Innovation: the key to unleashing Australia’s potential

By Larry Marshall

3 August 2017

The ‘Outback Rover’, a prototype autonomous vehicle, helps to calibrate satellites for the European Space Agency.

Over the past decade, science, technology and innovation have become increasingly important to Australia’s foreign policy, and the foreign policies of our major trading partners.

Australia is lucky enough to have a collection of prodigious scientific minds acting as ambassadors for our nation’s innovation expertise. They connect us to global knowledge and boost our influence in the world.

As the national research agency, we play a significant role in Australia’s international engagement and provides advice that supports decision-making across the Government’s international engagement agenda.

For example, the challenges facing governments today often have a technical dimension and the solutions regularly rely on scientific research at a global scale in areas such as renewable energy, digital disruption, cybersecurity, environmental change, the re-invention of manufacturing & mining, and food security.

Australia’s research and technology sector delivers these solutions and I’m pleased that we, as part of this group, is able to contribute our expertise to the development of Australia’s forthcoming Foreign Policy White Paper.

The Government looks to Australian research and industry to push the boundaries of knowledge into new places. It rightly expects our science to enable innovation to be globally competitive, drive productivity growth and re-invigorate established industries; as well as create new industries based on emerging science and technologies.

Unlike Vegemite or WiFi, the green whistle is one iconic Aussie innovation you don’t ever want to use - but it’s good to know it’s there when you need it!

We helped Medical Development International move into the European market by creating a new, scalable and reliable manufacturing process for their Penthrox ‘green whistle’ pain-relieving drug.

This is why we have identified ‘Global Outlook: National Benefit’ as a key pillar of our Strategy 2020, where our vision is to be Australia’s innovation catalyst and boost our country’s innovation performance. In alignment with the government, we’re delivering connectivity to the global science and technology frontier; as well as accessing new markets for Australian innovation.

To support this mission, our dedicated Global division is building strong partnerships with our colleagues in internationally-focused government departments, particularly DFAT and Austrade.

We have worked in more than 100 countries in 2016 and we are expanding our footprint offshore to help facilitate the two-way flow of ideas and innovations between Australia and the rest of the world.

Solar field with sun reflected in mirror

Our solar technology will be used for a heliostat field in Japan.

The doors to our office in the United States’ Silicon Valley will soon be open, placing Australia’s scientific expertise in a market that’s accustomed to and hungry for accelerated invention. By providing a gateway to the US for our industry and research partners we can unleash Australia’s potential and facilitate investment into our economy through commercialised innovation. We are also working on an expanded footprint in South East Asia and China in 2017/18.

Australia is great at invention. We are already a global leader in a range of research areas, and our discoveries are used daily in all corners of the globe – including fast WiFi, the world’s best cotton, extended wear contact lenses and polymer banknotes.

We need to translate more of our inventions into international partnerships and investment opportunities so our unique, home-grown ideas can make the world a better place for everybody. The White Paper will guide us to achieve this by providing a roadmap and the focus we need to boost Australia’s international engagement.

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