Innovation Culture, Precincts and All That Jazz

December 3rd, 2015

From the earthy harmonies of soul jazz to the sporadic, atonal forays of free jazz – lateral thinking is the key distinguishing element in this type of music. Likewise, building innovation and an entrepreneurial culture could be compared to a form of jazz: it takes a lot of practice, a great deal of mistakes and emanates from a culture that values playing and jamming. Get that right, and then we’ll swing.

saxophone-918904_960_720But how does Australia jazz it up and expedite innovation? According to a recent report released by Microsoft, there is a lot Australia could discover from the start-up story of Massachusetts.  Microsoft’s “Accelerating Australia’s innovation ecosystem” report paralleled Australia to the US state, which has a population of 6.7 million and GDP of $AU632 billion. In contrast, New South Wales almost has an additional one million in population, yet a GDP of $AU487 billion. One of the key differences highlighted in the report is that Massachusetts has nearly four times more technology workers than Australia.

In light of this, the report details that Australia needs to produce and build upon hubs that foster connectivity within the innovation ecosystem.  In specific, by creating innovation-heavy districts within cities and by making appropriate spaces available within publically and privately owned facilities to encourage collaboration. The report cites examples from Massachusetts, who like Australia, faces challenges comparable to Australia’s lack of scale and distance from foreign market.  Boston, in particular, has created a purpose built innovation hub and the area’s “secret sauce”, according to the report, is a shared sense of purpose and a culture of collaboration.

Indeed, as we mentioned above, for innovation to grow we need a culture that allows it to ‘swing’. However, is the answer in a confined innovation precinct? Certainly, the public debate tends to be focused on trying to import success from abroad in a copy and paste mentality: Silicon Valley in California, Silicon Alley in New York, Silicon Roundabout in London, and the proposed, Silicon Harbour in Sydney.

Whilst highly specialised innovation centres are important for innovation – there is also a need to build places for everyday Australians to be involved to truly create a thriving innovation culture. From workshops and tinkering spaces to lemonade stands and studios – the location doesn’t need to blow the budget,  but rather act as a place where individuals of all ages and walks of life can collaborate.

Thus, for the ecology of innovation to flourish, a scaling up methodology could help – from centre to campus to precinct to district to region to our nation as a whole. By ensuring innovation is at every level, perhaps then Australia can observe a culture shift into one which is more entrepreneurial. In the interim, there are steps firms can take to be more innovative. Research and development (R&D) can help drive innovation in your firm through the creation of new processes, products and software. Moreover, the government provides tax cash backs for eligible R&D activities. There is expected to be changes to the R&D Tax Incentive with the upcoming Innovation Statement due next week. However, as it currently stands, companies can still obtain generous savings from their R&D investments. Swanson Reed is specialist R&D tax consultants who can help work out if you’re eligible, contact us today to find out more.