Jon Stanhope MLA, Chief Minister of the ACT, opened Innovation Week at ANU last night at "spacedock" (aka John Curtin School of Medical Research), Australian National University, Canberra. The Chief Minister gave a disappointing speech on the role of innovation in the Canberra economy. This was followed by a lackluster debate on "Investing in innovation? This house believes that Australia spends too much money on university research". This contrasted with the previous excellent events in the ACT Innovation program, run by students of ANU and University of Canberra. The Chief Minister and the professors need to learn from the students how to communicate in the 21st century.
The debate was between Professor Lawrence Cram, Deputy Vice-Chancellor ANU; Professor Steve Dowrick, Professor of Economics, ANU and member of the 2008 National Innovation Review; Narelle Kennedy, CEO of The Australian Business Foundation and member of the 2008 National Innovation Review; and Dr Geoff Garrett, former Chief Executive of the CSIRO.
Narelle Kennedy was the evening's best performer, with an engaging and passionate argument in favour of university research. The rest of the evening was a very dull affair.
The Chief Minister set the tone for the evening by giving a generic opening speech which indicated he was not interested in the topic and then confirmed this by leaving immediately afterwards. The following speakers were not helped by using an old fashioned debating format. It was ironic that the hi-tech Finkel Lecture Theatre in the hi-tech John Curtin School of Medical Research was being used for a very low tech debate.
Some quotable quotes I picked out of the debate:
"Innovation is ideas successfully applied", "Innovation is a contact sport, like rugby".
"Knowledge is a cumulative process".
"ERA is inwardly focused"
Apart from that, I don't really know what the speakers were talking about. They got up, talked a lot, and then sat down again. This "Lecture 1.0" format was used at universities, before we realised it was not a useful way to communicate.
The ACT Chief Minister and our professors need to be re-skilled in 21st century communication, if they are to provide leadership on innovation (or any other topic). We now teach undergraduate and postgraduate students how to do this, so they can be leaders of the future. The leaders of the present need to sit in on some classes, if they wish to be part of Canberra's future.
The next Australian Innovation Festival Seminar is "Harnessing the cycle of innovation - Understanding your market"
by John Hemphill, CEO, Axxos
Wednesday 28 April, 6-8pm
Finkel Lecture Theatre, The John Curtin School of Medical Research, ANU