Australia's push for an innovative edge
The 2014 GII report released by INSEAD, Cornell University and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) ranked Australia behind other leading economies, such as Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA and Singapore on overall innovationiii.
The report found that we are struggling to produce innovation outputs, with Australia ranking 81st for overall innovation efficiency. Our strengths were found to lie in the quality of our institutions, the sophistication of our market, and in our infrastructureiv.
Findings also suggest that we aren't doing enough when it comes to knowledge and technology outputs (scoring 38.5 out of 100), and creative outputs (scoring 52.5 out of 100). With innovation being one of the strongest drivers of economic growthv, it's important for Australians to keep churning out new ideas and uncovering new ways to exceliv.
Thinking outside the box
It's no secret that the mining boom has been great for our economy, but the growth of the mining industry is slowing downvi. Economists suggest that the growth of Australia's economy over the coming decades will be dependent on a wider variety of industry sectors. Some of the top industries predicted to facilitate strong economic growth include aged care, medical research, tourism, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) and parcel deliveryvi.
There are countless innovative minds already shaking up our biggest growth industries with fresh ideas, approaches and business models; and it's not just Freelancer's Matt Barrie and the founders of tech giant Atlassian who are worthy of a mention.
Aged care is tipped to be our strongest growth sector over the next 20 yearsvi. The aged care industry is focusing heavily on creating innovative ICT solutions to facilitate better services for older Australians. Symposiums such as the Information Technology in Aged Care (ITAC) conference and the Make HASTE Aged Care Technology Expo allow the brightest minds from across the industry to come together with new ideas on how to take Australian aged care to the next level.
One such idea was developed by researchers at Flinders University, in conjunction with spin-off company Clevetar. The team has created an iPad-based app that provides older people with a virtual personal assistantvii. The 'Anna Cares' app is designed to help older people who live alone in residential aged care facilities maintain their independence. The app can remind users about medication and appointments, deliver messages from aged care service providers, and it comes with a cloud-based web dashboard for service provider managementviii.
From a crowdfunded interactive video game being developed for people with dementia to a smartphone app that can detect pain in non-communicative patients, the aged sector is continually producing technological innovations.
Economists are projecting that visitors to Australia from Asian countries such as China, India and Indonesia will increase threefold over the next 20 years. The projected growth calls for a strategic approach to tourism, the development of high-end experiences and the embracing of digital tourism solutionsix.
Wealthy Asian travellers are being targeted through the development of five-star hotels, high-end retail and casino complexes such as Crown Sydney and Aquis Great Barrier Reef Resort and Casino. However, smaller tourism operators and technology developers are also looking for innovative ways to capture new travel markets.
Unlike other industries, innovation in tourism doesn't usually stem from extensive research and development (R&D), as the industry is mostly comprised of SMEs. Instead, tourism businesses are focused on continual improvement of their existing products and services, making them 'incremental innovators'ix.
The Cairns ZOOm and Wildlife Dome was recently announced as runner up of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) Prize for Innovation in Tourismxi. The unique tourist attraction, which sits atop the Reef Hotel Casino in Cairns, features a wildlife exhibit in a rainforest environment, as well as physical challenges featuring internal zip lines, ropes and tunnels. The attraction was recognised by the QTIC for its implementation of new innovations into an existing attraction in order to appeal to broader markets. The owners of the attraction advise other tourism operators to think of products that are 'interactive, interesting [and] educational', with the Dome exhibiting a perfect marriage of these attributesxii.
The tourism industry has also recognised the need for digital solutions that make travelling to our vast and varied land a little bit easier. The 'Great Ocean Road' and 'Melbourne' apps, developed by iPhone and Android app developers Go2 Australia, were designed to help travellers access helpful information on the Great Ocean Road and Melbourne while on the go. The apps include location-based results of places to stay, eat and drink, things to do and updated information on local events. Both apps also include interactive maps with suggested routes to make navigating the popular Victorian destinations even easierxiii. Tourism Australia has also developed the 'There's Nothing Like Australia' app, available in English or Chinese, which includes stunning imagery, interactive video and suggestions on the best destinations across the country.
As the growth of online commerce continues to fuel the need for fast, efficient, low-cost and high-tech delivery solutions, Deloitte predicts that it isn't long before we start seeing driverless vans and wheeled robots at our doorsxiv. While automated delivery might be several years away from becoming a reality, parcel recipients are already benefitting from significant innovation across the industry.
Australia Post has made an effort to continually improve its parcel delivery services through the development of concepts like 24/7 Parcel Lockers. Parcel Lockers allow time-poor customers to collect parcels in their own time from secure storage in the local areaxv.
Smaller competitors to Australia Post are on the rise and coming up with their own fresh take on the parcel delivery business. ParcelPoint has developed a network of more than 1,000 convenience stores across the country, from which customers can pick up their online purchases. Unlike parcel locker solutions, ParcelPoint's innovative concept does not require an investment in rent and high-tech locker systemsxvi.
A number of same-day delivery services such as Want It Now are also capturing the e-commerce market. In the past, same-day delivery services would cost a significant amount, but the partnership business models of some delivery services have made such services more accessible to Australians. Want It Now offers three-hour delivery and evening delivery from over 90 retailers in Sydney and Melbourne, with the added convenience of a mobile tracking app with a countdown feature and SMS notifications prior to deliveryxvii.
Innovation in your business
You don't have to spend hundreds of thousands on R&D to come up with innovative ideas for your own business. Even the smallest of improvements, such as the introduction of a new product range or streamlining of a few internal processes, count as innovation. If you do come up with a brilliant new idea that you think could change an industry or capture a new market, look into commercialising your innovation and also protecting the IP of your ideas