SMEs could trump startups in boosting innovation

Microsoft has released a report calling for an urgent review of how the Australian innovation ecosystem works, in order to make the most of the burgeoning tech innovation movement.

Joined-Up Innovation outlines seven steps Australia can take to boost the fragmented innovation workforce.

The recommendations included breaking down silos within the innovation community, fixing slow-moving processes, improving knowledge sharing, proactive upskilling programs and encouraging mobility.

The third recommendation of the seven was to “look beyond startups” when it comes to innovation, as a vibrant and productive innovation system needed to transcend just young businesses.

This is despite the fact the report defined innovation as new businesses built around breakthrough ideas.

The fourth recommendation, transforming our culture, is one the Australian startup ecosystem has been campaigning about for years.

The report includes a number of cultural obstacles that are already preventing our innovation ecosystem from operating as smoothly as it could.

“These include low acceptance of business failures, which can make potential; innovators reluctant to launch ventures for fear of harming their reputations,” the report finds.

This fear of failure seems to emerge early, with president of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering Alan Finkel claiming the flow from university into startups is a pressure point.

“We’ve cut it off at the knees by having this tendency to think it’s a failure if you leave university and go into industry – and it’s a double failure if you go from university to a startup and the startup isn’t a successful one.”

The report also cited either the ‘tall poppy syndrome’ or ‘fear of being placed on BRW’s Rich List’ may be having a net result of few equivalents of Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Microsoft’s Bill Gates.

The report was created from roundtable discussions of over 15 innovation experts including Microsoft Australia’s managing director Pip Marlow, Commercialisation Australia’s Doron Ben-Meir, Australian Information Industry Association’s Suzanne Campbell, ATP Innovations’ Hamish Hawthorn and consultant Sandy Plunkett.

In a statement, Marlow says Australia had amazing strengths but untapped potential.

“But if we want to maintain – and preferably improve – our competitive position, we need to reinvent our innovation ecosystem for the information age rather than sticking with models developed in the industrial age,” Marlow says.

The report also included new findings from PricewaterhouseCoopers that demonstrate how equipping Australia’s significant small to medium sized business community with greater tech skills could increase GDP by nearly $6 billion (0.4%).

This article first appeared on StartupSmart.

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