Research has an important role, but is only one in a range of factors contributing to the process of innovation that universities need to foster, according to Flinders Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Barber (pictured).
Speaking to the Australia-China University Leaders’ Forum in Canberra today (Monday, November 26), Professor Barber spoke of Australia and China’s mutual aim to improve their standing among national innovations systems. Australia is currently ranked by the OECD Global Innovation Index at 23rd in the world, and China at 34.
Professor Barber said while research discoveries may lead to innovation, successful innovation relies as much on design, marketing and the development of novel business models and business processes.
“This is particularly the case in service economies such as Australia’s or to which China aspires,” he said.
Individuals are playing an increasing role in innovation, and Professor Barber cited the case of Junling Liu. Junling, who has a Bachelor of Teaching and a Master of International Business Administration from Flinders, is co-founder of YiHaoDian (The Store Corporation). The online supermarket was named in 2011 by Deloitte as the fastest growing company in the Asia Pacific, and Junling won the 2012 Austrade Australia China Alumni Award for Entrepreneurship.
There are ways by which university cultures can facilitate innovation in a bid to reproduce such success, Professor Barber said
“As well as introducing flexibility, responsiveness and adaptability, universities need to adopt an outward focus that is collaborative and engaged in genuine partnerships with external agents in the innovation system, such as firms and service agencies,” he said.
“There has to be a keenness to understand the challenges and opportunities faced by those partners and a willingness to let such partners influence (and even help set) the resulting research agenda.”
A case in point has been the recent launch of Re-Timer, a wearable device that resets the body clock. Based on Flinders research, the product was described by SA’s Manufacturing, Innovation and Trade Minister Mr Tom Koutsantonis as “evidence of what can be done when our manufacturing companies link with major research institutions for commercial outcomes.”