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Two Tales from the City

By Simon Grose

The Nobel Laureate and the Minister choose different drinks at the Australian Innovation Bar.

Simon Grose is a Director of Science Media (

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Recently Canberra’s inner halls heard two divergent takes on Australia’s ability to translate research into commerce.

At an event hosted by the Governor-General at Government House and moderated by Ken Henry, the lead author of the Australia in the Asian Century white paper, Nobel Laureate Prof Brian Schmidt’s glass was half empty. The sole journalist invited to the “high-level meeting of scientists, academics, industry chiefs, politicians and public servants” reported that “while Australia boasts world-class university research, it is below average on the thing that drives growth – innovation. It is the gap between the lab and the market that Professor Schmidt believed was a critical reform topic in the Asian Century.”

Meanwhile, over at the Mural Hall in Parliament House, the glass held by Science and Research Minister Chris Evans had a head on it. He was launching a study which estimated that since 1991 two-thirds of our Cooperative Research Centres have delivered “direct economic impacts” worth $8.58 billion, with a further $5.87 billion forecast by 2017. “Not only are we a mining nation, we are also a smart nation,” Evans said, and our “world-class CRCs have the critical mass of resources to create new industries”.

Who to believe: Schmidt or Evans?

Both messages have long pedigrees in commentary on what Evans’ predecessor, Senator Kim Carr...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.