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Industries of the Future?

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There was a time when Innovation rated more highly in the national conversation about the future than it does today. Whether it is the lack of political and business will or an assessment by our leaders that the national Australians are unable or unwilling to deal with it who knows?  There is no doubt in our society Innovation is happening whether we discuss it or not? My view is it is better if we do? Our prosperity depends on it.

Over recent years the Australian government has established six national growth centres. Did anyone hear of them?

Each of these sectors has a Sector competitiveness plan. There is even a Vision for each Sector. While I might challenge the language and the vagueness of some of the “Visions”, it is encouraging that work is being done. It is a start. In any conversation about Prosperity, these Sectors are prominent. Sector Visions are outlined below.  I wonder if these could be narratives which might drive the National Conversation about Prosperity. It is more inspiring than Royal Commissions, Debates about Tax Reform, and many of the issues which consume enormous amounts of energy on a daily basis. It is a long time since Australia has had a genuine National debate about anything!

While Government needs to play a leadership role, business is the wealth creation sector in society – where is the leadership? Has our business sector become so self-serving and inward-looking that it is unable to focus on and contribute to the conversation on National prosperity? or Does business expect Government to do all the heavy lifting? It appears that both are possibilities!

The current energy debate is an interesting example. It is amazing to me that a country blessed with so many actual and potential energy sources that we are in this dilemma.

In the Energy Sector, while there is a National Vision – (see below). It obviously needs more clarity and a will to engage in a genuine conversation about Australia energy and its role in Australia as a Prosperous Nation.

The whole issue might be clearer if there was a shared understanding of a longer-term view!

The energy debate (as with many other debates in Australia) has deteriorated into an ideological street fight!

  • the ideological cripple’s vs the intellectual pygmies!

In the end, no one wins, and Australia suffers!

Australia – Industry Futures

There are six sectors selected by the government:

  • Advanced Manufacturing
  • Cyber Security
  • Food and Agribusiness
  • Mining Equipment and Technology Services
  • Med Tech, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals
  • Energy Resources


Advanced Manufacturing

To develop an internationally competitive, dynamic and thriving Australian advanced manufacturing sector that boosts the long-term health of the economy and the Nation.

Australian Cyber Security Growth Network

 to strengthen Australia’s cybersecurity ecosystem and help Australia become a powerful cybersecurity exporter and world-leading cybersecurity education hub.

Food and Agribusiness 

Our Vision: By 2025, the Industry is working together to grow the share of Australian food in the global marketplace.

METS (Mining Equipment and Technology Services)

The vision for METS is an industry aligned, collaborative and agile ecosystem and, through leadership and innovation, growing share of the global market.

MTP – Med Tech, Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals

MTPConnect’s vision is for Australia to retain all current and planned levels of R&D expenditure36 while achieving greater commercialisation success, creating more products that reach proof-of-concept and early-stage commercialisation, increasing the number of medium to large companies with late-stage product successes, and maximising the value of any IP monetisation events along the way. The overall effect would be greater employment and wealth creation for Australia.

Energy Resources Sector (Oil and gas, coal, uranium)

To maximise the value to the Australian economy by having an energy resources sector which is globally competitive, growing, sustainable, innovative and diverse

Much time and energy has been devoted to the development of these plans and who knows about them. One can only assume there was a high level of anticipation by business leaders and other Industry players. If not, this work will fade away into the vast caverns of papers and reports which amount to nothing.

Over recent months the Government has announced:

  • A $2Billion Small Business Policy -a clear statement of intent by this government. I can only assume the Industries named above will be beneficiaries.
  • A specific target: Australia as a Top 10 Arms Exporter.
  • The Australian Space agency

Also, there are 30 Cooperative Research Centres (CRC’s) working across a range of Industry Sectors to create a better future. This scheme was commenced in 1990 and I know there are many achievements BUT who knows about them and are they creating the wealth and prosperity that is surely the overall goal. I wonder how many value-adding businesses are operating in Australia now because of the CRC program.

What is even more interesting is the funding and support available for Entrepreneurs and Start-Ups. In my lifetime I have not seen the level of interest and “hype” in this sector of business. With innovation, it is the new “silver bullet” of the decade – even this century. Business and Industry is replete with fads and shiny new objects. We can only hope this energy continues.

Why is any of this important?

In any society, there is a real need for HOPE. In a country where the INFOTAINMENT focusses mostly on the negative or the dramatic eg

  • Royal Commissions
  • Debts and Deficits
  • Job Creation
  • Personal Dramas (leadership challenges and the resultant nonsense!)
  • Culture Wars

In 2016 I published a Blog  Moonshots for Australia: 7  which is one of many I have posted on Business and Innovation in Australia. I published it out of a sense of frustration with the current political and economic system.

A prosperous community is the aspiration of all Australians. Business is the platform. It is essential to understand that the government in Australia has always carried an excessive load by tradition and design?  The information highlights the significant role the government plays. There is clearly a role for government at the leading-edge Innovation and encouraging pioneering business ventures. But in our business culture, we have a government dependent mentality? It may result from the fact that for the first 80 years of our settlement much of our business was totally funded by the government (England)

John Menadue recently said:

But to restore public trust our business sector must also clean up its act. There are too many second-rate business executives doing a third-rate job. They should ‘stick to their knitting’ instead of running to the government for help or blaming the trade unions.

In the end, it is not companies that perform well or badly. It is people. They must be held accountable, particularly directors and senior executives.

As an aside Bernard Salt has highlighted that none of our ASX top 10 companies were founded post-1970. It is also worth noting that at least 5 were started by the government and the mining companies probably had serious government support?

I am reminded of something Willis Harmon wrote many years ago, and it seems relevant to this conversation

Business has become, in this last half century, the most powerful institution on the planet. The dominant institution in any society needs to take responsibility for the whole — as the church did in the days of the Holy Roman Empire. But business has not had such a tradition.

 This is a new role, not yet well understood or accepted.
Built into the concept of capitalism and free enterprise from the beginning was the assumption that the actions of many units of individual enterprise, responding to market forces and guided by the ‘invisible hand’ of Adam Smith, would somehow add up to desirable outcomes. But in the last decade of the twentieth century, it has become clear that the ‘invisible hand’ is faltering. It depended upon a consensus of overarching meanings and values that are no longer present. So business has to adopt a tradition it has never had throughout the entire history of capitalism: to share responsibility for the whole. Every decision that is made, every action that is taken, must be viewed in the light of that kind of responsibility.
Dr Willis Harman,
Emeritus Professor Stanford University
World Business Academy Co-founder and Fellow

This concept is even more powerful now though in Australia some of our leading businesses are “standing naked” -the banks!

What if business took some responsibility for making a genuine difference in the lives of ordinary Australians – and focused on increasing our National prosperity?

In the current scenario wouldn’t that be novel?

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