Who’d have thought you could have so much good, clean fun in Canberra? I’ve been there two weekends in a row working on a project – on your behalf I hasten to add – called Securing Australia’s Future. I’d been invited onto an EWG (an Expert Working Group, in the vernacular of the day) to look at how this country can translate university expertise into economic benefit. It’s not looking so good for Oz – we’re below Chile by a long drop, and only just doing better than Spitsbergen, the Isle of Wight, and those disputed rocks off the China coast. Not even winning the Rugby World Cup will be enough to improve our standing.
The new government is greatly challenged by the task of improving Australia’s ranking in the OECD tables. In fact, they are bloody mad, as mad as a dozen wasps stuck in a tent. Our EWG report will of course sort all this out. It’s been impeccably compiled, expertly sourced and (to my deep pleasure) has a two-page list of simple recommendations, chief of which are: stop chopping and changing, take a long-term view, and learn from other countries’ business innovation schemes that are clearly working.
In the UK and US, some of the most successful academy-to-business projects have been in place for 25 years, and their gearing is formidable. In one of the comparator countries, they have three-way partnerships between the graduate, their academic institution, and business. These partnerships generated a net A$8b in new sales, A$3b gross value added and created around 6,000 jobs between 2001-02 to 2007-08. It’ll all be in the report – lots of graphs and tables and some fine case studies. It was even worth going to Canberra for. And there was of course the annual Canberra Floriade to enjoy: thousands of flowers, heaving hectares of them, aroma aplenty. Though the taxi driver who drove past muttered a tad grumpily, ‘you seen one toolip, you seen ‘em all.’ You could of course say the same about bulky reports on translating university expertise into economic benefit, but the flowers smell much better.