Innovation City

Written on the 17 June 2009

At the CitySmart Innovation Festival launch in Customs House there was an overwhelming message of confidence that Brisbane – and indeed the world – will be able to meet the current economic and environmental challenges. With a broad perspective of views from the panel of experts at the launch, Brisbane Business News provides a snapshot of the city’s innovative future.

AUSTRALIAN Institute for Commercialisation (AIC) CEO Rowan Gilmore asks the question, ‘If you’re in business what does it mean to innovate?’ It is certainly a broad question as innovation comes in so many different forms, but Gilmore defines it as ‘invention with commercialisation and a bit of novelty in the middle’.

“It involves creating something and then taking that idea to a market, a community or a group of users where it can create value, and it needs to be something that’s new,” says Gilmore.
“Survey after survey shows that communities that are innovative are vibrant communities, and businesses that are innovative are prosperous businesses.”

In his view it all comes down to risk, which is a standing item on most board agendas. But he is willing to bet that there isn’t a single company in Australia that has innovation as a standing item to counterbalance that risk.
“I point the finger here at those of us that are the directors of firms – we all have risk on the agenda of the board, but the flipside of innovation is in fact risk,” says Gilmore.

Outcomes of research and development are always uncertain, but it is research that has gone into alternative energy sources that have the potential to bring Queensland out of recession, according to Cox Rayner Architects principal director Michael Rayner.

Rayner says the changes and innovations that might prevail from the global financial crisis must simultaneously embrace economics, the environment and health, while the state’s resource wealth could be the answer to pull us out of the downturn.
“One of the changes I believe will be the rise of alternative energy industries as primary providers at last, particularly solar and here natural gas – our resource riches could lead us out of recession and natural gas could be a key to our advantage and mutual generator of environmental sustainability,” says Rayner.

“The digital revolution took us out of the last recession and the GFC will be known as spawning the resource revolution.”
Rayner applauds the response to current challenges by spending on infrastructure, schools and universities, as this will lead to a smarter generation of creative thinkers.
“The smart, sharing and caring revolution will leave the digital revolution for dead.”
Creative city
In his opening speech, Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, who hosted the event along with Brisbane Marketing, says it’s easy to think about the short term, but his government is committed to a long-term vision for Brisbane.
“It’s very easy to think about the next year, the next six months, or the next few weeks for some companies who are really fighting an uphill battle at the moment – at times you’ve got to look strategically,” he says.
“So even though we’ve got these short-term tactical financial issues to deal with in putting together this year’s council budget, we’re actually looking forward to 2026 – we’re continuing to look at our vision of the city of Brisbane as we want it to be.
“A harmonious and inclusive city, a city that is a creative city, a city with world-class infrastructure, wonderful sports and recreation facilities, a city which actually promotes business and economic development and creates an environment where business can prosper.”
But ANZ’s Peter Pontikis says when it comes to gaining government grants for research towards innovation, the problem is that the people giving them out are not willing to take risks, even with applicants that have a proven record. A change must be made.
“Brisbane shouldn’t be centralising innovation in the business sector — it is the combination of innovations in education, lifestyle and public/private sector collaboration that will encourage economic growth,” says Pontikis.
He also calls for people to be practical in the short term as well as in the long term, with a message that talking about the future was fine, so long as it does not neglect action.
“What we do with all this anxiety about the future is we have summits like 2020 and calling it 2020 makes us all feel terribly visionary, and when you go to get a government grant for innovation. They’re experts at this and they all work out which of these people in the beauty contest is most beautiful,” he says.
“Can I suggest that an alternative way of doing this, which is the way that God chose between species and Darwin kind of noticed, is to pick something that’s worked and then give them a free vote.
“In other words to say to someone, if you’ve applied for a grant and that’s really worked out then you’ll get another grant application pretty much automatically because we want to back your success and you’re the guy that’s supposed to have the judgement.”


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