Australia going backwards in UN innovation index

The United Nations Global Innovation Index showed Australia losing out to New Zealand, while Switzerland racked up six years in top spot.
Written by Aimee Chanthadavong, Contributor

Australia's global innovation score moved down two places in 2016, but still remained in the top 25, according to the United Nations Global Innovation Index (GII).

The index reported Australia ranked 19 out 128 countries with a score of 53.1 points. This is in comparison to last year's results where the 2015 Global Innovation Index showed Australia ranked 17 out of 141 countries with 55.2 points.

Replacing Australia in 17th spot this year was New Zealand.

In the innovation output sub-index category, Australia ranked 27th, but from an innovation input sub-index point of view, Australia came in at 11th. The index also showed Australia's innovation efficiency ratio ranked 73rd globally.

Topping the global innovation index was Switzerland for the sixth consecutive year at 66.3, followed closely by Sweden scoring 66.3 and the United Kingdom with 61.9. On the other end of the spectrum were Yemen, Guinea, and Togo respectively scoring 14.6, 17.2, and 18.4.

Australia's chief scientist Alan Finkel and ACIL Allen Consulting's John Bell wrote as part of the index that Australia's innovation system is currently in transition, pointing out the country is learning from other countries from a policy point of view, as well as from science projects that are being carried out.

"Although by population Australia is a small country, it takes advantage of the globalization of big science, finding a place on the international stage in cooperative ventures with other countries and opening itself up to interaction with scientists from around the world," they wrote.

"In doing so, it draws on the experiences of other countries in developing new policies and programmes.

"Australia, through its national innovation policies, recognizes the value of international linkages and global collaboration. It aims to harness the best talent and resources to address global challenges and to share costs of providing and maintaining leading-edge facilities and equipment, which would otherwise be prohibitive, with other participating countries.

In addition, they said Australia is looking for ways to create employment pathways for research graduates, an area in which they admit is of importance. For example, they pointed out there is the Innovation Connections that provides financial support to place publicly funded researchers in a business or a publicly funded research organisation to work on a specified project.

At the same time, they said Australia's IP rights agency IP Australia is becoming more proactive in making their information available to potential users.

Last year, the Australian government unveiled the AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda in an attempt to usher in an "ideas boom".

Over five years AU$51 million will be invested to help students; AU$13 million also over five years to encourage women to head down a digital career path; and an additional AU$127 million to establish a new research support program.

At the start of the year, the federal government announced its new Innovation and Science Australia statutory board that will be tasked with placing innovation and science at the centre of government policy making.

Private equity veteran Bill Ferris was appointed as the chair of the board, while Finkel was handed the role of deputy chair.

They are joined on the board by ANZ group executive digital banking Maile Carnegie, co-founder and CEO of Australian startup success story Atlassian Scott Farquhar, Daniel Petre from AirTree capital ventures, co-founder of SEEK and Square Peg Capital Paul Bassat, and Dr Chris Roberts from ResMed, along with Dr Michele Allan, Chancellor of Charles Sturt University, who has been reappointed.

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