Innovation a key trade advantage

27/06/2018 - 14:35


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International opportunities for Western Australian startups, microgrid developers and the biotech sector are expected to develop in coming years, according to the state’s trade representatives.

Stuart Crockett says China wants to lead the world in virtual reality and artificial intelligence technology. Photo: Ryan Ammon

International opportunities for Western Australian startups, microgrid developers and the biotech sector are expected to develop in coming years, according to the state’s trade representatives.

Speaking to Business News on the sidelines of a meeting of WA trade commissioners in Perth last week, the state’s eight foreign representatives outlined the themes emerging in their markets.

The state's trade representatives met in Perth this week.

One of the most notable changes is happening in the Chinese market, already the state’s biggest trading partner, trade commissioner to China Stuart Crockett said.

Mr Crockett said China had established a region similar to the Californian city of Palo Alto (known as Silicon Valley) called Dream Town, which served as a giant incubation centre for technology businesses.

Hundreds of startups have flocked to Dream Town, which is a suburb in the city of Hangzhou, coincidentally located in a region where WA has a sister state relationship.

Mr Crockett said virtual reality and artificial intelligence were two priorities for China’s government.

“This is the new China,” he said.

“They help you build your product, commericalise and partner, and just across the road there are 770 funding providers.

“If you have good intellectual property that you’re willing to partner or secure with China, they will help you.

“I’d love for WA companies in that space to come and have a bit more of a look.”

Deputy director general of the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation, Rob Delane, said microgrids were a good example of where WA was at the cutting edge of innovation.

Microgrids are small power grids with their own generation assets and storage to match demand; they can operate as part of a larger grid or on their own.

Mr Delane said although the hardware for microgrids was usually built elsewhere, WA’s edge was in putting it together and applying clever solutions.

That could be done with overseas partners, he said.

Singapore commissioner John Catlin said there was a huge amount of interest in renewable energy in South-East Asia, and that WA often undersold its capability.

Commissioner to Indonesia Jennifer Mathews cited the developing country as an example, with its government seeking to improve accessibility to electricity across its many islands.

Microgrids would be used in remote villages, Ms Matthews said, due to the fact that they required a much smaller capital outlay than incurred when running cables across long distances to connect power grids.

She said the work in this space by state-owned Horizon Power was indicative of WA’s capability.

In more conventional services industries, education could be a big growth area in Indonesia, with deregulation likely to allow foreign universities to open campuses in the country in the near future, she said. 

A further field where WA innovation could have an impact is in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, according to South Korean commissioner Sung Jean Ough.

“WA has got pretty good research and development capability … and at the same time commercialising (experience),” Mr Ough said.

“Pharmaceutical is getting big, they said it’ll be where the next big advance in information technology is.

“This is one opportunity where WA can participate and shouldn’t miss out at all.

“In telehealth, WA has got far more advanced than (South) Korea.

“Korean government policy does not allow telehealth, doctors organisations have been lobbying government (against it), they want to keep their territory but sooner or later it will be happening.”

More broadly, Mr Ough said a key message was that commissioners were available to link local small businesses into overseas markets.

“We never say no, doesn’t matter how small they are,” he said.


One other clear theme across the eight commissioners who spoke to Business News was that WA businesses should not expect access to foreign markets to be easy.

For example, while WA’s Asian timezone was considered a plus for business seeking to trade in the region, the advantages of this had perhaps been overstated.

Another challenge was the need for businesses to know their market.

What they might consider a luxury agricultural product might not be perceived as such overseas.

And further, there was plenty of competition from other countries trying to secure new markets.

That included from Canada, which has an economy structured similarly to Australia’s.


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