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Monday, 23 June 2003
Page: 17159


Mr LINDSAY (1:35 PM) —I too would like to pay tribute to the chair, the member for Eden-Monaro and the deputy chair, the member for Isaacs, for the work that they have put in to lead the committee. It was a very pleasant and worthwhile committee to be on. Riding the innovation wave: the case for increasing business investment in R&D, the first report of this new committee of the parliament, will lead the way to backing Australia's innovation.

This is a report that is going to challenge the government—there is no doubt about that. If the government steps up to the challenge in what the committee has recommen-ded, Australia's innovation wave is going to go from strength to strength. There is tremendous opportunity in the 48 recommendations that are in this report and there is a lot of food for thought, not only for the govern-ment but for business and academia.

There were a number of issues that I personally was very interested in in the committee's deliberations. The first is that there is no doubt that there is no shortage of innovation in Australia today—none whatsoever. Australia, even though it is a small country, has the best of the best when it comes to people and ideas. We should be capitalising on that and, through this report, we can—we can take Australia forward and head towards leading world in innovation. Another point by a witness that is relevant to this is that R&D in Australia costs half of that in the USA. We are a very attractive place to undertake research and development, and we should, of course, capitalise on that.

Some sobering evidence was given to the inquiry that you cannot make a dollar out of R&D in Australia. That was meant to indicate that the market in this country is too small and, if we are going to do well, we have to deal with the global market—we have to sell to the world. Because of that, we should talk about R&D in Australia as R&D&C—research, development and commercialisation. It is very important that companies and academia understand that we should be taking our innovation developments to the world.

Some interesting evidence came out of the Melbourne teleconference that R&D was not just about producing a widget—it could equally be about providing a service, and we should look at that. R&D should not necessarily be about high-tech things; R&D can be about things such as pies and cakes, and I think that is quite often forgotten in the scheme of things.

I was particularly interested in evidence that we received that very firmly said that business managers should not be scientists. Many scientists in the CRC area, for example, will be wounded by that remark because their natural progression seems to be involvement in the academic nature of the development and then saying, `We are going to take this to the market.' But generally they perform poorly. The very clear evidence was that we should be getting the best of the best, even if we have to import managers from overseas to manage the commercialisation of a new product or services to market. There was also a fair body of evidence that industry and academics need to move much more seamlessly between the two areas. I think that there will be a universal tick for that comment.

In the moment I have left I would like to comment about regional Australia and the fact that the committee is looking at CRC projects with smaller universities. We should be looking at the fact that the Group of Eight universities get more than half the funding for CRCs. It is very important that we look after the regional CRCs, particularly James Cook University.