Innovation is the new black

One announcement. Some 24 policy measures covering 11 government portfolios. A $1.1 billion price tag. Today, the Prime Minister released his Government’s innovation statement – the National Innovation and Science Agenda – designed to transform innovation from a buzz word used by industry and government alike to a policy platform that will drive cultural change and kick-start Australia’s economy.

For a man used to setting the bar high, the Prime Minister put a lofty mark on the wall when he loudly and proudly put innovation at the heart of his policy agenda. In only three months, the statement delivers more than just talk. With varied measures such as tax offsets, visa changes, insolvency law reform and research funds to drive commercialisation and collaboration, it will please many within Australia’s business lobby who have been calling for focus and commitment to improve Australia’s innovation record.

With the phrase, “embrace risk and experimentation”, the Prime Minister encouraged Australians to take calculated risks, challenge the status quo, and not be afraid of failure. The strategy is likely to encourage and reward people willing to take a gamble on start-ups and big ideas. At the same time, he challenged the political paradigm and signalled his intention to lead an agile government that is prepared to take risks and be agile as the businesses it seeks to inspire. The message that Government will not always get it right on policies is a shot to the backbench to tighten their seat belts for a potentially bumpy ride, and will worry some of the more risk-averse as we enter an election year.

Today’s statement is a pitch aimed squarely at business and industry who despite the Coalition’s natural leanings, have received little love in key policies areas since the Government came to power in 2013. For the electorate, it won’t mean a great deal. It does offer insight into the approach and potential reform measures that the Government will consider in the next year leading into the Federal election. Areas of tax announced today pre-empt the release of the Government’s tax paper due next year and offer a glimpse into the Government’s thinking.

Some insiders commented ahead of the announcement that the intent and sentiment of today’s release that is more important than the dollars attached. But the budget attached is significant and represents a $1 billion that portfolios will need to offset at a time when Treasury continues to warn of the state of the Budget bottom line. Next week’s release of the mid-year economic and fiscal outlook should offer us the detail of where the potential cuts are coming from and a peek into the likely makeup of the next Federal Budget.

This is not the first and last word of this Government on innovation. Only three days on from the Opposition’s own policy announcement on innovation, the term once characterised as a buzz word is to become a key election platform. Key will be ongoing action and not just words.