Innovation is key to unlocking economic future

20 January, 2017

Being innovative is the key to riding out the post mining boom says former QLD premier Peter Beattie.

Beattie was country’s first resources sector supplier envoy from 2011-12 and is now chairman of the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee. He will share his insights over lunch as part of the CCI Lighthouse Leadership Series on 21 April.  

While he hasn’t followed the WA state election closely – preferring to spar about federal politics with Peter Reith on Sky News – he does think WA is facing a lot of similar issues to QLD.

“What do you do in a post mining boom? How do you grow an economy? What are the sort of things you need to do?  The bottom line with all that is a whole lot of stuff about innovation,” he says.

“It’s about the mining services industry. I was a trade commissioner in Northern and Latin America and you can see the opportunities for Australia and that’s all based on us being innovative, clever and strategic.

“It’s about getting into supply lines.”

He was appointed envoy after a stint as QLD’s trade commissioner in Los Angeles, giving him insights into what roadblocks are faced by manufacturers in Australia.

As envoy, Beattie helped manufacturers compete better in the resources market as part of the Buy Australian at Home and Abroad initiative. He undertook consultations between industry and stakeholders across the country to highlight issues affecting the ability of manufacturers and suppliers to link into major resource projects.

Building partnerships between universities and the private sector, particularly in mining services, is a must, Beattie says.

“One of the reasons why our mining services are so good is because we’ve been very innovative but our problem is we have to continue to do that because China is now emerging in that area, Russia, South America, Canada, they’ve all been very strong,” he says.

“So it is having a good relationship between private industry and universities and then using that research that comes out to commercialise it, turn it into companies. It’s a lot more than that but that’s a part of it.”

Beattie says being innovative means building infrastructure as a means for job security. 

“Too often innovation is seen as a job destroyer but the reality is, of course it will affect jobs but innovation is our backbone,” he says.

“The Chinese are spending a fortune of their GDP on innovation. They are driving jobs out of it and we have to do the same thing and we’ve got good innovation policies at a federal level but no one articulates them.

He says partnerships between say a private company and a university are critical for job creation. You roll that out based on some smart innovation and that company is going to need people to build a building, plumbers, electricians, painters and the whole economy grows.

“We don’t explain that, so often people think innovation means job losses. It doesn’t mean that.”

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