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A problem shared is a problem half-solved

Posted 7 years ago

Highly networked innovation systems allow businesses to collaborate and share ideas, resources and ideas for innovation.

Australia’s innovation system is weakly networked compared to other OECD countries.

Collaboration between business and research is low, as is the proportion of researchers in business. 

Businesses with a high capacity to absorb external knowledge can more easily adopt and adapt new ideas, resulting in better outcomes. – Australian Innovation System Report 2016

Aussies are known for rolling up their sleeves and sorting out problems themselves. We used to be a nation isolated from the world, often with few resources. Throughout our history, our supplies arrived by boat, having been manufactured elsewhere, and as a result, we didn’t have what was necessary to just “build another one” or order in parts when something broke down.

This reality led to ingenuity, which is a cousin of innovation and a friend to commercialisation. Using two sticks of chewing gum and some paperclips to keep the car running, or stuffing the tyres with grass when you get your third puncture is ingenious (and life-saving) but often not a traditional path to product innovation. Therefore, Aussies are fantastic at thinking of ways to make do with what they have at hand and getting themselves out of ‘Ship Creek’ (like in the recent AMMI commercial).

So, our previous isolation has gifted us with these skills; but with modern technology, we are now no longer as isolated… and no longer the only local problem-solver. If we want to compete in business in this new global market place we need to work together.

The ‘bush mechanics’ demonstrated ingenuity and skill when stuffing spinifex into tyres when they got a flat. This solution would get them down the road to safety. An innovation maybe, but not a product per se. It’s difficult to translate the knowledge surrounding a concept like this into a viable business. You could go on the road and deliver workshops in London and NYC on how to fix a tyre with spinifex, but that relies on access to raw materials and tacit knowledge that you just won’t find in an urban banker.

If Australian businesses are to compete in this ever-connected market place, we need to use every tool we can to survive. Global markets are street fights and the winner walks away to employ people tomorrow. Unfortunately, too many Australian companies are not realising that this global competition has come to Australia; nor that the options are getting onboard or selling up and moving on. Succeeding in the global market place means collaborating with ingenious people to refine raw ideas and start turning Australia into a powerhouse of innovative products and services.

Collaboration must be embraced because it can:

  • bring in extra skills and capacity to win projects or contracts, thus increasing competitiveness
  • increase sales via speed to market or access to new customers
  • reduce operating costs via gaining access to facilities, new supply chains or reducing input costs
  • help to develop new products or services via leveraging funding when working with universities
  • bring in new skills, market insights and new ideas via partnering with start-ups.

We need to now realise that not only do we have skills, but so does our neighbour, and together we can help get Australia out of ‘Ship’ Creek.

The Australian Government has released a report showcasing Australia’s innovation, science and research credentials and outlining a range of opportunities for international parties to partner with Australia on innovation, science and research. Download it from here.

If you would like to know more about Impact Innovation’s collaboration services and training, call us on 61 +7 3041 1128 and check out the Enterprise Access website.

– Cameron Johns, Innovation Manager

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