Turnbull's innovation agenda overlooks corporate sector

A new report argues that the federal government’s innovation agenda will not address “the key systemic deficiencies” surrounding corporate Australia.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull announced the launch of the agenda in December last year, with the government investing $1.1 billion to “incentivise innovation and entrepreneurship, reward risk taking, and promote science, maths and computing in schools”.

However, the Strategic Trends 2016 Report by strategy consultancy Crazy Might Work found that despite innovation being considered a strategic pillar by corporate Australia, there is no agreement on what it is, how to achieve it and how to measure it.

Furthermore, the report found there is no business ‘ecosystem’ to support innovation, and this presents a significant and untapped opportunity for the national economy.

Paul Hawkins, CEO of Crazy Might Work, said it is evident from the research that corporate Australia has a visible appetite to do more to innovate, since it recognises the intrinsic link between innovation, higher performance and a global competitive advantage.

However, he believes the innovation statement overlooks the big levers of innovation potential in corporate Australia, which he said is a vital part of the country’s economic and innovative competitiveness.

“We seem to be taking a view as a nation that innovation lives in start-ups and research houses, which is quite naive. The real capability to foster innovation is in corporate Australia, which houses most of our best and brightest commercial minds,” he said.

“[The] government should be tax-incentivising corporate Australia’s trillion-dollar super funds and corporate strategists to collaborate with start-ups. Then we would be pulling some really big levers of international, competitive innovation.

“We need to think in terms of internationally-competitive clusters and, without corporate Australia as an integrated part of the system, we are fighting with one hand behind our back.”

The report also found that the most pressing challenge for corporate Australia in the current digital economy is the ability to execute strategy in innovation successfully.

Crazy Might Work said this is particularly challenging because successful execution of strategic and innovative initiatives frequently require cross-functional collaboration, and organisations are not designed this way.

“From the leaders interviewed in the report, the message is simple: for innovation to be more than a buzzword, we need to invest in the skills, systems and collaboration structures that will make it a national competence,” the group said in a statement.

The report draws on interviews and surveys of 60 strategy leaders from a range of companies including CBA, Telstra, Qantas, BHP and Australia Post.

[Related: NAB backs govt’s innovation agenda]

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