Sunday, March 15, 2009

Short Review of "Rethinking Australian Innovation" (Gillies)

Short Review of "Rethinking Australian Innovation" (Gillies) Professor Malcolm Gillies, President, Council of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, 17 August 2005 -Canberra, National Press Club Address

I recall during attendance of graduate studies at UOW in Australia more than a few social scientists had mentioned that many Australian PhDs eventually migrate to the US for long-term employment and/or research incentives due to higher returns on the innovation investments made there. UOW appeared to see resolution of out-migration of academics in the attraction of Indian and Chinese in-bound migrants to replace them on a cycle of perhaps shorter-term contracts and incentives as well as perhaps national costs savings when comparing the losses in out bound migration.

This transcript reminds me of the theoretical divide between social sciences and technology in terms of innovation. Gillies asks the question, "Is it the ideas and technology that transfer, or is it the people who are the best agents for that transfer?" Hypothetically it could and should be both. Global integration of technology such as the internet could not have taken place if the people who use it and operate it did not move around enough to install and apply it where it is now fairly common place.

I agree with Professor Gillies' assessment that new processes, and new management systems should be cross-functionalizing skills and abilities from disparate research realms with new technologies which more quickly integrate ideas not only to determine the best ones but to generate ones which have yet to be considered or applied.

He describes scientific skill shortages in a similar way to those described in Canada. However whoever is compiling the list of shortages never appears to adequately advertise or even indicate where those jobs are available either quickly enough to permit re-training or clear identification of opportunities which require applicants. His suggestion that incentives be reset is a valid and commendable one.
I would say national HR shchemas should gather more current research to provide students with better information which ensures their training will match jobs available in their fields of study upon graduation.

Many social sciences graduates perhaps the majority of them never get the opportunity to functionalize their skills in their subject areas in actual working environments. At the same time, the costs of their educations often cause them to take responsiblities more comparable to those skills required of merely highschool graduates. At the same time governments in many developed countries mistakenly mis-evaluate the actual economic clout of creative arts and entertainment industries in calculating whether or not social sciences graduates are actually participating and thus not wasting their skills attained.

While Gillies describes less than 10% of national research funding actually researches and develops social sciences innovations it would be interesting to survey the actual real populations of Australia and other OECD nations percentages of social sciences graduates who actually particiate in technology-based businesses and research already. I am certain that indirectly they represent a larger than anticipated proportion of technology-based business successes if we are evaluating based on people skills and relationship building. Particularly in filling the gaps in business knowledge, market analysis and supervisory assistance which technologists simply lack through having little to no business or management training as described by Meyer in my previous review.

In his description of 0.8 % of GDP spent in Australia on R&D Gillies fails to question if whether similar nations such as Canada provide much higher actual percentages especially when a company like Northern Telecom (currently in bankruptcy protection) is said to represent as much 50% of total national R&D in Canada? Could the problem also be linked to that with discouraged regulations related to lowered levels of vertical integration or local content restrictions among OECD nations also pehraps indicated by an outflux of academics from all of these nations to the US? Is the US not only where a large proportion of global head offices reside but also conducting a lion's share of global research and development?

His description of "empowerment of talent" as in the case of Singapore provides a good benchmark model for OECD nations everywhere to meet or beat the US competition in terms of incubator financial support, business networks, tax breaks and incentives and so on. However it would be tough to beat in market research development. So should not the Australian perspective not focus on redirecting its research aims by networking its efforts for example with growing BRIC nations?

Would it not then be somewhat beneficial for government to support business and university innovation programs not only through identifying key developments but also providing greater research and employment incentives to business graduates, for example, willing to assist technologists on teams-based learning projects similar to cellular manufacturing processes under operational contract terms and goals?

Overall the transcript is informative and emphasizes scope for real discussion on the terms of innovation drivers in Australia for today and hopefully tomorrow.

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