A new deal plan for manufacturing – technology planning for competitiveness by Iain Wicking

The Australian Manufacturing Forum and @AuManufacturing’s campaign to crowd source a new deal plan for manufacturing post Covid-19 is now in its fourth week. Here Iain Wicking proposes a radical approach to technology planning for competitiveness..

The 21st century battlefield thus far has been characterised not by kinetic warfare but by achieving economic supremacy over the global marketplace. To address this challenge Australia needs to transform its national ecosystem from one that is based on ‘finance-based planning’ to ‘technology-based planning’.

The reason being that competitors like China have in place a long-term strategy that centres on continually exploiting technologies to create ‘competitive advantage’ in order to dominate the global marketplace.

A number of papers have articulated issues with the Australian national ecosystem and refer to the potential of collaboration between Universities, Industry Sectors, R&D establishments, governments, etc. across Australia.

It is evident that the current innovation process delivers poor outcomes (and returns) relative to the amount of financial resources committed.

The figures, in terms of failure, are quite startling with, for instance, much less than one in ten VC projects earning a return. This failure represents a significant ‘mal-investment’ and a waste of scarce resources.

Australia has cultivated a conventional finance and market driven approach to innovation described as ‘finance-based planning’. If we continue with this it will fail to deliver significant benefits.

By benefits is meant, increasing Australia’s national ‘competitiveness’ and ‘economic well-being’. That is not to say that new inventions will be forthcoming, but they will be pointless if they are not contributing to an increase in the ‘competitiveness’ of a business, an industry sector, or indeed the nation.

What is competitiveness? It is the ability on a continuous basis to satisfy customer needs better than the competition. How effectively a business (or a nation) outmanoeuvre the competition in the exploitation of technology clearly dictates the amount of other resources that are then required and how those resources must be deployed to generate a competitive advantage.

Generally, when an innovation project is created there is no structured view into the world’s current and emergent technologies. Innovators generally take their cues from financial and/or market analysis.

Instead, we need to enact nationally delivered ‘Virtual Technology Information Framework (VTIF). This enables technology, defined in its broadest sense, to be viewed virtually. This would be enacted via a capability that enables insight, in real-time, into all the current and emerging technologies of the world via an accurate ‘map’ of all technologies – “the global technology space”.

The map would show all the existing and emerging technologies, who owns them and where they reside. This would allow emerging technologies to be seen before they impact markets, the combining of technologies, and a comparison of technologies available to different companies and countries.

The end result would be the potential to out-manoeuvre other businesses, national or international competitors at will and on a highly systemised and repeatable basis.

How would Australia utilise this potential? The VTIF is set up in the ‘Cloud’ as a national asset for all of Australia’s private and public organisations that together collectively address the full range of functions that ultimately dictate a nation’s competitiveness and thereby its economic well-being.

None of the Technology Parks, Incubators and any other entities across the nation would be disadvantaged in any way. In fact, they would all gain significantly from their participation by fostering symbiotic collaboration to create mutually beneficial outcomes.

The communications infrastructure to do this is in place via the internet.

Doing this would create a single and nationally accessible virtual ‘hub’ that would help align resources to increase industry sector and national competitiveness.

Some key benefits:

 A VTIF establishes a substantive foundation of information, process and high ROI projects

 Virtually underpinning all ‘industry clusters’

 Fully leveraging existing resources for national competitive benefit

 Reducing R&D/Innovation duplication of effort across the nation

 Providing a focus on projects that earn a return (competitive outcomes) or delivering a superior outcome to the community (optimal use of funds)

 Linking Australian industry with collaborative partners overseas

There are many more benefit areas for individual companies, government organisations, research organisations, education institutions from their joint and separate use of the virtual technology information framework.

Iain Wicking is a consultant and supply chain specialist with extensive experience across information technology, oil and gas sectors. As an independent consultant he promotes a society as a platform service, and Socrates, which enables technology strategy planning.

Picture: Iain Wicking

@AuManufacturing’s new deal plan for manufacturing is brought to you with the support of Bosch Australia Manufacturing Solutions

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