​Parliamentary committee recommends innovation agenda be reviewed

The final report by an inquiry into Australia's Future in Research and Innovation has called for a three-year review of the federal government's National Innovation and Science Agenda, less than six months after it was announced.

The Australian Trade and Investment Growth Parliamentary Committee has recommended the federal government review the initiatives introduced as part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda after three years of operation to determine its effectiveness and whether the programs should be expanded.

In addition, the committee has suggested Innovation and Science Australia -- the statutory board charged with monitoring the rollout of the innovation agenda -- identify emerging industries where strategic research investment could enable Australia to become a world leader.

Australia should also look at overseas models of university-business collaboration to form its own, the committee said.

In its report, the committee said the purpose of the Inquiry into Australia's Future in Research and Innovation was to investigate how the research and innovation sector can better assist in overcoming Australia's geographic, economic, and labour challenges, with a focus on commercialisation, including how technology imports and exports could be further facilitated.

Although the foundations of Australia's innovation system are strong, committee chair Ken O'Dowd said the nation's record of building on such foundations has been mixed.

"Australia's efficiency in translating investments in the research sector into outcomes that have tangible social and economic benefit could be improved," he said.

"Australia's level of research collaboration between universities and business is amongst the lowest in the OECD. An avenue of opportunity for improvement is the exchange of knowledge and meaningful information between business and the research sector."

O'Dowd believes that increased collaboration in Australia could assist businesses to develop "novel solutions" to the real world problems they are facing.

"Collaborative research is also key to developing the disruptive, new-to-the-world technologies that could form the basis of significant new companies and industries," he said.

The committee found that in 2015 Australia ranked 10th in the world for innovation input but 24th for innovation output. According to a submission made to the committee by the CSIRO, Australia ranking 72nd for innovation efficiency -- the ability to translate inputs into outputs -- reflects the nation's weakness in commercialising and exporting the innovations it creates into new market-ready products and services.

The committee has urged the government not to lose sight of other areas of potential innovation, and review its overseas commercialisation models as well.

In December, the federal government unveiled its AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda, which covered more than 20 measures centred on its "Ideas Boom" rhetoric.

In the five months since the agenda was laid out, a number of innovation items have already kicked off, including the AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative that hopes to help Australian entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market by heading overseas; and the AU$6 million preschoolers ELSA initiative, under the AU$110 million investment to further the STEM skills of young Australians to prepare them for the jobs of the future.

The committee's inquiry is one of the four currently looking into innovation in Australia: The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Education and Employment is inquiring into how Australia's tertiary system can meet the needs of a future labour force; The Senate Environment and Communications References Committee is looking into the future of Australia's video game development industry; and The House of Representatives Standing Committee on Agriculture and Industry is reviewing the role of technology in increasing agricultural productivity.