Can rethinking technology transform our economy?

Study ranks Australia as an innovation laggard, but the race isn’t over yet

While the study found Australia lacking in hi-tech R&D areas such as space exploration and nanotechnology, it found strength in more traditional areas of science and engineering like mining and raw material extraction.

Radjou said it was important for the country to recognize and play to its strengths, leveraging them for both domestic and global markets.

"If you look at what role Australia needs to emphasize more in the future, I would say the Broker role is more important," Radjou said. "The goal of the government should not be just in funding more R&D, but building bridges with other countries."

Australia should take advantage of its geographic position in becoming a gateway to Asia for Western countries, Radjou said. This would require research organizations, trade associations, and the government to invest in more trade missions to attract partner companies and nations.

Researchers and universities are already acting very aggressively in promoting Australia as an innovation gateway, he said, but these informal relationships should be backed by the government for good international networks to form.

"Companies can do their best, but there are a lot of things that the government has to do as well to take it to the next level," he said. "I think without some sort of formal support from the government, these informal networks can really not take off."

Radjou raised the example of Ireland, a leader in the Transformer role whose government-funded Ireland Development Agency conducts trade missions all over the world to help build R&D partnerships in Europe and Japan. The Australian Government could think about formalizing network links with the rest of the world in the same way, he said, starting with Asia.

Australia's diverse population can also lend itself to the Broker role as long as the nation and its companies can capitalize on multinational backgrounds and start producing more people who are multilingual.

"Not only do you have very creative people, but you also have very diverse people," he said. "You are [Australia is] a bit like the U.S. in that you are an immigrant country, which is a great asset, but the asset has to be exploited. You have to figure out a way to take advantage of that diversity, versus just being aware of the diversity."

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Liz Tay

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