On Thursday 16th August I had the pleasure of attending the presentation of the first NSW Innovation and Productivity Scorecard by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Being unique as the first and most comprehensive measure of an Australian state’s productivity and innovation performance, it was a great chance to see NSW’s ranking on key metrics relative to other Australian states and comparable international economies and jurisdictions.

Dr. Neville Stevens AO hosted the conference, engaging distinguished panelists:

  • Attila Brungs, Vice-Chancellor and President of University of Technology Sydney,
  • Professor Barney Glover, Vice-Chancellor and President of Western Sydney University,
  • Dr Eileen Doyle, Non-Executive Director, Boral Ltd, GPT Group, Oil Search Ltd and Hunter Angels
  • Dr Tony Rumble, Co Founder and Director, The Wealth Partnership

Through the data insights of CSIRO’s Data 61 together with global sources, NSW was compared on key metrics to international counterparts and jurisdictions of Canada, Singapore, Germany, The UK, US, New Zealand and domestic counterparts Victoria and Queensland.   

As has been a theme on a number of other studies- NSW is shown to rank competitively with particular strength in research productivity and science, although the commercialisation of technological innovation and world leading research is a key capability on which improvement is due.

Some key data and insights from the day:

NSW’s key strengths globally:

  • NSW ranks 3rd behind California and Singapore for number of start-up founders
  • Ranks 4th behind Germany, USA and Victoria respectively in gross R&D investment as a percentage of GDP (2013)
  • Ranks 3rd in number of firms that have grown staff count by more than 10% p.a. For 2 years, after UK and California
  • 3 out of the state’s 11 universities are in the global 200
  • 13% of researchers in the global top 10 globally in their specialised topic

While NSW enjoys strong performance globally on metrics of research expertise, start-up founders and GDP growth, there is room for improvement on metrics such as government & not-for-profit R&D, University-Industry collaboration and total Venture Capital investment.

University-industry collaboration:

University and industry collaboration, another key area for improvement, was among the central themes of the conference. Panelists emphasised the importance of this metric and activity in boosting the innovation potential of NSW’s economy. A valuable win-win proposition, this university-industry collaboration allows companies to benefit from the unique  subject matter expertise of students and their ‘fresh’ blank canvas approach to traditional challenges. Simultaneously, students capitalise on real-world practical experience, getting a chance to growth their professional network and gaining an insight into their chosen field, a glimpse into its day to day operations.

Professor Attila Brungs provided one such example of a UTS student enjoying the privilege of applying her specialist skills in her industry placement. Not only did this student gain invaluable skills and practical training from the company, she also managed to devise a unique approach to their operations, yielding significantly higher profits than previously generated. Such industry-university collaboration is seen as a key mechanism by which NSW can become more internationally competitive across innovation metrics.

Bridging the research-commercialisation gap

The panel agreed that such collaborative projects offered great value not only for corporates and students, but increasingly for universities in particular. Universities themselves stand to gain from increased industry collaboration, a valuable opportunity to bridge the gap between world class Australian research capabilities, and the commercialisation process. With NSW enjoying above average rankings for top universities, top papers published and higher education R&D, there is considerable expertise and potential on which commercial investment can be based. The panel agree more needs to be done to publicise successful collaborations and shine a light on the payoff it produces both for students and industry. With such world leading research and expertise in NSW, the foundations of innovation growth are well placed.

Education as lifelong learning:

More broadly, it was also emphasised by the panel that education was a concept that needed to be regarded as a lifelong activity of ongoing growth and improvement, rather than merely a formal exercise and qualification which ends at the tertiary level. Ongoing workplace learning, in conjunction with tafe and university short courses are an ideal opportunity to put this into practice in ensuring overall growth in NSW’s productivity.  

Greater coordination among Government departments

Finally, greater collaboration and coordination among government departments was another key area the panel identified as key in enabling innovation across NSW. Specifically, this may involve government departments responsible for innovation working more closely with town planning committees to best coordinate the function and character of future precincts, for instance, the differing goals of  innovation hubs vs. luxury high rise projects.

Find out more about the NSW Innovation and Productivity Scorecard by clicking here


Eran Halevi