Its Value of Science and Technology Report identified five key barriers to realising value from innovation as well as suggested several solutions, based on interviews with private and public sector leaders and extensive analysis of trends in the Australian economy.
It found that business investment in innovation has declined by 30 per cent in the past decade as businesses seek long-term clarity on what to invest in and are instead investing smaller amounts on shorter-term goals.
The report found that Australia struggles to commercialise breakthroughs in the lab into innovative products in market, exacerbated by a cultural aversion to risk and low collaboration between research and industry.
The CSIRO said that while Australian education is high quality by international standards, it doesn’t have a culture of ongoing training for employees outside of formal education.
Further, businesses were found to be investing in keeping up with competitors in Australia, but rarely kept up with overseas competitors, placing them behind them on customer value and productivity gains.
Another trend was the general wariness of new technologies, whereby investing in innovation could be seen as the road to automating jobs, widening the gap between the most profitable and least profitable businesses, and resulting in big royalties for a few but bigger losses for others.
CSIRO Futures lead economist Dr Katherine Wynn said while there are barriers to innovation, they can and need to be overcome if Australia is going to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Science and technology have always played a key role in supporting Australia’s growth and productivity, with examples in this report like cochlear hearing implants, Google Maps, canola for biofuel, PERC solar cells and X-ray crystallography,” Dr Wynn said.
“But as investment in innovation has dropped in recent years, we’ve seen our economy start to slow and weaken, and now we’ve been hit with COVID-19, so science and technology are more critical than ever.
“If businesses act now, there are plenty of opportunities to enhance how they navigate the innovation cycle and realise greater value from their investments, including improved productivity, protection from market shocks, stronger international competitiveness, and social and environmental benefits.”