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By Alison Donnellan 24 October 2019 5 min read

Dr Stephanie Fahey, Chief Executive Officer of Austrade, Kevin Bloch, Chief Technology Officer of Cisco Systems, WiseTech Global’s Chief Growth Officer Gail Williamson, and Andrew Stevens, Chairman of Innovation and Science Australia, with Elysse Morgan of the ABC moderating the Going Global panel at D61+ LIVE 2019

Like preceding technologically-driven societal and economic shifts, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, also known as the Data Economy, is making new demands of Australia, as digital technologies, platform business models and rapid advances in the biological and materials sciences are re-defining industries, labour markets and whole societies.

The new internet-era global software giants are exploiting a powerful economic engine called the “data-network effect” and massive flows of digital information has created new infrastructure, businesses, monopolies, politics and a world of work.

This shift has ushered in a new phase of economic development, with every sector of the economy required to be agile and adaptable to this age of digital science and technology and the extensive use of data. Australia stands to gain a $315 billion boost to our economy if we seize this $10-15 trillion global opportunity, but it is a perishable if leaders across the national innovation ecosystem don’t take action now.

Digital transformation of our economy can be successful if we succeed in creating new digital products and services to seed the next generation of globally competitive industries resulting in economic growth and jobs. 

The Going Global panel at Data61’s yearly showcase event, D61+ LIVE 2019, examined what we’re doing well, the challenges we face, the solutions we need to move forward and how to take advantage of what we have.

Kevin Bloch, Chief Technology Officer of Cisco Systems

What Australia is doing well

A world-class mining industry is one of the most prominent digital innovation examples in Australia according to Kevin Bloch, Chief Technology Officer of Cisco Systems. “It’s the export of the technology of mining that we are world leaders. Autonomous vehicles from Rio and BHP that we have been involved with....”

“We’ve got an industry already that is very sophisticated on the global scale.”

According to Bloch, Australia’s ready adoption of technology is also a significant benefit, an element that places the nation in favourable position for a digital transformation, while wireless technology, a CSIRO invention, formed the basis of wifi deployment and is currently a multi-billion dollar industry that underpins numerous organisations operation models.

"We have a lot of very good engineers in this country. Software engineers, hardware engineers, wireless engineers, and system engineers," says Bloch. "We have a lot to be proud of."

What are the challenges

“The reality is, we haven’t got the mindset and culture around growth for innovation like we really should have to succeed” - Andrew Stevens, Chairman of Innovation and Science Australia.

Driving Innovation - The Boardroom Gap 2019 Innovation Study states that only 3 per cent of directors had science and technology expertise, while only 10% said they could bring any innovation or related expertise to the boardroom, and 57% did not know how much was being spent on research and development in their own companies.

“How on earth can we get enough bricks to make a digitally transformed economy wall, if we have boards that have no idea?” - Going Global panel moderator Elysse Morgan from the ABC.

One element to creating a strong digital economy is leading by example, a difficult task, says Dr. Stephanie Fahey of Austrade, considering a recurring trend is the demographic of older male board directors who see innovation as an optional extra rather than a core part of their business.

“And not many of those board directors are Asia-literate, either. So it’s not only the lack of knowledge about innovation, even if you have an innovative company, how are you going to take it to market? Because our major markets are to our north.”

What are the solutions

WiseTech Global’s Chief Growth Officer Gail Williamson

Rethinking our approach to developing products suitable for market is key, according to WiseTech Global’s Chief Growth Officer Gail Williamson.

A strategic approach that focuses on what the solution needs to be before developing the product laid the groundwork for the Australian software company, a process Williamson says required cross-functional and cross-industry collaboration.

“And the technology and the R&D is the enabler of that solution.”

Research and development is a major component in digital innovation, however,  the culture surrounding the resourcing of funds must take into consideration the cost of creating the product and taking it to market, argues Cisco’s Kevin Bloch. 

“It takes $1 to do the research, $10 to make the product, and $100 to take it to market.”

“The government and the culture is research and development, which we absolutely have to do, but if you don’t think of the $10 and the $100, then they (the innovative projects and products) sit in the cupboard, and we (Australia) have a lot of cupboards.” 

Companies who have well-coordinated funding allocation are not always ready to expand globally, with Austrade’s Dr Stephanie Fahey finding product stress testing with chosen market experts and focusing exporting efforts on a single market the strongest approach.

“You’ve got to go hard into a market, get yourself established, and from there, you can expand your market,” says Fahey.

“Some businesses who come to us want to go global, and we say ‘you’re not ready yet’, or ‘you’re technology is not globally competitive’. So then we refer them to the CSIRO.”

Dr Stephanie Fahey, Chief Executive Officer of Austrade

How to take advantage of what we have

CSIRO’s Data61 works with industry, government and academia – the D61+ Network – to bring together the best research and development capabilities to drive digital innovation at speed and scale for the benefit of Australia. In April 2019, our network model was recognised by the OECD as a global blueprint for digital and open innovation.

Our world-class research expertise includes the technologies transforming every aspect of society and the economy, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, cybersecurity, privacy, blockchain, cyber-physical systems and advanced data analytics.

We apply data-driven R&D to solve problems and create new value, helping organisations achieve competitive advantage and governments to improve service delivery for citizens.

To enquire about partnering with us, click here, or here to find out more about our Network of partners across industry, government and academia. 

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