Innovation

The term “innovation” has been embedded in Australian public policy discussions for many decades, in many domains of activity, from Education, to Science, Health, Manufacturing, Agriculture and yes, even Mining.

We hear this term a lot… Unfortunately, we seem to conflate genuine innovation, [which in my view requires the interdisciplinary approach of many groups, supplemented by visionary legislative and regulatory frameworks encouraging and supporting creative and entrepreneurial actors] with what can only be described as risk-averse, managerial, cost-saving approaches to existing activity.

A structural bias against the “new”.  Barry Jones opined years ago about the rise of the managerial-class in Politics…

In 2013, Andrew Dempster, The Director of the Australian Centre for Space Engineering Research; Professor, School of Electrical Engineering and Telecommunications, UNSW Australia made a salient argument in his paper – Ten reasons why Australia urgently needs a space agency.

He referred to the 2008 Senate Committee on Economics and their assessment of Australian Space capability and future opportunities. The report:  Lost in Space? Setting a new direction for Australia’s space science and industry sector

In a nutshell?

Yeah…. Nah…

Hardly the future focussed, innovative and visionary view that could unlock generations of science, technology, engineering and mathematics graduates [S.T.E.M ]. Not to mention the entrepreneurial opportunities for new materials, systems and products.

Meanwhile…

Blue Origin

Blue Origin [ @blueorigin ] is an American privately-funded aerospace developer [yes, the other one…] and manufacturer set up by Amazon.com founder Jeff Bezos [ @JeffBezos ] .

The company is developing technologies to enable private human access to space with the goal of dramatically lower cost and increased reliability. It is employing an incremental approach from suborbital to orbital flight, with each developmental step building on its prior work. [Read the Australian Senate Committee Report on their view of sub-orbital and orbital opportunities]

Just last week, January 22nd 2016, they completed the SECOND launch and landing of their re-useable system.

This is what innovation looks like in the West Texas desert. Stunning achievements.

It is important to consider the Latitude and Longitude of the Blue Origin Launch site 31.422927°N 104.757152°W.

Australia

Consider the same LATITUDE line in Australia? 31.5 degrees south.  A line that dissects a point just north of Perth on our West coast and runs through the lower section of our continent, [funnily enough, right through the WOOMERA rocket range, dissecting a point on our East coast, just south of Port Macquarie.

Consider for a moment the strategic asset that open-space, serviced by existing infrastructure provides for such “orbital industries”. It is the same strategic asset that gives us our Aviation training industry [among others]. Consider our existing settlements, roads, rail lines, cities and populations along this line.

Consider our world-class Higher Education sector.

Consider the input-cost of “open space” and the potential value-add of a square kilometre of that open space, compared to mining, tourism, and space-flight, just to name a few.

Consider Australia’s current employment trends and when and how the “new industries” we so often discuss will actually eventuate?

The upcoming Australian Federal Budget in May of this year, will once again struggle with the challenges of “getting the balance right”. Trimming percentage points, raising a tax here, offsetting with incentives there, worrying about reduced receipts so “managing” the budget by cutting costs…

All the while, “orbital industries” don’t have an Australian flag…

There still comes a time when we need to consider the calculus of historically contracting “core-industries”, leaving the country with between four to five MORE people looking for work than the number of vacant positions… Yes, the State of Victoria alone has more registered unemployed people than the number of Job Vacancies advertised nationally!

New jobs? Real jobs? Perhaps we need to look to the sky…

Gradatim Ferociter

 

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