Australia needs more inventions
“Each year Australia was granted just 18 patents per million people, compared to 53 patents per million people in the United States and 90 per million in Sweden” according to an article in the SMH yesterday (click here to read it). Professor Brian Schmidt, an astrophysicist and Nobel prize winner, and Ian Chubb, Chief Scientist of Australia, bemoaned the poor rate of commercialisation of Australian discoveries. Peter Beattie, former Premier of Queensland and now a director of the Medical Research Commercialisation Fund, urged super (pension) funds to invest more and Professor Schmidt pointed to a lack of expertise and infrastructure.
However, the Australian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association (AVCAL) lists 20 venture capital (VC), incubator, and angel firms and has over 50 private equity members. The Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education describes its role as working ‘with our stakeholders to help shape the future economy, through skills, learning, discovery and innovation”. In 2010, this department announced funding of over $160m for VC funds to “help early-stage high-growth Australian companies commercialise their research”. In the 2012 Global Innovation Index, Australia’s overall ranking was 23rd out of 141 countries.
Clearly capital and expertise are available but a ranking of 107th out of 141 for Innovation Efficiency, the number of inventions given the regulatory environment and skills available, implies there are barriers to Australia’s ability to commercially innovate.
In an era of exponentially advancing technologies as a result of communications abundance, overcoming these barriers will be key to maximising Australia’s participation.