from science, research and innovation (SRI) programmes.

The Turnbull Government did not have the political will to refund and rebuild the national innovation system that was shredded by the Abbott Government’s 2014 budget.

And, with all the political turmoil of the past month, the Morrison Government has given no indication that industry and science policy are high on its priorities either.

The complex changes to the R&D Tax Incentive set in the 2018 budget have caused concern among industry stakeholders about a further withdrawal of support for R&D, which is why Labor will refer the legislation to a Senate inquiry when it is introduced.

When Government is not willing to invest in R&D, there is less incentive for private business to do so. There is a less certain environment for investment generally, and some firms will be tempted to take their R&D overseas.

The national innovation system must be rebuilt, but that will not happen if the government of the day is not resolved to do it and willing to make the necessary investment.

Anyone involved in manufacturing knows how rapidly technology is changing the workplace, and how our ability to participate in what has been called Industry 4.0 – the fourth industrial revolution – will determine Australia’s share of global economic activity.

Government must work with business, unions, universities and research institutes to ensure that Australia is primed for Industry 4.0.

It is a role that only government can undertake, and building an effective national innovation system will be required for it to happen.

So the lack of that single word “innovation” in Minister Andrews’ title is cause for concern, if it indicates the Morrison Government’s broader agenda.

Choosing to leave “innovation” out of the minister’s title is like choosing to leave out a vision for the future.

Senator Kim Carr is the Shadow Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research.

 

Related news & editorials

  1. Ed Husic
    28.04.2021
    28.04.2021
    by      In
    As someone who has been a big believer in the power of Australian ideas and the capability of our people, I cannot tell you how honoured I was in January to be appointed Shadow Minister for Industry and Innovation. 
     Most of the focus of my parliamentary career has veered towards the arena of... Read More
  2. ‘The YARDS’ precinct in Kemps Creek promises to be a benchmark in Australian industrial development and cements the region as a key distribution hub in New South Wales.
    04.03.2021
    04.03.2021
    by      In , In
    A $1 billion major industrial and logistics community project is set to begin construction in Western Sydney.
    ‘The YARDS’ precinct in Kemps Creek promises to be a benchmark in Australian industrial development and cements the region as a key distribution hub in New South Wales.
    The project is... Read More
  3. Karen Andrews
    04.03.2021
    04.03.2021
    by      In , In
    Australia’s rare earths and critical minerals were described as leading global assets, in a new grant program announced today from Tomago in the NSW Hunter region. 
    These comments were made as Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews, along with Prime Minister Scott Morrison,... Read More
  4. Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology
    02.03.2021
    02.03.2021
    by      In , In
    We make great things in Australia and we make them well. 
    And as the Prime Minister and I have been saying, we want to continue to make great things here. 
    That belief is central to our Modern Manufacturing Strategy, and indeed all of the policy decisions we make to support our manufacturers.
    When ... Read More
Products
Suppliers