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Australia is no innovation leader: GE

Recent surveys by technology vendor find that that business sentiment towards Australia as an innovation leader is low

Despite Australia being often seen as a "mature" market and quick to adopt new technologies, it is not quite as innovative as people may think, according to recent surveys by technology vendor, GE.

The two independent surveys, titled the GE Global Innovation Barometer and Milken Institute Innovation Report, polled senior business executives in several countries, including Australia, to see what perception they have towards innovation domestically as well as internationally.

While the Milken Institute Innovation Report found that Australia is leading in five of seven innovation indicators and above average in the remaining two, the GE Innovation Barometer survey ranked Australia 16th out of 30 countries in innovation.

The first report was compiled by the independent economics firm, Milken Institute, while the second report was done by market research firm, Strategy One.

Tellingly, 31 per cent of Australian polled felt that innovation has not improved over the last five years, and formed one of the most negative responses globally.

With the surveys found a low sentiment towards Australia as an innovation leader among global business leaders, GE feels that industry support and innovation programs can help to increase competitiveness and productivity in the region.

"Both reports highlight the importance of innovation to strengthening the Australian economy, but they are poles apart in assessment of the local commitment to research and development," GE Australia and New Zealand strategy and growth vice president, Michael Ackland, said.

While the responses by Australian respondents to the GE Innovation Barometer survey were found to be quite negative overall, 86 per cent of Australian business leaders did agree that innovation will lead to a "more competitive economy."

As proof of that sentiment, 85 per cent of respondents felt that the best way to create jobs was through innovation investment and 84 per cent believing that it was the best way to create a "greener" economy.

When asked what areas innovation can improve Australian lives, local business leaders selected communications (96 per cent) and education (90 per cent), closely followed by health quality (89 per cent), job market (89 per cent) and the environment (87 per cent). The findings also highlighted that the local energy and healthcare sectors are the ones with the biggest innovation driven growth potential, several points higher in Australia than typically viewed overseas.

"The challenge for Australia in the 21st century is competitiveness, and to achieve that we've got to drive productivity," Ackland said.

Despite $3.5 billion already invested by Australia in establishing over 40 Cooperative Research Centres nationally, the GE Innovation Barometer found that more than half of Australian business leaders felt that the government policy could be better organised.

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