Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Engineering Australia’s New Wealth

By Marlene Kanga

It’s time to connect the dots between invention, innovation and the role of engineering.

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

The decline of traditional manufacturing and the waning resources boom require Australia to develop new sources of wealth generation. As a developed nation with high wage costs and high standards of living, Australia needs to develop new industries that use advanced technologies, require high levels of education and have high barriers to entry. There is no alternative.

Australia spends more than $9 billion on research and development, much of that publicly funded primary research. Powering Ideas, the government’s 2009 blueprint for innovation, set out an agenda for innovation, but subsequent annual reports on our innovation performance have shown little progress. Australia continues to lag our neighbours in Asia, ranking fifth in innovation and in the lower half of OECD nations.

One of the reasons is the failure to fully recognise the importance of industry and the role of engineering in bringing innovations from the laboratory to the market. The latest government plan, which includes establishing innovation precincts in specialised sectors, is tacit acknowledgement of this gap. While research in basic science is the root of innovation, engineering leads to practical realisation of discoveries – it is the tree that bears the fruit for years to come.

It is extraordinary that public perception and policy has failed to connect the dots between invention,...

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