How innovation can power a healthy economy

Just say "start-up" and the eyes of most aspiring entrepreneurs and not a few columnists will light up at once.

For them the term conjures up a vision of the dazzling wealth and global fame awaiting whoever leads the next phase of technological innovation.

But for more established corporate executives, the "start-up" label might carry overtones of threat. Put "start-up" together with "innovation" and you have the ingredients of what Michael Smith, writing in the Australian Financial Review on February 1, referred to as "creative destruction", borrowing a notion coined by the mid-20th century economist Joseph Schumpeter.

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BUDGET CUTS SCIENTIFICALLY NEGLIGENT

IT takes real nerve to present the Abbott Government's massive cuts to science, research and innovation funding as an achievement, but Industry and Science Minister Ian Macfarlane (Talking Point, Mercury, January 6) has once again shown he is not one to let facts get in the way of a good story.

In an article purportedly about the home-porting of the RV Investigator in Hobart, Mr Macfarlane showed a distinct lack of grace in failing to mention that construction of the vessel was funded by the former Labor government.

As innovation minister in that government, I was particularly proud to make the announcement, having spent many years pursuing various Howard government ministers about the desperate need to replace the decrepit RV Southern Surveyor Australia's only bluewater research vessel.

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National innovation agenda essential for manufacturing

For the first time since the Industrial Revolution, increases in technological capacity are leading to increases in productivity but not necessarily in employment and average income.

The development of robotics and of 3-D printing is changing the nature of manufacturing and cannot be ignored. The challenge is to harness these advances so that they generate, rather than shrink, jobs and wealth.

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Turbulence ahead for Pyne's dog-eat-dog model

Any presumption that Labor’s opposition to the Abbott Government’s higher education changes is an exercise in revenge politics or knee-jerk negativity is wildly off the mark. Nor is it driven by political expedience or populist appeal.

Labor opposes the higher education bill because it is a deeply flawed policy. It vastly increases the cost of a university degree and shifts that financial burden on to students. This is particularly unfair on disadvantaged young people and mature-age students.

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Saving manufacturing by first killing it

Earlier this month the chief executive of the ANZ Bank, Mike Smith, gave Australian manufacturers the benefit of his wisdom on the country’s economic future.

Mr Smith said that the death of the car industry was an inevitable part of the transformation of the economy to meet the needs of the 21st century.

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Christopher Pyne must draw a line under his failed reform agenda

Christopher Pyne isn’t fooling anyone – except perhaps himself. The Education Minister is trying to sound like a willing and reasonable negotiator on the package of higher education changes announced in the budget.

It’s better to have 80 per cent of something, he says, than nothing at all. So if he can‘t get his package through the Senate intact he’ll make some concessions to get most of it through.

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Science research grants awarded on the basis of patents is patently wrong

Ian Macfarlane had a Brandis moment this week when he called for grants to be awarded on the basis of patents rather than scientific articles. Like the attorney-general trying to explain metadata, the Australian industry minister waded into waters where he was completely out of his depth.

When it comes to giving taxpayers’ money to researchers, he said:

We might think about realigning block grants to commercial outcomes, and awarding them to universities not on the basis of how many papers they’ve had published, but actually on how many patents they’ve had registered.

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Pyne pays for ignoring the lessons of history

Anyone with a strong interest in higher education policy and a clear memory of 1999 would have had a strange feeling of déjà vu on Budget night.

As the Abbott Government unveiled its higher education package on May 13, the response might well have been:  “Now, where’ve I heard that before?”

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Higher education mustn’t mean a second mortgage

At about the same time Tony Abbott began his visit to the United States, a US congresswoman issued a grim assessment. 

“Young people can’t buy homes, can’t start small businesses, can’t buy cars, can’t take the economic steps that are not just good for themselves individually but good for the economy overall.” 

Why not? Student debt, said Senator Elizabeth Warren.

“Student loan debt is dragging down the whole economy,” she said. And it is, too, to the tune of $US1.2 trillion. 

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Abbott's ideology out in the open as Budget day looms

In Broadmeadows, on Melbourne’s outer industrial edge, last Friday a new $257 million biotech research and development facility specialising in a range of life-saving drug therapies for rare and serious diseases, including cancer, was unveiled. 

As the former Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, and a backer of the project when it was first announced in 2010, I was delighted to be there and to see the results of Labor’s $50 million co-investment in CSL Behring’s new, world-class facility.

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