The Federal Government has announced a $1.1 billion four-year “innovation package”, which includes 24 measures that are hoped will kickstart a national “innovation culture”.
The National Innovation and Science Agenda will foster innovation in the areas of tax, research infrastructure, and education in the STEM subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths, the ABC reports.
Malcolm Turnbull, whose rhetoric around business and innovation has been widely-publicised since he ousted Tony Abbott from the top job in September, told reporters the agenda would focus on commercialising research, raising capital and enabling risk, making the government a model example for innovation, and boosting talent and skills.
The CSIRO, a major loser in the 2014 budget, is set to benefit from a $200 million, 10-year CSIRO Innovation Fund.
Additionally, foreign students who gain their STEM-related degrees in Australia are set to score more credit points, allowing them to stay in Australia after they have completed their study.
Greater national retention of highly-skilled individuals should be encouraging for businesses looking to employ from STEM disciplines now and in the future. After all, ABS data shows the number of jobs requiring STEM skills has grown at 1.5 times the rate of other jobs in recent years.
Innovation Australia board member and former Engineers Australia President Dr Marlene Kanga points to a recent report by PwC, which indicates that 44 per cent of Australian jobs are at risk from new technologies and 75 per cent of new jobs will require STEM skills.
To help address the lack of gender diversity in STEM, $13 million will be invested over five years, to encourage women to study and remain in STEM disciplines.
The Guardian reports the funding will also be used to introduce problem solving, critical thinking and digital skills from an early age in Australian schools.
If Australia is to have enough STEM-qualified workers to meet the demands of a knowledge-driven future economy, Kanga believes it is vital the process starts at an early age.
“Australia has had declining numbers of boys and girls studying mathematics and science, the enabling subjects for careers in science, technology and mathematics,” she says.
“It is important for students to have a strong foundation in these subjects at school. This in turn will increase the numbers successfully studying engineering at university and therefore the supply into the workforce.”
In addition, $15 million will be invested to create a new digital marketplace, to make it easier for startups and small and medium businesses to sell to and work with government.
The Digital Transformation Office (DTO) will develop the Digital Marketplace – an online directory of digital and ICT services from which government agencies will procure – to improve competition and promote innovation across government.
Cultivating innovation in-house
With innovation now firmly on the Federal agenda, how can HR instil a similar “innovation culture” within its own organisations?
Consistently convey the correct signals about innovation expectations to every employee within the company
Reward and recognition
Reinforce the importance of innovation activity and outcomes through the use of recognition schemes that encourage and inspire employees to share and develop ideas – even if the ideas might fail
Talent management for individuals
Ensure all employees understand the unique skills and behaviours required to successfully innovate in their organisation
Talent management for teams
Break down internal silos and promote idea sharing by building career development frameworks which encourage resource sharing
Talent management for leadership
Develop leaders to continually “horizon scan” and adopt a mindset of dissatisfaction with the status quo
Identifying critical roles
Identify which roles disproportionately drive innovation value, develop the people filling these roles and ensure full competence in innovation processes
Architect the organisation (structures, processes, roles, capabilities, etc.) to support the innovation strategy, accelerating the idea lifecycle by minimising boundaries and promoting collaboration
Leverage technology to encourage cross organisation networking and collaboration
Facilitate the implementation of new working practices that drive innovation