As the world of industry becomes increasingly complex and technologically advanced, Australian businesses must innovate to remain competitive. Collaboration among businesses, research organisations and governments allow for novel and commercially viable innovation, and in an increasingly competitive global environment, Australian industries must innovate to remain on the map.
The state of collaboration in Australia
Unfortunately, recent ABS data shows that Australia is at the bottom of OECD countries when it comes to collaboration, which puts us at a distinct disadvantage in the competitive global market.
Further, a 2015 Universities Australia report noted that “Australia ranked 33rd out of 33 countries on the proportion of large businesses collaborating with higher education institutions or public research agencies on product or process innovation” between 2008-10, clearly revealing great room for improvement.
In today’s global market, collaboration is essential for sourcing the best talent and ideas, as well as sharing resources and risk. If Australian businesses do not work towards collaborating with other businesses, research institutions and governments, they will simply fail to remain competitive.
Collaboration tends to be uncommon in Australia due to a lack of proper funding and understanding, with Ai Group Chief Executive Innes Willox commenting that “there is an absence of practical and easily-accessible information on collaboration’s benefits, how businesses should go about building partnerships with others, or how to manage these relationships to achieve greater commercial success from their investments in innovation”.
When collaboration does occur among Australian businesses and institutions, it seems to be done on a very shallow level and with short-term results in mind as opposed to ongoing cultural changes.
Why collaboration is essential for innovation
Being average is simply not enough in today’s globally connected and highly competitive marketplace. Complexity and unpredictability is now part and parcel of the global business environment, with this being driven by factors such as:
- Ease of physical trade
- Hyperconnectivity of data
- The advance of technology
- Increased automation
- Participation of emerging economies
- Transition of economies like China towards consumption
- Changing values and preferences of customers
We live in a world of digital disruption and industry connectivity, meaning companies now have to collaborate in order to obtain the necessary skills and assets. It takes more than industry-specific knowledge to innovate, with skills in data analysis, cloud services, software, security and more also being necessary to add to the mix. Of course, few organisations possess all these capabilities under one roof, meaning collaboration with external entities is needed to form a well-rounded team.
Collaboration also allows companies to create value and develop hybrid business models, which is a distinct improvement from yesteryear when new capabilities were only possible through ownership or long leases.
Australian organisations can also establish stronger networks in export markets by collaborating globally, as well as earn a reputation for research quality and expertise on a global scale. These networks can in turn provide Australian researchers and businesses with global funding.
By collaborating and innovating, organisations can not only face disruption, but actually embrace it. Collaboration is healthy for everyone involved, as it increases competition in the innovation process and allows for an open talent pool. Therefore, there needs to be a nationwide shift from individualised control to dynamic collaboration to ensure the ongoing success of Australian industries in the increasingly competitive global marketplace.
How to promote and enhance collaboration
Businesses, universities and governments all have a shared responsibility to improve collaboration, with all these parties having to work synergistically for success. Some suggestions for collaborating more effectively include:
- Collaborate with local researchers and academics to obtain new ideas and solutions
- Find open source communities to gain an edge in cloud computing, digital design and more.
- Monitor app stores for new products
- Find crowdfunding platforms that are relevant to your industry
- Build valuable contacts and networks to promote your commercial success
- Plan and bid for contracts and tender
- Develop consistent processes for collaboration
- Find new export markets and opportunities to partner globally
- Tap into the R&D Tax Incentive to offset the cost of your research and development
- Connect with businesses at trade shows and conferences
- Be generous with your expertise and knowledge
While some partnerships happen serendipitously, businesses should normally approach collaborations with a plan in mind. Ask yourself how the collaboration will provide your business with a competitive advantage, what you are looking for in a collaborative partner, and how you will identify the most suitable partner to work with. Also bear in mind that collaboration is a two-way effort and must be mutually beneficial, so it’s also essential to know what you have to offer to potential partners.
Australian industries need to adapt to changing business models, embrace disruption, and collaborate in order to innovate. While Australian science and research is of an excellent quality, collaboration is the missing link required to commercialise this research. In order to uplift Australian innovation, businesses need to prioritise collaboration, universities must overcome cultural differences, and governments must value collaboration in their programs and funding.
Ai Group support Australian collaboration through our research and business support services, including Work Integrated Learning placements through our Higher Apprenticeships program. Our Higher Apprenticeships provide businesses with the cutting-edge talent pool necessary to innovate and create. Enquire about equipping your workforce with our Higher Apprentices today, or read our report on collaboration entitled Joining Forces: Innovation Success Through Partnerships for more of our insights.
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