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Innovation Studies

We undertake research and advise on the dynamic processes of generation, development, adoption and diffusion of innovations in the economic and socio-cultural system, and examine their characteristics and effects on the economy and the socio-cultural system.

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Current Projects

The Language of Innovation

The project addresses the pervasive yet often overlooked role that language plays in the sphere of innovation.

 

Despite considerable research and policy formulation in science, technology, and innovation, the linguistic dimensions—how innovation is spoken about, written about, and consequently thought about—are not comprehensively studied.

 

This oversight is significant given that language is not a neutral vehicle for conveying ideas but rather a tool that shapes and is shaped by socio-political, economic, and cultural contexts.For instance, terminology like "transformative innovation" or "sustainable development" is both descriptive and prescriptive, affecting how resources are allocated or what kinds of research and policy initiatives receive funding.

 

Misuse or misunderstanding of terms can lead to policy inefficiencies, misaligned corporate strategies, and general public misconceptions. Therefore, a lack of critical analysis in this area is challenging for the stakeholders involved in innovation and the broader community.

 

The project takes an interdisciplinary approach to merge insights from linguistics, innovation studies, policy analysis, corporate strategy, organisation theory, and knowledge management.

Theories of Innovation

The concept of innovation is as ancient as human civilisation itself, yet its understanding continues to evolve.  While divergent in their specific focuses and methodologies, theories of innovation collectively contribute to a holistic understanding of the innovation process. 

Different theories explore different dimensions of innovation - from economic impact and systemic interactions to geographical influences, financial underpinnings, social dynamics, organisational strategies, and creative methodologies.  In this exploration, Innovation theories provide a framework for understanding how new ideas evolve into end-user-ready products, services, or processes.

 

This project canvasses five seminal theories that seek to explain how innovation happens or should happen. Each paradigm conceptualises the innovation process differently, prescribing distinct roles for policymakers, researchers, business leaders and other stakeholders.  

  

  • The linear flow theory is one of the earliest and simplest innovation models. It posits a unidirectional flow of innovation from basic research (discovery and invention) to applied research, experimental development, and commercialisation. It is the logic of the OECD Frascati Manual of Innovation Reporting.

  • Web or network-based theories conceptualise innovation as a collective activity involving multiple stakeholders, including firms, governments, and research institutions. This theory argues that innovation is not a sequential or solitary act but an interactive process within an ecosystem. The Triple Helix and clustering concepts stem from this model.

  • The start-up theory focuses on the entrepreneurial aspect of innovation. Scholars like Schumpeter identified the entrepreneur as the central agent of innovation. In this model, start-ups, entrepreneurs and venture investors drive innovative activities, taking risks to bring new technologies or services to market.

  • The open innovation theory challenges the traditional, closed-door approach to innovation, where companies rely solely on internal resources for research and development. User-centred Innovation theory represents a shift from traditional, producer-focused innovation models towards models that incorporate the end-user as an active participant in the innovation process.

  • the economic theory of innovation focuses primarily on market structures, incentives and returns on investment. It provides a lens through which the innovation processes that underpin these five theories can be examined and policies developed. An economic theory implemented without supporting theories is bound to fail.   

 

Australia does not have a consistent or coherent innovation policy or strategy. This can be attributed to its reliance on natural resources to drive economic growth—leading to underinvestment in knowledge-based sectors. Innovation initiatives are distributed across multiple ministries with a short-term focus, emphasising immediate gains.

 

The result is a lack of policy coherence and cohesion at the cost of long-term innovation outcomes, evidence-based research investments and sustained innovation performance. These characteristics have made it very hard for the nation to build a comprehensive and consistent innovation policy for the longer term—a policy that will meld into a long-term industrial strategy. 

The project aims to provide a framework for policy coherence and consistency within the Australian constitutional setting of individual Ministerial responsibility and acknowledge the important federal framework where responsibilities and accountabilities are shared between the Commonwealth and State and Territory governments.  

Rhetoric and Reality in Technology Visions

Exploring Economic, Social and Cultural Impacts of Innovation Ecosystems, Districts, Precincts and Hubs.

Rhetoric and Reality in Technology Visions critically examines the interaction between the soaring rhetoric of technology visions and the tangible realities manifesting in innovation ecosystems, including specialised districts, precincts, and hubs. Grounded in a multidisciplinary framework that melds political economy, innovation studies, and critical theory, the study explores the complex layers that constitute these ecosystems.

The research adopts a global perspective, starting with governance models, contrasting established ecosystems like Silicon Valley with emerging innovation centres in Bangalore and Medicon Valley. These case examples illustrate the varying roles of power elites, policy instruments, and institutional architectures in shaping the development trajectory of innovation ecosystems. The research reveals that governance models often reflect entrenched power dynamics that may, inadvertently or deliberately, marginalise other stakeholders, such as local communities, thereby affecting the equitable distribution of benefits.

 

While acknowledging their undeniable role in job creation, technological advancements, and generating economic prosperity, the analysis shows how these ecosystems can simultaneously exacerbate economic inequalities, contribute to gentrification, and even lead to environmental degradation. This dichotomy suggests the urgent need for governance models that consider social and environmental justice.

 

Much of the study examines the "Rhetorical Technology Vision"—the compelling narratives often accompanying technological advancements. It scrutinises how these visions, propagated by corporations, policymakers, and the media, can galvanise investment, shape public policy, and even influence collective imagination, for better or worse. The study cautions against the uncritical acceptance of these narratives, as they can mislead public opinion and result in misaligned investments, straying far from sustainable development and social equity objectives.

 

Calling attention to the divergences between the idealised visions and on-ground realities, the study advocates for a more democratic, inclusive approach to innovation governance. It recommends policy reforms to foster stakeholder inclusivity, transparency, and comprehensive impact assessments considering environmental and social metrics alongside economic gains.

Governance structures in innovation districts, precincts, and hubs are a cornerstone for how these areas function, evolve and interact with their broader ecosystems. Importantly, they serve as the locus where many themes—such as rhetorical technology visions, power dynamics, and social justice and equity concerns—play out most tangibly.

The notion of governance is central to understanding how innovation ecosystems function.

 

Governance models range from hierarchical or 'top-down' to decentralised and network-based. Among them, associative governance stands out for its collaborative orientation, drawing on the strengths of various actors—government, industry, and academia—to create synergistic relationships.

 

This project explores associative governance in action through various case studies, exploring its real-world applications and outcomes.

The intersection of global trends and local identities adds another complex layer. Innovation districts often aspire to be globally competitive, attracting international talent and investment. This leads to universalising certain norms and practices, potentially at the cost of local culture and social fabric.

 

Balancing global aspirations with local integrity is a governance challenge with no easy solutions, but it remains central to the long-term success and acceptance of these innovation ecosystems 

The Governance of Innovation

Updating the 2018 Paper 25 Years of Reviews: The Evolution of Australian Innovation and Industry Policy

This Paper was prepared for the Board of Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) to assist in the preparation for the 2030 Innovation Strategic Plan, Australia 2030: Prosperity Through Innovation.  It was thought useful to undertake a more detailed and in-depth analysis of the industry and innovation policy history as a policy biography that chronicles the actions of policymakers in the development, implementation, review and renewal of innovation and industry policy.

It is an inventory and a brief commentary on innovation policy statements, reviews and reports undertaken by, or commissioned for, the Commonwealth Government over the 25 years – from 1993 to 2018 – and which are on the public record. It covers reviews and reports in the broad field of innovation, science, research, technology, and tertiary education. There are literally hundreds of these documents-but with little discernable impact on longer-term policy performance or outcomes. 

 

The biography documents the actions of policymakers as reflected in policy statements, commissioning of reviews, and release of reports into the public domain.  It presents a public administration perspective drawing attention to matters concerned with strategies, structures, and resource allocation arrangements intended to achieve outcomes and results. The biography refers to the political processes that determine the strategies, or policies on which implementation and delivery is based.

 

This project will revise the Paper and update it for the period 1919-2024, drawing attention to the new review activity and the progress made in the adoption and implementation of the review activity.  

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