Home Industry Strategy Innovation and technology, the perfect pair?

Innovation and technology, the perfect pair?

Can the Australian economy rebalance from strong growth in mining and property to a focus on innovation?  This is the question that many are asking of government and business as we chart new waters of economic uncertainty.

That was the topic of a media/analysts panel session hosted by Tim Scott, sales director of the Oracle Cloud Platform and included:

Tim Ebbeck, regional managing director, Oracle Australia.
He has driven significant transformation in the business as the company embraces cloud and other digital technologies like big data and mobile. He is a member of the Business Council of Australia (BCA), and the BCA's innovation task force

George Parthimos, general manager, Connexion Media.
Connexion Media is an ASX-listed Internet of Things (IoT) technology company revolutionising smart car technology for the automotive industry.  Already it has secured commercial agreements with leading automotive industry players to roll out its proprietary smart car technologies to millions of vehicles in the coming years.

Chris Holmes, managing director, Single Cell
One of the company’s key clients is NSW Health, which has adopted Progenitor, incorporating QFire Validator validation technology, as the exclusive software used to compile existing contract data from local districts for the development of a central repository of contract data. The final, validated data will allow the NSW Health to better analyse and manage their engagement across the procurement and contract ecosystem.  
 

Ross Dawson, Futurist, and CEO, Future Exploration Network.
Ross Dawson is globally recognised as a leading futurist, entrepreneur, keynote speaker, strategy adviser, and bestselling author.

Of course, it is ironic that Larry Ellison, Oracle’s founder said “It is billionaires, not countries who are powering innovation.” To say the panel covered a lot of ground would be an understatement. Following are some key points (paraphrased).

Holmes was the ‘young gun’ of the group having been involved in start-ups and recently his company had its product Progenitor embraced by state and federal government. The government is not the biggest innovator – it takes time and effort to break traditions and get ideas up. But it is moving to PaaS, SaaS, cloud and more – cheap, accessible, agile and we are seeing more of a level playing field with enterprise. The government is thinking differently and going to market more to leverage agile, scalable models. What is studiously avoided was any reference to the notion that changing government direction was like trying to brake the Titanic. His take was that he was pleasantly surprised at the acceptance by the government of his Oracle "kit bag" based cloud offerings.

Pathimos was all about rapid change, yet in the automotive industry that is measured in years, not months. Lead times for a new car model are three to seven years, whereas a smartphone can be designed, tested and brought to market in under 12 months. Automotive needs to ensure absolute reliability and security and needs to own the technology, rather than borrow from established IT vendors. His lament – we have 12 million connected cars in the USA, but everyone has a 4G/LTE computer in their pocket! He said that 10 years ago the attitude in "Detroit" was nothing good comes out of Australia – now it does (and the Aussie dollar helps). He said his company could not be as successful without his Oracle end to end offering as it enabled much lower up-front costs and coming a little later to the cloud it needed to catch up.

Ebbeck seems to provide the glue that holds some comments together. He was strong on STEM education issues, strong on innovating here (but equally strong on collaboration) and predicted that the IT industry would continue to disrupt itself – biomedicine, nanotech and more. He said newer companies are agiler and older ones would be disrupted unless they change their ways. Ebbeck echoes Malcolm Turnbull’s sentiments. “Our days of digging holes are over. Are they coming back? Of course, we will be digging holes for a long time. But is that sustainable? Absolutely not. We’ve got innovation in our DNA here, and we need to celebrate it a bit more.”

Dawson spoke on the value of a network, collaboration, openness, and co-creation. Where you collaborate innovation follows. To collaborate you need a network and that network now has to cross geographical and cultural borders – call it open innovation. Oracle and its VAR (value added resellers) create "stuff" that could not exist in isolation. Australians who leave the country are part of our international network – use them.

Q&A

Perhaps most timely was a question from Stuart Kennedy, InnovationAus.com “Of the major parties which is the faster innovator?” Of course, this expanded to cover leaders, commitments and more.

“Right now it’s the Liberal National Party doing the most promotion in this space. It’s the only one that’s really speaking loudly. The Turnbull government seems to be selling a better story, or at least started selling a better story before the Labor Party,” said Holmes.

“I’ve got a very strong view on this. Leaving aside the party politics, Turnbull has actually brought about a change in thinking,” said Ebbeck.

“It’s a black and white contrast to the rhetoric from our previous prime minister,” said Dawson.

“Innovation is a great buzzword, it’s fantastic, and it’s now on the radar, but I would just love to see how you measure it,” said Parthimos about the innovation rhetoric being used by both parties.

All parties agreed that regardless of the election outcome, start-up issues like share issues, grants, incentives and assistance to innovate would remain a government priority.

Another on the adage "To get a job you need experience – to get experience you need a job".

Ebbeck wants to see young applicants showing up at his doorstep with life experience, not just a technology-related degree. People who have done something in life add more value. If you are out there and making money or failing – that is life experience. I don’t think there is a lack of skills in Australia despite some of our best moving overseas. It is interesting that there are more patents produced pound for pound in Australia than any other part of the world with the pure research that gets done here.

Holmes said when we go to hire, yes having a university degree helps us vet, or cull somewhat, but the first thing we usually ask is what have you built and can you show us. We don't really care if you've done a three-year bachelor in information systems or a five-year degree in computer science because if you don't really have that practical experience to back it up, your value there is questionable.

Comment

As I intimated at the beginning of this article, panels are useful for their diverse opinions but can be a journalist’s nightmare as you have to mine a lot of topsoil to get to a few gems.

The gems are that:

  • Australia is well on the path to innovation, but wide collaboration will make or break it
  • We will be digging ditches (manufacturing euphemism) for some time
  • Australian researchers hold more patents than others – a good sign
  • The Coalition appears to have a very strong technology and innovation agenda, but either major party will need to keep it high on the agenda
  • And it is critical to develop a culture of innovation regardless of government – its billionaires, not countries who are powering innovation.

Group photo from left to right: Chris Holmes, Tim Ebbeck, Ross Dawson and George Parthimos.

 

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Ray Shaw

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Ray Shaw ray@im.com.au  has a passion for IT ever since building his first computer in 1980. He is a qualified journalist, hosted a consumer IT based radio program on ABC radio for 10 years, has developed world leading software for the events industry and is smart enough to no longer own a retail computer store!