This week @AuManufacturing will feature a series of experts responding and looking forward from the Jobs and Skills Summit. Here leading innovation and manufacturing academic, Professor John Spoehr, gives his perspective.
It was dubbed the hottest ticket in town – I was one of around 140 people to get one and enthusiastically attended last week’s Jobs and Skills Summit.
As regular readers of @AuManufacturing might know, I am deeply involved in researching and practicing how we can accelerate the growth of manufacturing industry and jobs in Australia.
I am particularly interested in the role that manufacturing plays in building economic complexity and helping to deliver high living standards.
Like many others I am frustrated by the lack of a coherent industry policy and attention to high-value manufacturing in Australia.
I hoped that the very broad agenda of the Summit would provide some opportunity to advance the manufacturing and innovation policy agendas.
It did in modest and important ways but it was never the purpose of the event to dive deeply into a discussion on industry and innovation policy.
The immediate problems the new Labor Government wanted to focus on at the Summit were the related ones of skill shortages, inequalities in employment, migration, wages stagnation and exploitation.
Drivers of a new wave of productivity were not ignored, particularly the need to accelerate the uptake and diffusion of digital skills and capabilities.
Great attention was paid in the design of the Summit to ensure that it remained focused and delivered some broadly agreed outcomes.
It was much more successful in achieving this than most of us expected.
No doubt many participants had low expectations going into the Summit but my judgement is that most left feeling a great deal has been achieved and that they had participated in genuinely inclusive process.
The Summit was not a talkfest. It resulted in 32 outcomes for immediate action across the key focus areas and a further 30-plus outcomes for further consideration.
For those of you hoping that the Summit might have tackled the pressing need for development and implementation of a coherent industry policy in Australia, you will be disappointed.
As I said it was never intended to do this but it did not ignore industry policy imperatives either.
The CSIRO’s work on mega trends was part of the backdrop to the Summit along with perspectives on the importance of manufacturing, science and technology from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, Australian Industry Group, Chief Scientist Cathy Foley, Australian Manufacturing Workers Union and others.
Of course there was great interest in what the focus of the $15 billion National Reconstruction Fund, particularly the component dedicated to manufacturing.
As a model of government engagement with industry, unions, NGOs and the education and training sectors the Summit was a triumph.
An obvious next step is to have a National Manufacturing and Innovation Summit to begin the urgent task of designing and implementing a 21st century national innovation system that can drive the growth of high value manufacturing and the uptake and diffusion of advanced technologies and skills more broadly in Australian industry and the public sector.
In the meantime organisations like mine, the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute at Flinders University is trying to generate a robust discussion with government and industry on industry policy alternatives by issuing regular reports on key topics like procurement as a driver of innovation, building economic complexity, the circular economy and decarbonisation and sovereign capability.
There is no shortage of ideas to consider.
One short-term priority is to fund a national network of innovation districts and nodes to ensure we have scale and focus of effort.
To this end I am off to Glasgow next week to visit one of my sources of inspiration, the National Manufacturing Institute of Scotland attached to the University of Strathclyde.
It’s Advanced Forming Research Centre is part of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult in the UK.
I am grateful to the new Federal Government and the new South Australian Government for backing our efforts to Austalianise this approach at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide.
The new Federal Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Ed Husic and the South Australian Premier and Deputy Premier are alive to the transformative potential of industrial scale collaborations between industry, unions government and the university sector.
Watch this space.
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John Spoehr is a leading academic teaching and researching in the fields of industry4.0, innovation management, employment opportunity and innovation. He is founder along with BAE Systems Australia of the Factory of the Future at Line Zero at Tonsley Innovation District, Adelaide. At Flinders University, John is Pro Vice Chancellor – Research Impact, and Director Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.
Picture: Professor John Spoehr