​House of Reps Committee reopens Australian 'innovation and creativity' inquiry

The Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training has re-opened an inquiry to ensure Australia's tertiary system can meet the needs of a future labour force that is focused on innovation and creativity.
Written by Asha Barbaschow, Contributor

The Standing Committee on Employment, Education and Training has launched a new inquiry into Innovation and Creativity: Workforce for the New Economy, attempting to pick up an inquiry that lapsed when Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull dissolved Parliament in May.

Committee Chair Andrew Laming said the revised terms of reference have a renewed emphasis on public and not-for-profit incubators and accelerators, doctoral training practices, and opportunities for generating increased economic activity through greater collaboration between publicly funded research agencies.

Laming said continuing the work started by the previous Standing Committee on Education and Employment -- also chaired by him -- was important.

"An innovative and creative approach to building businesses will be a key to employing people in the future," he said in a statement.

The committee is expected to inquire into and report on matters that ensure Australia's tertiary education system -- including universities and public and private providers of vocational education and training -- can meet the needs of a future labour force focused on innovation and creativity.

The terms of reference state the committee will take a look into the extent to which students are graduating with the skills needed for the future workforce, as well as matters relating to laws and regulations that may potentially be a barrier to education providers in offering qualifications that meet the needs of the new economy.

The committee will also investigate factors that discourage close partnerships between industry, in particular small and medium enterprises, the research sector, and education providers; as well as the existing relationships between tertiary education entrepreneurship programs and public, private, and not-for-profit incubators and accelerators.

The Australian House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment kicked-off the former inquiry into Australia's international competitiveness back in February.

At the time, Laming said Australia was lagging behind other developed countries in terms of innovation performance.

"The Global Innovation Index has Australia ranked at number 17 in the world when it comes to our ability to innovate. Compared with other similar nations, Australia has a long way to go if we want to catch up and be able to support our future labour force," he said.

"Education is the strongest link when it comes to innovation and creativity. Our ability to deliver this effectively, in conjunction with industry for industry, is the premise of this inquiry."

The Senate Economics References Committee also weighed in on the innovation debate, offering the federal government five recommendations in December on how to tackle innovation.

The recommendations focused mainly on the reworking and stability of existing policies and procedures that impact innovation, as well as the importance of education in the arts, humanities, and social sciences, and also science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM).

"Nations at all levels of development have therefore put a premium on boosting innovation potential, through the quality of their knowledge infrastructure," Australia's former Chief Scientist professor Ian Chubb said in his submission to the Senate. "Many have strategies that target public investment to identified areas of priority and comparative advantage."

In December, the federal government unveiled its AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, which included a AU$110 million investment in STEM to train students for the "jobs of the future".

"Australia is falling behind on measures of commercialisation and collaboration, consistently ranking last or second last among OECD countries for business-research collaboration," Turnbull said at the time. "Our appetite for risk is lower than in comparable countries, which means Australian startups and early stage businesses often fail to attract capital to grow."

The former Standing Committee said it intended to work closely to complement the Innovation Agenda.

"The committee's inquiry will highlight the opportunities and the barriers to be overcome if Australia's creative and innovative industries are to collaborate effectively and develop the necessary culture, capital, talent and skills," Laming said previously.

"These key themes are the focus of the Turnbull government's Innovation Agenda."

The new committee is currently accepting submissions until January 13, 2017.

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