R&D's Place in Innovation

The Australian Financial Review


By Steve Vamos
Chairman
Managing Director
Microsoft Australia

The Business Council of Australia recently called for a new national debate on the importance and the nature of innovation. The substantial response that this has generated is very much welcomed.

However, contrary to the claims made by Robert Graham and Levon Khachigian ("R&D needs a creative government", Opinion, April 19), the BCA is not advocating support for a broader range of activities "at the expense of funding pure science-based research" and its development.

On the contrary, the BCA's report, New Concepts in Innovation, recognises research and development as being a very important part of the wider innovation picture. The BCA believes we need to continue to undertake scientific research and to build on our strengths in this area.

At the same time, a key finding was that R&D efforts on their own do not amount to innovation. Business has a pragmatic view that genuine innovation must result in something that is delivered to and is utilised and valued by businesses, public organisations or consumers, or all three. This means a wide range of activities can contribute to achieving innovation.

The problem with equating innovation exclusively with R&D is that it potentially diverts attention and efforts away from the broader perspective of where governments and also business can more effectively influence or drive innovation.

Improving Australia's capacity for innovation does not mean we have to take the view that we either focus on R&D or we support innovation more broadly. This should not be a "do one thing at the expense of another" debate.

Steve Vamos,
Chairman, BCA Education, Skills and Innovation Task Force, Melbourne, Vic.