Commercialisation is the engine that Australian businesses need to drive future resilience and speed up a technology-led recovery from COVID-19, a report by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Business Council of Australia (BCA) has found.
Published on Tuesday, the report [PDF], Unlocking the innovation potential of Australian companies, identifies some of the current barriers to commercialisation include low levels of cross-sector commercialisation, lack of comprehensive innovation strategy, culture misalignment, and talent and skills capability mismatches.
The report said several BCA members consulted described Australia's research translation and commercialisation landscape as "fragmented, uncoordinated, and lacking in sufficient scale".
"They emphasised a lack of consistent and ambitious national strategy and planning as a barrier to industry achieving greater commercial outputs from science and technology," it said.
Other feedback from BCA members included the belief that government bodies could play a greater role in providing leadership direction and policy certainty on national-level economic development.
Additionally, another major challenge to commercialisation at scale is exacerbated by the lack of concerted strategy and targeted investment is the concept of the "valley of death", the report noted.
"While there are often strong levels of public sector investment in early-stage research and strong levels of private sector investment in the late-stage commercialisation of proven technologies, there is often a gap in investment in the middle stages of technology development," it said.
"This investment gap is known as the 'valley of death' where, because of a disconnect between research and industry, there can be insufficient public or private investment or support to advance research discovery to a final commercial product."
The report also offers strategies on how Australian businesses can overcome these barriers, based on interviews with businesses such including Microsoft, Google, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Telstra, Atlassian, and Cochlear. Some of these steps it advises include collaborating with researchers, investing in R&D, embracing a so-called culture of innovation, developing an innovation strategy, and investing in skills and talents.
Published alongside the report is a matrix [PDF] that covers nearly 40 key questions across six key areas that businesses can use to shape their innovation agenda.
"Australia has the potential to lead the world in a few key markets by harnessing the power of science-driven innovation, using it to 'build back better' from the pandemic and embed resilience to future disruptions into their very DNA," CSIRO chief Larry Marshall said.
"Commercialisation is an engine that will drive us to a technology-led recovery, but innovation takes a team. To really deliver on a bold, technology-led recovery, we will need business and research driving together to win."
CSIRO and BCA also took the opportunity to reinforce that if Australia does not address innovation challenges and improve its competitiveness, there's a risk of being left behind.
"Australian businesses are some of the most adaptive in the world, and our research institutions are globally respected. As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, we have to take a Team Australia approach to double down on our advantages, drive commercialisation and turn our ideas into jobs," BCA chief Jennifer Westacott said.
"We can't afford to be a nation that gives away our best ideas away to be scaled up and commercialised overseas."
Also on Tuesday, the NSW government announced the latest addition to join Tech Central would be a flagship AU$25 million Sydney manufacturing hub. To be based in the University of Sydney's engineering campus, the hub will provide capabilities for design, 3D printing of metals, ceramics, and polymers, as well as post-processing heat treatment, and other advanced manufacturing technologies.
"Western Sydney in particular has a thriving manufacturing industry and supporting the future of the industry by partnering with our leading advanced manufacturing researchers will ensure that NSW manufacturers are able to innovate for the future and meet seemingly impossible challenges head-on," NSW Minister for Trade and Industry Stuart Ayres said.
"Developing NSW's capability in advanced and additive manufacturing is a crucial step in positioning our state to be a global force in industries such as aerospace, autonomous vehicles, biotechnology, defence and maritime technology, and robotics."