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ATSE column

Two Billion More Reasons to Collaborate

By Ian Dagley

With global population expected to grow by two billion, even greater collaboration between researchers and business will be needed to satisfy the world’s food, energy and other needs.

The forecast growth in the global population and demographic changes present directly, and indirectly, many major challenges that need to be addressed by advances in science and technology.

For example, there are predictions that by 2050 the population will increase by 2.3 billion, the demand for energy will be more than 50% higher, new approaches to health care will be required because the number of pensioners will exceed the number of children, and agricultural production will need to be 60% higher than for 2005–07.

Dr Ian Dagley FTSE has been the CEO of the CRC for Polymers since 1995. In this role he instigates collaborative projects from discussions with companies and researchers, and is closely involved in all aspects of the CRC including its research and commercialisation activities. Participants in the CRC include BASF, BlueScope Steel, Integrated Packaging, Mesoblast, Virbac, 11 universities, CSIRO and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation.

Renewable Jet Fuels on the Runway

By Susan Pond

Sustainable jet fuels are needed to constrain the aviation industry’s greenhouse emissions.

Technology has opened up unimaginable economic spaces and transformed nations that were able to seize the strategic competitive advantage. Canals, agriculture, printing presses, steam engines, electricity, motor vehicles, aviation, computers, the internet and genomics provide excellent examples.

Sustainability could be the next new economy driven by technology. Sustainability is our concern because we need to increase the productivity of our planet’s finite or polluting resources, such as carbon, water, agricultural land and minerals.

Dr Susan Pond AM FTSE chairs the Australian Initiative for Sustainable Aviation Fuels and the Clean Technology Innovation Program Committee. She is Adjunct Professor in Sustainability at the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, Vice President of ATSE and a Board member of Innovation Australia, ANSTO and Biotron Ltd.

Design Network a Move in the Right Direction

By Catherine Livingstone

Design thinking can help Australia change its approach to innovation.

Australia needs to get very practical and very real about the way it shapes its future to be competitive. The establishment of an Australian Design Integration Network looks to be a step in the right direction.

Australians should have great expectations about the future, but we need to face the fact that our great expectations should not be about entitlements received, but rather potential achieved.

Catherine Livingstone AO FTSE is Chair of Telstra Corporation Ltd, a director of Macquarie Group Limited, WorleyParsons Limited, The George Institute for Global Health, and Saluda Medical Pty Ltd. She is also a member of the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council and President of the Australian Museum Trust. She was Chair of CSIRO (2001–06), President of Chief Executive Women (2007-2008), and the Chair of The Australian Business Foundation (2002-2005). Catherine also served on the Boards of Goodman Fielder Ltd and Rural Press Ltd.

The Pace of Technology

By Ron Johnston

The common impression of an increase in technology has been due to the sheer volume of new technologies released, but now the pace of the technology life cycle is about to catch up.

There is a widely held view that the speed of technology is ever-increasing. Just look around you, with the mind-numbing flow of life-extending devices, gadgets for the kitchen and the shed, seemingly endless hand-held tools of communication and mis-communication, the way in which so many aspects of life are being so rapidly transformed.

Professor Ron Johnston, a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) since 1990, is founder and Executive Director of the not-for-profit Australian Centre for Innovation at the University of Sydney. The Centre is committed to assisting individuals and organisations to better address the challenges of the future through innovation. The author specialises in understanding the interplay between technology and socio-economic factors in meeting human needs.

Moving Our Focus from Innovation to Productivity

By Alan Finkel

Innovative businesses achieve better productivity and profitability.

In recent years both business and government have taken a far stronger focus on innovation and its implicit national benefits, such as productivity. Australia is better for this, but we still have a long way to go to convert the “virtuous circle” of research and innovation into commercial advantage and the resulting international economic success that follows.

Australia Needs an “Assistive Technology” Network

By Greg Tegart

We must address the disconnect between assistive technology research and its translation into commercialisation and practice.

Australia needs to establish a network of people working in health care on “assistive technologies” – or emerging assistive and medical technologies (EAMTs) – to address the disconnect between assistive technology research and its translation into commercialisation and practice.

An EAMT network could help remove barriers to the effective adoption of EAMTs to enable healthy independent living, provide access to information and expertise, analyse and advise on regulations and standards and promote collaboration between researchers, industry, government and users.

Professor Greg Tegart AM FTSE is Chair of the ATSE Health and Technology Forum. He has had a long and varied career in academia, industry and government in Australia and overseas in the areas of teaching, research, management and high level policy advice to government on science, technology and the environment.

Four Academies Are Working Together

By Robin Batterham

Australia’s four learned academies are integrating their expertise in science, technology, social science and humanities to form a better evidence base for advice to government.

The appointment of Professor Ian Chubb as the government’s Chief Scientist and the associated overhaul of the Prime Minister’s Science, Engineering and Innovation Council (PMSEIC) have resulted in one of the most interesting – and potentially productive – intersections between science and policy in recent times.

Professor Robin Batterham AO FREng FAA FTSE finishes his term as President of ATSE in December. He is a former Chief Scientist for Australia and was Rio Tinto’s most senior scientist before taking his current appointment as the Kernot Professor of Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Open Innovation: Work With Your Competitors

By Erol Harvey

Clients, customers, buyers and competitors are innovation sources second only in importance to internal employees.

Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) should relentlessly consume and absorb knowledge about their industry, customers and competition, and then share this information aggressively with employees, collaborators, the market and even their competitors.

They usually have to make a little go a long way, so focus and depth are vital and collaborations are essential.

Erol Harvey FTSE is CEO of MiniFAB (Aust) Pty Ltd, a product development company and manufacturer of polymer-based microfluidic, lab-on-a-chip diagnostic devices. He is a former Professor of Microtechnology at Swinburne University.

Let’s Get Positive about Innovation

By Alan Finkel

Recognition and acceptance that we will fail from time to time is a necessary part of belief that we can succeed.

Research and innovation – converting money into knowledge and then knowledge into money – is a virtuous circle that we aspire to in Australia, but the process often ends up as a virtuous arc with a gap at the innovation step.

Research and innovation are tightly coupled. If we concentrate just on one or the other we won’t enjoy the best possible outcomes for the country.

Dr Alan Finkel AM FTSE is Chancellor of Monash University, President-elect of ATSE, former CTO of Better Place Australia and Chairman of the Australian Centre of Excellence for All-Sky Astrophysics. For 20 years Dr Finkel ran Axon Instruments, an American company that made electronic instruments used by pharmaceutical companies. He established the Australian Course in Advanced Neuroscience to provide advanced training to young scientists and the STELR secondary school science program, administered by ATSE, which is currently running in nearly 300 secondary schools around Australia.

The “Good Enough” Education System

By Professor Mary O’Kane

Does Australia have the education system it needs for a vibrant economic future?

Concerns are expressed almost daily that while Australia has emerged relatively unscathed from the world economic crisis and is in the midst of a resources-driven boom, the country is facing a major challenge in the decline of its productivity growth.

Conventional wisdom tells us that for productivity growth to occur, a nation needs innovation, and a key enabler of that innovation is a strong education system.

Professor Mary O’Kane FTSE is the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer and also Executive Chairman of Mary O’Kane & Associates Pty Ltd, which advises governments, universities and the private sector on innovation, research education and development. She is also Chair of the Australian Centre for Renewable Energy and the CRC for Spatial Information.