The lucky country: why Australia will bounce back after COVID-19

sydney harbour and bridgeAustralians suffered years of high unemployment, poverty and deflation during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Almost a century later, we are facing another financial crisis due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. 

While economists, academics and financial experts debate about how the pandemic will impact the world economy, Australians will continue to find ways to demonstrate their resilience and their ingenuity through innovation-driven efforts.

Here are just a few reasons why we should remain optimistic:

– The Global Competitiveness Report (GCR) published by the World Economic Forum ranked Australia at number 16 (of 141 countries) in 2019.

– In the 2019 Global Competitiveness Report, Australia was also ranked 18th for innovation capability and 11th for best intellectual property (IP) protection rights.

– Australia’s geographical remoteness from other countries may also serve us well. We attracted skilled migrants and business investment in the years following World War 2, so we could speculate  that some of those Europeans and Americans currently witnessing the spread of disease may want to move to an English speaking and less densely populated “safe haven” with high standards of living.

– Australia’s recovery during the 1930s was led by the manufacturing sector. While manufacturing’s share of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) may have fallen to six per cent in the last three decades, it is still a $105 billion turnover sector.

Meanwhile, our top researchers are currently working hard to come up with creative solutions to this worldwide problem. Last week CSIRO, Australia’s national science agency, commenced the first stage of testing potential vaccines for COVID-19. The testing is expected to take three months and is underway at CSIRO’s high-containment biosecurity facility in Geelong.

Source: IP Australia IP Report 2019

In last year’s Australian IP Report, IP Australia noted that medical technology was the leading field in 2018 (Figure 2). Applications for Biotechnology and Pharmaceuticals also grew strongly. In a post-pandemic world, one might predict that the number of patents in these areas of technology, along with those associated with health and medical research facilities, will continue to grow.

While we may not be sure how long the tough times ahead will last, we should keep in mind that this challenge will present innovative Australians with the opportunity and motivation to invent and create. As branding consultant and columnist Helen Edwards recently wrote, “there is a case to be made for optimism, pragmatism and perspective”.

map of australia

“Australia has a high level of education, an excellent research sector, vast natural resources, a reputation for quality, keen SMEs and close proximity to a burgeoning Asia.” 

Cathy Foley, Deputy Director and Science Director Manfacturing Flagship CSIRO, CSIRO and Keith McLean, Director, CSIRO Manufacturing, CSIRO