Australia’s disingenuous and unexciting “investment” in “innovation” by the Turnbull govt.

I was forwarded a link to a story written for Business Insider Australia by a friend of a colleague (link). I was excited by and appreciative of the initial message, because they offered to introduce me to Brett (from Zendesk, who wrote the article), but as I read the article my enthusiasm quickly dropped.

Now I know there’s a lot of politicking that goes on, and people want to be on the good side of those in power … so maybe he was just painting it in a good light … but nonetheless, I don’t think I can operate within such a scenario which is at best disingenuous or at worst deluded, because our country’s “investment” (less that we used to spend) in “innovation” (handouts to companies whom are already running and shouldn’t need it), is likely nothing I can benefit from anyway.

As you can read for yourself, this article begins with the statement:

Excitement has been bubbling across Australian organisations of late, with the feeling Australia is on the verge of a bold new future driven by the promise of innovation.

… the unfortunate reality, is this:

  • Many organisations and programs with combined funding exceeding $AU1B over 5 years have been scrapped;
  • The Turnbull government is removing >$AU800M from the system over an equivalent time period;
  • Thus leaving only <$AU500M in its place (therefore <$AU100M / annum), and;
  • Much of the support goes to businesses whom arguably neither need nor deserve it.
Commercialisation Australia - the biggest ever step forward (still short of what was required), has been scrapped.
Commercialisation Australia – the biggest ever step forward (still short of what was required), has been scrapped.

Before Commercialisation Australia existed, I had many heated online debates with people over where existing money was going, the criteria for eligibility, and so on … and even though I approve of what was eventually done with CA in brining about to some degree the necessary changes, it was still woefully inadequate and severely flawed.

The Abbott / Turnbull government has set this back to a position EVEN WORSE than it was before CA … so to apply the name “innovation” to this, and to say that people are “excited” by it, is a pretty myopic and superficial view … quite to the contrary I’m scared by this, because we face monumental challenges and the status quo (the recipient of this money) is what caused and continues to cause all these problems in the first place … yet it is the recipient of the money.

Now, the article in Business Insider makes the following points about this “exciting investment in innovation” as they put it … that the aims are to:

  • “Reward intelligent risk taking behaviour … not just bet the farm size risks”, and to:
  • “Encourage this kind of active learning process, especially in larger companies.”

… and we can immediately see what’s going wrong here. There’s a smaller amount of money on offer, which means fewer people get any at all, the very people incapable of determining what risks are good or necessary are going to be judging whether they’re “intelligent”, and the qualifications these same people have for such determinations, is they’ve already “bet the farm” on coal, CSG, fascism, and the fucking TPP!!

The article goes on to say of these purposes:

  • “Align management and reward innovation enablement”, where here they say:
  • “The largest hurdle you’re going to have to overcome in large organisations is culture”, and that:
  • “Choose middle management that have the right leadership skills to embrace and foster change. Bring the right metrics into management’s KPIs and professional measurement … “

Which again just reveals to us the intention of giving away this money to large corporations, as no one else even HAS both upper and middle management. Besides which, studies have shown that KPIs are often more detrimental than beneficial, as they’re so damn rigid, which only encourages a culture of superficiality incapable of innovation.

Now if you look at the website for the new program, there are some things for research and concept development to some small degree, but it’s not very much, and it’s all sabotaged by assumptions based on the flawed economic paradigms of the status quo … so if your project has anything to do with genuinely fixing any of that (ie – it really is innovative), you’re not gonna get a look in.

They next state:

  • Innovation for every staff member, in every department
  • In my experience, “innovation labs” are generally a bad idea

Really?!? Because I’ve read studies that say quite the opposite, it is actually individuals working in isolation who do the majority of the innovating … they may collaborate sure, but all you’re actually doing is contradicting yourself anyway by expanding the “innovation lab” to include the entire business, and since you haven’t got enough money from the grant to do that properly, across multiple organisations, especially on the scale larger corporations, all you’re really doing is depriving that money from a smaller and more genuinely innovative venture, where they actually NEED the financial assistance (unlike yourselves).

Now in the author’s defence he does go on to say:

  • They imply that only a small subset of people is allowed to be innovative, missing huge opportunities for incremental change.

… which I agree with, but my point is: this is the problem of these large established businesses, and if they’d stop hiring conservative idiots to run the show, the problem would just go away – AND YES IT WOULD BE THAT EASY IN MANY CASES. Wasting government money helping them with their problems while depriving it to those actually trying to innovate, will do more harm than good.

The final points made about the objectives of the program are to:

  1. Support innovation from the bottom up
  2. Remove the roadblocks


  • The most cautious among us tend to get the legal team involved at the outset to look at the parameters within which we have to work;

… but again (at best) you’re proving why your own argument is wrong, because if you want to “support innovation from the bottom up”, you don’t go giving the money to those at the top (which is what this whole thing does) … and if you want to “remove the roadblocks”, then your first problem is to stop causing them … like for example, placing elegibility criteria on applicants which excludes so much innovation at the outset, by imposing rules based on the paradigms of the status quo, where INNOVATION ITSELF IS DEFINED AS THE DISRUPTION TO THE STATUS QUO!

Secondly, if your roadblock concern is a legal one, instead of being afraid of taking responsibility for those legal consequences, you should be excited by them, because innovation will come NOT from denying responsibility, BUT INSTEAD from accepting and welcoming it, THEN figuring out the technical requirements of reducing risk (but still achieving the outcome)  …


The last thing we are going to get from this is real, solid, genuine, beneficial innovation … it is to the contrary a reversion to the past, that will fail utterly.

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