Omar Khalifa, CEO, iAccelerate

If design is one leading indicator of a nation’s innovation capacity then Australia’s product development malaise may be starkly evident in the 2016 statistics released by the World Intellectual Property Organization.

While Australia somewhat underachieves the leaders in patent and trade mark applications (with nearly 2,000 of each), it’s stunning that the nation managed to file a grand total of only 6 design protection applications last year. That compares to 3,900 filings for Germany!

On a per capita basis this is just .25 filings per one million of population and compares with Switzerland at 319; Sweden at 52; Germany at 48; the USA at 4.5; and Israel at 1. We may take cold comfort in knowing that we outpaced Russia (.03) and China (.07).

We often talk about the importance of moving beyond research intensity and towards creating globally competitive businesses that offer compelling and increasingly sophisticated products and solutions but to do this will take more than wishful thinking.

We need to build strengths in the areas that underpin innovation and help make it saleable and also world class. If we are not about to out-muscle most of Asia on manufacturing and low wages, then it makes sense to create avenues that will include creativity and innovation and some of that will necessarily be dependent on and expressed through design disciplines and design thinking. The best innovations often come from the fusion of arts and sciences – a blind-spot so far in Australia.

This chart clearly illustrates the focus of some of the innovation leaders in the world today as they concentrate on their applied strengths. Australia now needs to do the same with determined and aligned effort from educators, business and government or as baseball player Yogi Berra famously quipped: “If you don’t know where you are going, you’ll end up someplace else.”



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