Address to 2016 Knowledge Nation summit

14 Apr 2016 Speech

Opening remarks

It’s great to be at your 2016 Knowledge Nation summit, whether you are from industry or business education, research, investment, media, government or science—and whether you are a rock star or not.

We are here today to talk about how knowledge can propel us as a society and a nation.

And specifically, to talk about how to draw on the Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda to help us create and invest in ideas to deliver greater prosperity for all Australians.

We will be talking about how to advance collaboration between industry and research, which is critical.

But if Australians are to utilise knowledge—perhaps our greatest asset—to secure the future for generations to come, we will need more than talk about it.

I’ve said that the Government wants its recently released agenda to be nothing less than the start of an economic revolution.

I, and my recently released, inner revolutionary will update you today on how we are going with the insurrection against the old economy.

But first, I might segue to Greece, surprising though that may sound at first.

There are many Greek Australians in my electorate of Sturt. They tell me that while they do worry about modern economic directions in their home country, they also don’t lose sight of Greek history, and of what Greece gave the world.

It was, after all, the original Knowledge Nation. And it gave us the democratisation of knowledge.

That well-known Athenian rock star Aristotle gets most of the credit for this sharing of human understanding, as the University of Sydney’s Vrasidas Karalis reminded us last week on the scholar’s 2400th birthday.

What an idea Aristole had. He was certainly starting something up.

Nowadays, happily, we take pride in not only the continuing democratisation of knowledge but its mass, even aggressive, distribution.

Along with elaborate and well resourced education systems, we find ourselves fuelling and following a knowledge expansion that’s now reaching almost every corner of human existence.

Digital technology, including the Internet, have made that possible.

Another age ago, slightly before I entered politics in 1993 and in Paul Kelly’s third decade as a guru correspondent we could barely imagine such things.

But British engineer Tim Berners-Lee had an idea, and others backed it. As ideas go, it was another big one. It turned out to be revolutionary.

This has presented us with a whole set of new challenges.

Among them is this: how do we leverage our massively expanding knowledge to create more safety, more security and more prosperity for our nation?

That is the Government’s central question forustoday.

May I say I am thrilled to be part of the spirit that filled this room last year when I was here with Malcolm, in December, and also again today.

Today we will hear from some of the nation’s leading knowledge creators and entrepreneurs, including many of the celebrities in our midst, the Knowledge100 rock stars.

First we must thank two people in particular for getting us this far:

Elena Douglas and the team at Knowledge Society, who are collaborating with knowledge creators across the nation; and

Australia’s pre-eminent science advocate, Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel. Alan has been in the job for only three months, but has been criss-crossing Australia, engaging on more innovation matters than I can count. He has touched on the Internet of Things, research infrastructure, energy productivity, gravitational waves and of course, collaboration. He has even dabbled in trying to help the CSIRO resolve some of their staffing issues.

My thanks also go to the sponsors—Rio Tinto, Cisco, Austrade and, of course, my department.

Today will allow us to focus in depth on what’s in the National Innovation and Science Agenda, our blueprint for an innovation nation, and how best to implement it.

The Agenda

As you know, the Prime Minister and I launched the National Innovation and Science Agenda last December, backed by 24 separate initiatives valued at $1.1 billion over four years.

There are four pillars to it as Elena pointed out. Culture and capital; collaboration; talent and skills; and government as an exemplar.

In the four months since the launch, we’ve made some serious progress in all four areas.

Culture and capital

Culture and capital is about promoting a more entrepreneurial and risk-taking culture in Australia.

It looks to Australians to invest more in high-risk, early-stage ventures. It wants us to to win support, grow activity and learn from what unfolds—yes, if it doesn’t works, but even if doesn’t and the project fails we want to try again.

There is plenty to draw on in the agenda package. New tax breaks for early-stage investors in innovative startups; tax offsets for venture capital funds; and an increased cap on funds under management, among other things.

Meanwhile the Government recognises and celebrates the crucial role of investment companies like those led by Bob Christiansen and Danny Gilligan, two of our Knowledge100 rock stars. They are helping to expand the culture of entrepreneurship in Australia. We need many more like them.

Last month we introduced legislation to Parliament to give effect to the tax measures. I expect the changes to commence on the 1st of July.

Because of exhaustive consultation, they will be appropriately designed and they won’t be vulnerable to abuse.

Incubators help get high-potential startups off the ground. They provide vital mentoring success and access to additional capital and networks.

The$8millionIncubatorSupportProgramme in the agenda will help establish new incubators in regions or industry sectors with high innovation potential. It will also expand the services of existing incubators.

In February, for example, the Government announced $150,000 in support for Australia's financial services technology, or FinTech, in the burgeoning Asian market, particularly out of Shanghai.

This recognizes the important role FinTech companies play in Australia's innovation future.


In terms of pillar two, collaboration, we are on the move.

We often think of collaboration as something to be driven by our academic institutions. But business and industry must both be there. It takes two to tango.

In the end it is business entrepreneurs and industry who will transform knowledge into economic benefit.

I am pleased to say, business is certainly is putting its best foot forward.

Telstra and Commonwealth Bank are each investing $10 million in quantum computing at the University of New South Wales.

This followed in 48 hours, the Government’s commitment of $25 million to support the university’s Centre for Quantum Computation and Communications Technology in developing silicon quantum computer technology.

I look forward to more such private and public partnerships.

In the meantime we have established a panel of experts to assess impact and end-user engagement of university research with industry. I think Aiden Byrne is one of the co-chair’s of that group and I see him here, he is doing a great job with the Australian Research Council, that is my next point.


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