Australia: New campaign drives home strong message on collaboration
From access to cutting-edge facilities to funding and commercialisation opportunities, the list of benefits to come from higher education and business collaborations is a long, inexhaustible one.
This is widely known. But why it became a business imperative of Australia’s academic sector for this and last year is because of how little of such activity the national space has seen in the years prior.
What’s alarming is this: despite efforts to lift collaboration, Australia continues to lag far behind its peers in the OECD in business-funded and business-linked research.
A big reason for this is that Australian businesses simply aren’t investing enough to innovate. According to recently released statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), total investments in research and development (R&D) is at its lowest in four decades relative to the size of the economy, going from 1.88 percent to 1.79 percent of the GDP.
Declining levels of productivity and innovation-boosting research is why Australia is faltering in the developed world; the OECD average for R&D investment is 2.38 percent of GDP.
Missing out on these research opportunities means standing still. And in a hyper-fast, hyper-competitive landscape, no sector of business or industry anywhere in the world can afford to stand still.
This is exactly the message Australia Prospers, a partnership between universities and businesses, wants to drive home to higher education and industry to encourage collaboration in Australia.
To do that, the organisation formerly known as the Business-Higher Education Roundtable (BHERT) commissioned the services of independent agency The Hallway.
The Australia Prospers Project is an extensive consultation project that seeks to understand the triggers and barriers around the business and higher education collaboration process. As part of the project, interviews were conducted with over 20 key stakeholders, ranging from vice-chancellors of major universities to innovation leaders at top 100 ASX companies.
“Australia prospers when business and universities innovate together,” project director Martin Stewart-Weeks said in a media release on the project.
“That much we have learned and, although it can sometimes be a challenging process, when research and commerce combine, investment and jobs flow, new industries are born, lives are changed and sometimes saved.
“In a rapidly changing and very different world, we need to get even better at combining the knowledge, expertise and capabilities of universities and business for sustainable growth and shared prosperity,” he added.
Of paramount importance to ensuring the Australia Prospers project would create impact is making sure its message is articulated in the right way to its intended audiences, that is, universities and businesses across the country. The story needed to be expressed in a succinct way, taking stock of complex realities to inspire action across C-suiters, higher education and governmental decision-makers in Australia.
A product of the work is a minute-long film that speaks directly to leaders across the university and business landscape.
Taking on a raw experimental-film-like approach, the clip focuses on two key protagonists, one representing Australian universities and the other, Australian businesses.
Alternating between one and the other, the film plays representatives speaking separately but at the same time, and from two different perspectives but with one shared message: “The future is clear when we speak with one voice.”
Both sides say the same: that Australia is standing on the precipice of a technological revolution but that charting the path to the future of success in innovation is not a journey that can be completed alone.
Collaborative efforts between the leaders of science, research, industry and commerce, they say, hold the key to this future.
“Australia,” they conclude, both looking straight at the camera, as if to address the country’s university and business leaders directly, “… together, we will prosper.”
The Hallway ECD & Partner Simon Lee said the film doesn’t just deliver its message to its audience but is, in itself, “a demonstration of the message”.
“It’s an unconventional approach, but this piece of work needs to help drive change, and you don’t drive change by sticking to convention.”
The campaign will bolster ongoing efforts by the nation’s universities to encourage industry-academia collaboration.
Often, the issue isn’t a lack of willingness to engage, but the lack of know-how, time and resources, and an uninformed view that collaborations are more suitable for larger corporations.
But there are multiple ways of working with universities. And the truth is that large or small, businesses stand to gain a raft of benefits from these collaborations, such as access to unlimited research power, a readymade future workforce, first-grade facilities and an opportunity to network with the best and brightest minds in their fields.
And if these aren’t incentive enough to lift business participation in higher education, this might: a study last year by Cadence Economics commissioned by Universities Australia found that the 16,000 companies who worked with local universities derived AU$10.6 billion from the collaboration.