Entrepreneurs’ Programme - Innovation Connections: what can be said after 3 years of relationship building?

Paul Felici
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Damien Halliday
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Simon Blacket
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Evangelos Lambrinos
Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Australia has a major issue within its innovation ecosystem around industry-research collaboration. This is highlighted every time an OECD report is published with Australia at the bottom of the list. So how are we looking to solve this?

Innovation Connections is one of four elements offered under the Australian Government Entrepreneurs’ Programme and has been expanded under the National Innovation and Science Agenda. It is a key government measure designed to facilitate greater business and research collaboration. Innovation Connections features a facilitation service that provides independent expert advice and solutions for business to knowledge-related issues and a brokering service to link businesses with appropriate knowledge providers and research organisations. Innovation Connections can match funding of up to $50,000 to assist a business in directly accessing a specific research capability. The Innovation Connections service is delivered by a national network of 21 innovation facilitators.
After administering over 1000 facilitations and 300 project grants since September 2014, Innovation Connections has gathered a unique data set that holds some insights to the business-research relationship in Australia. The data compiles information about facilitations and grants as they relate to location, key growth sectors, research topics, business needs, funding values, publically funded research organisation participation, facilitator advice and activities, as well as business advisor cross-referrals. Analysis of In-novation Connections data provides visibility into areas such as:

• which of research organisations tend to go for business collaborations (via a grant)

• the proportion of businesses that have never worked with a research organisation before

• whether a business then continues the journey from the Innovation Connections ‘first relation-ship’ with additional research

• which industry sector has businesses with the biggest appetite for researcher collaboration

• the size profile of business (e.g. turnover) and whether small to medium enterprises are really that afraid to put money into a project

• what is the typical academic level of the researcher who gets involved with a business-research collaboration – Research Associate, Associate Professor or Professor?

• which state of Australia has more business-researcher collaborations for advanced manufacturing related projects, or the energy sector, or mining and exploration topics, and so forth.

This work provides critical feedback on the effectiveness of the Innovation Connections service offered. The data metrics also help the Australia-wide network of facilitators to fine tune and target their delivery of Innovation Connections to both the business and research communities. In the longer term, these findings and insights will be used to shape the understanding of industry-research stakeholders, and alter behaviour to build a better culture of business-researcher relationships.