Are countries with a three-year political cycle under-achievers in innovation, compared with countries that have a longer political cycle? This was one of many potential new research topics put forward at an industry workshop hosted by Curtin Business School.
Held in Perth in April, the ‘Innovation Workshop’ was facilitated by Dean of Research and Development Professor Fran Ackermann and delivered in collaboration with DuPont Sustainable Solutions, represented by the company’s regional leader, Michele Villa.
According to Ackermann, research suggests that “Australia lacks the culture of innovation you find in countries such as Norway and Singapore”.
“We need to break the entrenched models, and view innovation projects as business as usual rather than as an exception.
“But to motivate a cultural shift we need to better understand innovation, by addressing research gaps in the area,” she explains.
Villa adds, “We have an opportunity to understand what makes a country successful in activating and developing innovation: what are the key attributes to attract innovators? What are the conditions a government can put in place to create a fertile ground for innovation?”
To help pinpoint the issues, workshop attendees explored the concept of ‘innovation’ from the perspectives of the industries represented – which included renewable energy, government agency, infrastructure, consultancy, construction, oil & gas, power, finance and health.
They then identified new research topics that could inform industry strategies for building a culture of innovation.
“Intrapreneurship is an important focus – how staff that are operating within the confines of an organisation can overcome barriers to creativity and risk-taking,” says Ackermann.
“There are practices that could stifle creativity, such as KPIs and other performance measurements. However, failure is a normal part of innovation – it should be accepted as part of the process rather than lamented as a mistake.”
The workshop also highlighted the need for research that identifies the factors that promote an innovation mindset.
“This might include initiatives such as the provision of creative and ‘playful’ workspaces,” Ackermann suggests.
“Then there’s the question of innovation leadership. What is the correlation between personality types and innovation? and at which hierarchical levels does an organisation need an innovation champion?”
Importantly, the innovation workshop has generated momentum for a new Western Australian innovation network; however, workshop participants noted that bigger bridges between academia and industry are required.
“Australia actually ranks very poorly in terms of embedding research into industry practice. It’s clear that universities need to implement business models and initiatives that support networks for innovation,” explains Ackermann.
“For example, should we design more project-based PhDs? should research staff be encouraged into short-term industry projects? And perhaps there are better ways to resolve IP issues.”
The Innovation Workshop topics will inform CBS’s research strategy, and new projects are expected to contend for the DuPont Curtin Business School Innovation Award.
“A strong collaboration and partnership between academia and industry, based on common goals, is a powerful engine for innovation – as our collaboration with Curtin demonstrates,” says Villa.
“We see an optimal synergy when a solution provider in the field of risk management, safety and operational excellence, such as DuPont Sustainable Solutions, partners with an education and research provider like CBS.
“This generates value for other organisations, through innovative products and services. In doing so, we enable the process and remove potential barriers.”