The future of Australian innovation needs new idols — a nerd contingent — to rival our sport gods, according to an AIIA roundtable yesterday.
An innovative LZR Racer Speedo suit Credit: Speedo
"We don't talk about SME's," Sheryle Moon, CEO of the Australian Information and Industry Association (AIIA) said. "We don't talk about innovation."
We aren't making enough of our Zuckerbergs and Gates, according to Emilio Robles, director at public relations firm Howorth Communications: "We do have runs on the board but we don't highlight them," he said. We need to make more of the success stories, such as Graeme Wood, founder of Wotif.com, he said. "It's highlighting the guys who made a success."
The US has just introduced the American Competes Act, which makes the country's innovation a priority, according to AIIA's Moon. It combines symbolism, money and real activity, she said.
The optimism fostered by the US innovation environment is overwhelming, Alex Teoh, CEO of start-up Mint said. "They're so bullish," he said. "They know how to sell the dream to get funds. That culture is not here."
"We're seeing the Macquaries and Babcock and Browns flourishing through their use of the overseas markets," Paul Cousins, managing director of Fujitsu SaaS Practice said. "We're not pushing our own."
Moon agreed. "Even the Speedo suit, why didn't we talk about it?" she asked, saying when it came out, everyone was discussing if it was cheating, not praising the innovation that had brought it into being. It was a great ICT innovation, she said, involving hours of computer modelling.
The government needs to use symbolism to promote ICT, Moon said, such as having the Prime Minister chair the National Innovation Council. The opposite is currently occurring, she said. "No government department allows access to Facebook: It's a symbolic gesture."