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2 December 2020 News Release

Thriving through innovation: Lessons from the top, produced by CSIRO in partnership with The University of Queensland, can help businesses navigate the uncertainty caused by the economic impacts from COVID-19 – and plan for this new normal, using evidence-based insights.

A detailed survey gathered data about innovation practices from executives and senior leaders in ASX-listed companies.

Using advanced statistical approaches, the report linked their responses to real-world financial performance, revealing four factors that drive success:

  • Corporate entrepreneurship – The most important factor, comprising risk taking behaviour, innovative thinking and proactiveness to be bold for innovation-driven growth.
  • Innovation novelty – Being first in the market with innovations that are new to the world or to Australia.
  • Collaborative breadth – Co-creating innovations with a range of collaborators including customers and research agencies.
  • Triple threats – Making changes to products, processes and business models simultaneously to fully unlock and protect value from innovation investments.

Focusing on these key factors can help companies launch successful new products, enter new markets, and create new industries.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said innovative businesses were essential to Australia’s recovery from COVID-19.

"When science solves a seemingly impossible problem, it can create a whole new market that didn’t exist before and that grows the pie bigger for everyone," Dr Marshall said.

"Collaboration on science-driven innovation drives real economic growth, new jobs, and will grow us out of the COVID recession."

CSL Limited is an Australian biotech company working on the safe and effective manufacture of two vaccine candidates in the fight against COVID-19.

CSL Chief Scientific Officer Dr Andrew Nash said rapid advances in science and medicine made constant innovation a critical business practice for biotechnology companies.

"In our business, if you’re not innovating, you’re managing your exit," Dr Nash said.

"The role that science is playing in the battle against COVID-19 has demonstrated the importance of being able to respond quickly, to re-purpose infrastructure and bring together collaborations in a way that addresses new challenges through novel solutions.

"We've been extremely heartened by the spirit of collaboration and openness that the pandemic has precipitated across industry and academia.

"Echoing the findings of this report, we hope these developments serve as a blueprint for future endeavours."

Partner at Main Sequence Ventures, which manages the CSIRO Innovation Fund, Phil Morle, said the time was right for Australian companies to embrace innovation.

"The most innovative companies in the world have emerged from a creative, courageous surge that comes from times of struggle," Mr Morle said.

"Our world now has many problems to solve.

"These problems lead to opportunities.

"It is a potent moment for business leaders to unlock entrepreneurial talent in their organisations, begin some unusual collaborations and watch the unexpected new sprouts of growth emerge."

CSIRO works with small and large business across the various stages of the innovation lifecycle. We apply our research to help Australia and the world innovate, improve and grow.

A full copy of the survey is available at

The survey was part of a suite of reports CSIRO’s Futures team have released on the importance of science and technology in our economic recovery. 

  • The COVID-19: Recovery and resilience report outlines the medium and long-term innovation investment opportunities for Australian industries to drive economic recovery and build future resilience.
  • The Value of science and technology report shows why innovation investment is important and outlines the barriers and solutions when navigating the innovation cycle.

Expert commentary

Associate Professor Tim Kastelle is Director of Entrepreneurship & Innovation at The University of Queensland Business School.

"Every CEO, senior leader, and Board Member will say that they want their organisation to be innovative," Professor Kastelle said.

"But most are unwilling to actually change the way their organisations think and act. And without changing behaviour, there’s no change in outcomes.

"This report does a terrific job of not just laying out why building an innovation capacity is so important, but also in illustrating how to go about changing the mindsets and behaviours that enable innovation."

Professor Michael Roseman from the Queensland University of Technology is an applied researcher with a passion for corporate innovation ecosystems.

"Despite recognising its importance, we are still a long way away from innovation-as-usual," Professor Roseman said.

"In too many cases, innovation is still seen as costly, failure-intensive and even not required.

"Reports like this one, have the power to provide leaders with the evidence they need to set their innovation priorities.

"Beyond this, I have hope that this report will also guide the much-needed new generation of innovation professionals as it clearly spells out essential capabilities."

Dr Edgar Brea, Senior Research Fellow for the Australian Institute for Business and Economics at The University of Queensland is co-author of the survey report.

"It is no secret that COVID-19 is forcing many businesses to rethink their products, services and business models, making innovation a necessity rather than a choice," Dr Brea said.

"To boost innovation activity in the country, businesses must be informed about the benefits of innovation, what strategies work and under what circumstances. With this report, we aim to take a step in this direction."


How top ASX companies innovate to succeed ©  CSIRO
The road to sustained financial gains.
CSL Chief Scientific Officer Dr Andrew Nash
Partner at Main Sequence Ventures, Phil Morle.
Keep up by adopting cloud and mobile.​ Or strive for the top and invest in game-changing technologies like cognitive computing and block chain
CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall

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