Industry insights being dismissed ahead of Innovation Statement

27 November 2015

Nicola Purser , Partner, Research & Development |

Just two weeks ago I was encouraging businesses to take part in the Australian Government’s current survey of R&D Tax Incentive registrants. Yet today, I’m dismayed to report that it seems academic research is being put ahead of critical industry insights, with the Innovation Statement intended to be delivered prior to the survey being finalised.

While the Innovation Statement is expected for release on 9 December – almost two weeks following today’s release of the ACOLA report Translating research for economic and social benefit - Country comparisons - the industry survey commenced just this month as part of the broader Re:think Tax White Paper process.

It’s disconcerting that the Government is planning to announce its “revamp” of the R&D Tax Incentive prior to finalising this survey and gathering the insights from business, particularly given the ACOLA report itself highlights the need for greater collaboration with the business community.

With innovation such a critical component of Australia’s economic future, jumping the gun on innovation policy without incorporating commercial insights is incredibly inept.

In terms of specific measures, I would urge the Australian Government to consider more carefully the critical factors of expediency and promptness in commercial R&D, factors often misunderstood by academia and the public sector.

In my experience of working with Australian businesses from a wide variety of sectors, I fail to see how a move to grants and loans, which can be cumbersome, untimely and inflexible, could be seen as progressive. 

Likewise, in response to Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb’s recent comments suggesting the public sector takes a role in picking winners, I would counter that not only have governments proven notoriously bad at picking winners, this is counterproductive to the spirit of innovation and exposing new ideas to the open market to determine which are successful.