When will we start taking our elite researchers as seriously as our elite athletes?
If Australia performed as poorly in the Olympics, as we do at translation of research, there would be public outrage. We know this because at the London Summer Olympics in 2012, we finished 10th of 205 competing countries on the medal table and this was regarded as a poor performance. As a result, to try and turn things around there have been changes in funding to the Australian Institutes of Sport and a new training model was adopted. The new model is based on the one used successfully by the UK who, most embarrassingly, finished with almost double the number of medals we won.
It is a sad indictment of our country’s priorities that, despite the fact we rank 81st of 141 countries for the translation of our research into tangible outcomes, including below Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Myanmar and Mexico, there is no public outrage.
If we left Rio de Janeiro at the end of the Olympic Games this year, with results as low as we are seeing in the innovation space, there would be public outrage and embarrassment. Heads would roll. Our ability to translate our research will determine not only our future success on the world stage but also our future economic success. The diversity and strength of our economy is dependent on our ability to create new industries, new enterprise and new revenue through new innovation and stop focusing on minor incremental change. But how will this occur if we do not take an interest and enable our universities and researchers.
We’ve heard all about the National Innovation and Science Agenda -Ideas Boom, but it’s not the ideas we have a problem with. We have a problem with turning our great ideas into something we can share with the world.