Eco Innovator November 2011

Government Policy

The Missing Links in Entrepreneurship

There is no question that Australia is faced with many challenges in better connecting its innovation policy to the realities of its service economy and leveraging the entrepreneurial capacity in its immigrant population, education and research system, and general community, says the report Entrepreneurship in Australia: the Missing Links, by Fiona Wood.

The report says countries around the world are looking to innovations from advances in science and engineering not only for wealth and job creation but also to solve the global challenges in energy, water supplies, climate change, and environmental sustainability, among other social issues.

The OECD has argued that "Governments must look to the green economy to find new sources of growth and jobs. They should put in place policies that tap into the innovation, investment and entrepreneurship driving the shift towards a greener economy".

The report says this can be achieved through entrepreneurship, and quotes the World Economic Forum (WEF) that entrepreneurship can be taught, that "there is a positive relationship between entrepreneurship education and the generation of growth enterprises."

However, "in Australia it is difficult to get a clear picture of the extent and nature of entrepreneurship education. However, Swinburne University of Technology, Queensland University of Technology, University of New South Wales, University of Adelaide, University of South Australia, and University of Tasmania have reputations for their work in this area and the Australian Technology Network of Universities jointly offers ‘career-enhancing skills and knowledge' through the e-GradSchool (Australia)."

The report says that in contrast to the US, Australia has a reputation as a risk-averse culture. "One of the most notable examples of this is the failure to support Zhengron Shi's solar energy research, which was subsequently taken to China where he was provided with start-up funding and government support. Suntech Power, which Dr Shi founded, is the now world's largest producer of solar panels.

"Similarly, part of high profile expat materials engineer Saul Griffith's work is on ‘how to
develop low-cost ways to adjust solar cells during daylight so that they always point directly at the sun to absorb more energy'. He says that he would be unlikely ever ‘to move home to Australia to work because of the lack of resources and an aversion to risk in the technology sector here'.

"I've built entire companies that have fallen over with millions of dollars of funding. That type of failure wouldn't have been tolerated in Australia. It's almost celebrated as a success in the US, like: ‘Oh, you lost 5 million on that? Well, that was a good warm-up, let's go bigger next time'"






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