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The 2024-2025 Australian budget and how can it help improve Australia’s standing in Global Innovation

The 2024–2025 Australia Budget was delivered this week, and with it comes updates to key initiatives and forecasts for individuals and businesses in Australia. This article discusses the investments the Australian Government has pledged in the coming year’s budget and the impact this could have on innovation in Australia.

The Future Made in Australia Plan

The Australian Government has pledged investments for the “Future Made in Australia” plan.

The plan will maximise the economic and industrial benefits of the international move to net zero and secure Australia’s place in a changing global economic and strategic landscape.

The 2024-25 Budget indicates that $22.7 billion has been allocated (over a decade) to help Australia succeed and become an important part of the global economy as the world transitions to a greener economy.

Innovation in Australia

Australia ranks 24th among 132 economies in the Global Innovation Index (GII). A more detailed analysis indicates that Australia ranks 16th in innovation inputs but in terms of innovation output we rank 30th. Even though the latest budget pledges investment into emerging areas of technology, we need to be more effective at translating innovation investments into innovation outputs. Improving our innovation efficiency is more important than ever now that a significant amount of money is being invested for the “Future Made in Australia” plan.

The country based rankings for 2024, published by the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) indicates that in terms of total patent filings or grants we rank 8th for overall rankings. When we look at these rankings, we must take into account that total patents filed (over 32000 patents in 2024) into Australia include resident Australian filers and overseas filers. However, out of around 32000 patents only 3000 patents were filed by Australian residents. As a result, we rank 14th in the world with countries like Russia, South Korea, Italy, Brazil, Poland, and Canada ranking ahead of Australia. Since I happen to be a Patent Attorney, many of my economist friends like to point out that patents alone cannot determine the extent of innovation happening in a country. However, I do believe that we as a nation must encourage the generation of innovative ideas and protect those ideas in order to monetise the innovation.

Am 2024 2025 Budget Article Table 1
Am 2024 2025 Budget Article Table 2

Some of the key budget initiatives include investment in Green Hydrogen, Green Urea, Green Steel, battery and solar panel supply chains (promote manufacturing). A number of tax incentives are also being offered for Australia’s 31 critical minerals to be processed and refined onshore. As a country we must do better in protecting and monetising our intellectual assets. One of the more famous stories about great opportunities being lost due to lack of initiative is the story of the insect repellent Aerogard®. Queen Elizabeth II visited Australia in 1963 and Her Majesty used a special formulation, that had been developed by Doug Waterhouse, a CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation) entomologist, to ward off Australia’s flies. Mortein requested details of the formulation and back in 1963 CSIRO happily handed over the formulation. Back in those days, CSIRO never tried to protect the formulation by filing patents. CSIRO has come a long way to become one of the leading patent filers of Australia. However, many Australian resident companies have not focused on generating intellectual assets for monetisation throughout the world.

The power board developed by Peter Talbot at Kambrook in 1972 is another example of a lost opportunity because of lack of IP foresight. The powerboard was successful but never patented and many of Kambrook’s competitors were able to manufacture a similar powerboard and yet another opportunity was lost.

While many authors have written about this topic, I feel that Australia’s “tall poppy syndrome” might be one of the factors. For the uninitiated, the tall poppy syndrome refers to successful people or companies being criticised. This phenomenon usually occurs when their peers believe that these successful people or companies are too successful. When it comes to innovation, we as Australians must break away from this syndrome and not try and “cut down the tall poppy”. We must try and break away from this practice which is deeply rooted in Australian values. In an increasingly globalised world, we must not fall behind and I am hopeful that the newly announced investments will lead to more world leading companies being founded in Australia. It would be fantastic to see a company like Apple, Dyson or Tesla being born out of Australian innovation.

Research Commercialisation in Australia – or Lack Thereof

Australia’s relatively poor innovation output cannot solely be the responsibility of academics and research institutions—for, when we have successfully commercialised research it has often been done overseas. A quick perusal of CSIRO’s top 10 inventions from the past 100 years shows the names of several commercial partners selected to deliver some of Australia’s most profitable inventions: Unilever, DuPont, American contact lens company CIBA Vision, Swiss healthcare company Novartis. Very few innovations have been commercialised by Australian companies. Developing better ties between universities and industry is more important than ever. Australia’s public universities are world-class research bodies. But, unlike many universities in places like Europe and the United States, they are not good at building on that research for commercial returns. Australia’s level of research commercialisation is one of the worst in the developed world. Compared to Australia, public research organisations in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and others have two or more times the level of invention disclosures and start-ups for every billion dollars spent on research. The recent budget indicates that it is likely that the number of international students coming to Australian universities may be capped. In such a scenario, the universities would need to generate income from other sources and achieving better commercialisation outcomes would help universities diversify their revenue stream.

Take Aways

There is no lack of bright ideas in Australia. I have been working in the field of intellectual property for well over ten years now and in my experience too many Australian innovators and businesses do not understand intellectual property.  Intellectual property tends to be ignored and put in the ‘too hard’ basket. Even senior management staff are skeptical and actively try to avoid being a “tall poppy”. Government investment alone is not going to change the ground realities and we must focus on innovation output.

If you’re an Australian researcher, inventor, or innovator and you need assistance with intellectual property, the MBIP patents team would be pleased to help. Contact us via our Book a Meeting form and one of our attorneys will get in contact with you.

Featured image by freepik