Is Australia an innovative tech nation?

Is Australia an innovative tech nation?

Experts from Accenture; Arrow ECS ANZ; Capgemini; Deloitte; EY; KPMG and PwC debate innovation in Australia during inaugural IDG Business Leaders Circle

Credit: IDG

In providing advisory and implementation services for customers seeking to internally embed innovation into business practices, Peter Meliniotis - director of Digital Strategy and Transformation at Capgemini - believes the corporate world is hamstrung by two overriding issues.

“The two key challenges that we often see is that of having the expertise to drive the culture of innovation within existing organisations and cultivating innovative ideas so they can be realised,” Meliniotis documented.

“The later challenge in some instances stems from the fact that a lot of organisations think 'locally' when it comes to new innovations which often leads to ideas not being viable.

“Australian organisations need to think more globally in order to tap into a larger market which would allow new innovations to be viable.”

Through the work Capgemini carries out with customers, Meliniotis was quick to stress that despite industry challenges, it remains clear that Australia is "definitely an innovative nation".

“Whether it be our enterprise clients all the way to the start-up scene, it’s clear that innovation is a big theme in Australia,” Meliniotis clarified.

Such sentiment is echoed by Richard Marrison - national leader of Technology Advisory at KPMG - in acknowledging that Australia displays a “huge appetite” as a nation to embrace new technologies from a societal perspective.

Peter Meliniotis (Capgemini)Credit: Christine Wong
Peter Meliniotis (Capgemini)

“But real innovation is often stifled because of a lack of a real burning platform (such as competition), which dilutes any kind of compelling need in our large corporates to drive innovation hard,” Marrison said.

“The key challenges associated with creating an innovative culture within Australia centres around a lack of available capital; poor digital infrastructure and a relatively small market forcing most offshore to achieve real growth.”

Renewed appetite

While businesses in Australia posses a strong reputation for being early adopters of global innovation trends - adhering to a much repeated cliche - focus must now extend to establishing the right conditions for being creators of innovations as well.

“A lot of that will happen due to a natural need to find the next threshold for productivity,” said Amberjit Endow, senior partner of Cognitive and Automation at Deloitte. “Businesses need to create the right capacity and headspace for innovators to be on top of the next wave of technology enabled innovation.

“This is easier said than done without deliberate investments in a programmatic approach to breeding new ideas and activations.”

According to Deshpande, Australian businesses both large and small are looking to “significantly change their posture” and are now aggressively establishing innovation programs within their organisation.

“Organisations are starting to realise that they need to change from an approach of just enabling innovation in a small pocket, to a more holistic approach which enables employees and teams to be bold and creative,” Deshpande said.

Richard Marrison (KPMG)Credit: Christine Wong
Richard Marrison (KPMG)

“Similarly, investment in innovation programs is starting to ramp-up, with boards starting to realise that shifting to an aggressive stance to develop new products and services, will help them stay relevant in a rapidly shifting market and that this may mean cannibalising a lucrative part of the existing business.”

In looking through the technology supply chain, and down into the ever-evolving end-user landscape, Verykios maintains the theme that in general, businesses are increasing adoption of innovative technology.

“This is within their own business and focusing on how they can apply the principles of innovation within their own business, to remain competitive,” he explained.

“In addition, the capital markets maturity in Australia is still in its infancy, which also limits the ability for innovation in start-ups to get off the ground and gain momentum, a sector where innovation is fundamental.”

Delving deeper, Garner accepted that local innovation has always remained healthy, but questioned the country’s inability to take advantage, exposing misalignment between the stages of idea and execution.

“The ‘conviction’ to pursue multiple types of innovation and to ‘stay on course’ in order to realise the value of innovation is a challenge facing Australia’s business community,” Garner stressed. “Innovation takes time and there needs to be greater awareness that the realisation of value is not a linear process.

Andrew Garner (EY)Credit: Christine Wong
Andrew Garner (EY)

“In addition to this, innovation can be difficult to embed in business operations and moving past the concept and idea phase can be challenging.”

Optimism ahead

There are however impressive pockets of innovation, reminded Eriksson; "Sydney is home to Australia’s largest collection of fintechs."

Meanwhile, Melbourne’s biotechnology hubs, for example, are world-leading with a collection of over 650 companies, 12 major medical institutes, 10 teaching hospitals and nine universities collaborating to employ around 23,000 people and generating more than $12 billion in revenue.

“Examples include customised 3D-printed surgical implants and the mind-controlled robotic prosthetic arm,” Eriksson outlined. “Atlassian is another great example.

“Australia’s new Space program is promising; as well some high performing Australian marketplaces expanding globally such as CarSales, Seek, and Envato.”

The innovation list, and the new and emerging products housed within it, is expanding despite ongoing challenges, offering cause for optimism as businesses embark on new transformation strategies.

Amberjit Endow (Deloitte)Credit: Christine Wong
Amberjit Endow (Deloitte)

“But we have to do more here on,” Endow warned. “We are a country that is punching above its weight and when you look a bit beyond just the ‘technology race’ and think qualitatively - our overall sense of wellbeing and quality of life as a nation is credible proof that innovation has played its part to date to enable and sustain this.

“We constantly find trends where businesses in Australia are solving problems uniquely - several examples in mining, agriculture, education and government service delivery (e.g. our state and federal digital services rank amongst some of the best globally).”

Australia is however, according to Endow, facing off into an era of technological advancement, creating a need to equip and embrace technology as a key innovation lever to maintain a competitive edge.

“Up until recently, our production across many sectors have fetched a premium demand (and therefore price) in the global markets,” he explained.

“That position is being challenged by nations that are able to adopt exponential technologies, ways of working and ecosystem-based business models to deliver similar outcomes with much lower effort (and therefore price).

“We are at a tipping point, where technology augmented innovation needs to drive higher thresholds of productivity and creativity.”

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