Dr Finkel’s high-concentrate formula for innovation success

By The Mandarin

Wednesday September 21, 2016

Laboratory research in science and medical setting.

Australia’s chief scientist road tested a few good dinner jokes at the CSIRO ‘Big Bang’ gala this week and also shared a few handy ingredients for innovation, boiled down to the number of Wiggles.

Challenged to define his work by that great equaliser, the Australian Census, the nation’s chief scientist Dr Alan Finkel arrived at “advice” because “to inspire” didn’t have an ABS code. And if his job is to advise, he think it should be done in the most concentrated way possible.

Consequently the Alan Finkel High-Concentrate Formula for Success (for CSIRO, but widely relevant) has just four parts.

“As a leader, you need these four things in your organisation. As a Prime Minister, you want to build these four things for your country. And when I look at CSIRO, I see potential for this agency and our country in spades.”

  1. Leadership commitment. “The challenge for leaders is to keep the bar high — and then support the troops to deliver. It takes breadth of vision and superb operational skill.”
  2. Effective regulations. “As I see it, regulations exist for two purposes. First, to protect the public. Second, to facilitate commerce. Everybody knows the first purpose. But there is widespread unawareness of the second purpose. They’re both important. There is no conflict between them. There is no need to compromise. Get it right, and effective regulations are the business person’s best friend … but Australia’s record is mixed – and the World Bank would agree.”
  3. Human capital. “At every level, from your scientists in schools program, to your industrial PhD program, to your support for your own post-docs, and the ON Accelerator program for staff, all of you at CSIRO carve pathways for Australian potential. And you help talented people reach for opportunities in industry that they might not otherwise see. We know these programs work! Our challenge is to scale up the impact. And I look forward to working alongside CSIRO on these and other programs.”
  4. Financial capital. “I use the term ‘financial capital’ broadly, to capture all sources of innovation funding: from government grants, through debt financing, profit reinvestment, private equity and Venture Capital. The financial capital needs to be generous, at scale, and invested without forced marriages – otherwise known as artificial collaborations. I’m excited about the potential of the CSIRO Innovation Fund. If we do our jobs right and communicate the outcomes, Australians will be as well.”

Read the full speech at the Chief Scientist’s website.

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