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Strategic solution

DEVELOPING an innovation strategy will help foster and grow WA’s R&D capabilities, but just what should that strategy encompass?

Some believe WA needs to focus on its strengths and the associated leverage to attract more funding and more interest in WA.

Greater collaboration between industry and research institutions was also highlighted as a way forward and some panel members called for the State Government to treat R&D infrastructure like any other significant infrastructure investment and build it for WA’s future growth.

p Andy Sierakowski

“Fundamental research or curiosity research underpins strong academic outcomes and commercialisation opportunities. Now you can direct these opportunities but if they were too prescriptive you may miss out on very significant opportunities.

“The debate should be about how do the universities, how does the State Government, how does the Lotteries Commission, how do the other funders all engage together to build the research capability in the State and the infrastructure in the State?

“Why can’t we get a future Nobel Prize winner in Perth? Why would we want that? I sure would like to see it because it will bring infrastructure in around them.”

p Simon Carroll

“Biotech is a future contributor to the economy that we would be unwise to ignore. There is a lot of IP know-how in our system but we don’t know how to bring it to the fore. Where the HQ is is where the light is shining.

“In the biotech industry capital follows knowledge, so we have to build the knowledge here.”

p Troels Jordansen – Clinical Cell Culture CEO

“If we don’t have the money we don’t get the research, that’s an important point. If we look back at where biotech started we can go back to Boston. Why is Boston a place for biotech? You go back and you look at the universities. What were their competencies, what were they really good at? You build from that strength and you put a strategy together and you focus and you execute it.

“There are hugely successful cases like this in Massachusetts and California. Now you see a lot of regions saying ‘Lets go into biotech’, but it is without having the backbone, without having the competencies. But if you try to do everything you are the jack of all trades and you really don’t succeed. What you end up with is no money for research.”

p Marcus Christian

“There was a common theme among all States at the recent Australian Biotechnology Conference that there is a ‘disconnect’ between the universities and the industry and all the States have a strategy and they are all throwing bucket loads of money at research and they still find the ‘disconnect’.

p Bruce Hobbs

“People are saying: ‘Why don’t we form bigger groups?’

“The classic example is the petroleum group that is made up of Curtin, UWA, Woodside and Shell. In another year it will be a $25 million enterprise and if the State Government puts in money it will be worth $30 million. This is an area of strength.

“We need five areas of strength and we will do all we can to make sure the State Government supports that.”

p Eric Tan – Medical Corporation Australasia managing director

“We have been talking a lot about research and our research capabilities. But what about the ‘d’?

“‘D’ to me is not development; ‘d’ to me is delivery. If there are two goods we can deliver from research one is public good and one is industrial good. In terms of research I think we are pretty good nationally and internationally we punch above our weight. In terms of delivering the pubic good we are pretty good as well in many of the institutions.

“I think what we are lacking is the industrial development. Maybe instead of looking at how we fund more research and more centres of excellence we should be looking at how we can buttress the industrial aspect and that includes not just fund managers but a whole lot of things.

“We need to look at an investment in science and technology and look at it as an infrastructure investment like

the road to Mandurah and put money aside that says this is for our future, we want to create an industry for future West Australians. We need to overcome the bureaucratic thinking. We have plenty to commercialise. One of out of every five agenda items from the Science Council should go to addressing the commercial aspects because that’s where you are going to generate jobs.

“It takes a long time to train a research professor but it doesn’t take that long to train someone to be a chief financial officer.”

p Ian Constable – Premier’s Science Council chair

“Unless we have the scale and the strategic areas where we think this State can star, it is all very well to say biotechnology, but biotechnology is going to be less than one quarter of 1 per cent of the world’s biotech no matter what do we in WA. Now, in those areas we want to excel we can excel fine, but we are going to be a substantial part of oil and gas and remain a substantial part of agriculture. We need more science in agriculture and there are areas of priority of salinity and water that we must build strategically. We hope to create a competitive system whereby we can introduce a major centre every year over the next 10 years, but you have to pick areas where industry can support it.

“The petroleum centre works because Woodside and therefore Shell are here. It is no good expecting a Californian company to come and put in unless it’s so excellent and so unique that it has to be here.”

p Matt Callahan

“You need clusters. How do you deal with the things that pop up? There are companies around that are blips and they are things that are not in the core clusters. So how do you deal with them? The infrastructure needs to reach out to these guys.”

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