Successful Innovation Aligns Science with Public Values: Excerpt From Science Meets Business Australia

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Excerpt reprinted from Craig Cormick, Manager of National Operations, CSIRO Education originally published in

“Unfortunately for Australia, 21st century innovation isn’t based on the good fortunes of geography, geology and climate. We’ve long relied on digging up resources and selling them overseas, or on fattening sheep and exporting them….

Australia does good science and is, sometimes, creative. But we have a poor record of commercialising good science and understanding innovation. The 2012 Innovation System Report points to a shortage of management education and innovative culture and highlights an imbalance between government versus private R&D spending. There’s a lack of: R&D growth in key areas; business access to publicly funded research expertise; mobility of researchers between academia and business; and a concerted national science, technology and innovation strategy.

Increasingly, research highlights the importance of incorporating consumer needs into successful innovation strategies to ensure acceptance of new products or services. There are examples – such as genetically modified (GM) crops as an agricultural productivity solution – in which developers provide answers where few people saw a problem. Alternatively, members of the public may believe research wrongly crosses an ethical divide – embryonic stem cell research is an example. Public rejection also occurs with solutions such as nanotechnologies, where misinformation about risks dominates information flow about the science.

It’s not just about selling products harder or better explaining the science. I’ve spent years in discussions with people opposed to GM, nanotechnology and vaccinations and their issues are rarely with the science. It’s more about personal values: from concerns about messing with nature and ethical fears over genetic information misuse; to opposition against monopolising agri-conglomerates. Align a product with public values and it has a better chance of a dream run. Clash with those values and there could be trouble.

It makes sense to ask end-users what they want. If the public had been consulted about GM science back in the mid-1990s, for example, we may not have seen agricultural firms using the technology to develop herbicide- or pesticide-resistant broadacre crops, but perhaps non-food crops that produce pharmaceuticals or healthier foods, with more public support.

More contentious and innovative research is currently underway in Australia. The potential benefits are enormous. But their applications will need strong institutional support and community endorsement, skilled developers and sufficient funds for commercialisation. A lot of very clever people will need to cooperate in new ways to share old wisdom and new ways of thinking.”

To read the full article, refer to

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