Curtin University Director of IP Commercialisation Mr Rohan McDougall highlights the significant role of universities in the federal government’s new National Innovation and Science Agenda, which aims to ‘embrace new ideas in innovation and science, and harness new sources of growth to deliver the next age of economic prosperity in Australia’.
Australia has a rich natural resource base that has driven prosperity for most of its history. The cyclical nature and shifting demand for commodities present future challenges for maintaining this prosperity, and this is particularly acute in Western Australia.
Diversification into new markets and the development of new products and services provide an opportunity to create a sustainable economic future for Australia. Universities have a significant role to play in enabling this future through development of next generation technology that can form the basis of new products and services and training the entrepreneurs who can bring them to market.
However, Australia’s performance does not compare well with its international peers in collaboration between industry and universities, and bringing new innovation to market. The National Innovation and Science Agenda is seeking to address this issue through targeted programs that encourage closer collaboration between industry and universities and technology-based entrepreneurship.
There are a number of key elements to a successful innovation hub. These include a culture that supports innovation and entrepreneurship, access to expertise and business development tools that provide advice and frameworks for new business concept development, and access to capital including significant infrastructure to develop new ideas.
Curtin has existing programs and activities that support these elements such as the Curtin Commercial Innovation Awards, our Commercialisation Advisory Board, Curtin Accelerate, OzAPP Awards and our Kickstart proof of concept funding program.
The University has a long history of effectively collaborating with industry and a number of new products and services have resulted from research conducted here. Examples include the Scanalyse service for monitoring wear on mining equipment, high-definition 3D seismic services for minerals exploration provided by HiSeis and video analytics technology being marketed by iCetana.
But universities have multiple missions that include education, research and commercialisation and must balance these with finite resources. The National Innovation and Science Agenda is an important step in providing the support required to improve Australia’s innovation performance.
We are already seeing a greater level of interest in innovation activities at Curtin as a result. One of the recently announced initiatives was a roll out of CSIRO’s ON accelerator program to universities.
Curtin startup, ePAT Pty Ltd, pitched for one of two places in the first stage of the rollout and was selected in a competitive process against eight other universities. It will now participate in an intensive business development process for its proposed automated pain assessment tool.
In April, Curtin was named the most collaborative Australian university in the Nature Index 2016, which is important recognition of our efforts, and we anticipate more successful collaboration. In the future, stronger links between research, innovation and industry will further connect universities with the community and provide more opportunities to bring new ideas to reality.