151006 UNSW InnovationConference

Report on UNSW Innovation Summit 2015

I was privileged to attend the UNSW Innovation Summit organised by a team led by Professor Joe Cheng (Michael Crouch Chair in Innovation & AICI Director, UNSW Business School) on Friday the 18th September. It was great to see 160 people on the guest list – many from the UNSW but from other organisations too such as Linfox, News Corp Australia and Telstra.

I found Robert Rietbroek, Michael Crouch and John Berry the three most interesting speakers…

  • Robert Rietbroek, MD and CEO of Kimberly-Clark Australia. Rietbroek described how Kimberly-Clark were using a 3D printing technology invented by an Australian company/university to create superabsorbent paper for use in nappies. This is a good example of Corporate Venturing – Kimberly-Clark underwrote loans required to start mass production of the 3D paper which is now used in products sold all around the world.
  • Dr Michael Crouch AO, Chairman of Midgeon Holdings Pty Ltd. Crouch told us how their innovation in water heating systems kept retail prices the same despite increasing input costs and how they were able to add new features to keep ahead of the competition – latest sparkling water as well as hot and cold water.
  • The Honorable John Berry, US Ambassador to Australia. Berry gave an inspiring talk about how the USA and Australia are working together to create a better future for everyone. The talk was peppered with examples from many industries; the most memorable was of the communications infrastructure based in Australia that the USA used to communicate with the Space Shuttle. His presentation style and delivery was certainly something to emulate – confident, engaging and timeless.

There were two Round Tables sessions during the event. Pre-event all delegates were allocated to tables and each table had an area to discuss (mine were Asia Capability and Innovation). We were asked to provide specific actions to help further strengthen Australian firms’ capabilities. Some of the comments were displayed on a big screen at the event. But afterwards, what happened to our comments? What was being done with them? What will change as a result? I’m not sure.

One thing I would have done differently if I were organising the event would be to state what the expected result of the event is. Around 130 people took a day of out of their busy schedules to attend, what benefit did they gain? What was the benefit to the UNSW? Or Australia? I can only guess what the purpose of the conference was.

What will I do differently as a result of attending the UNSW Innovation Summit?

The difficulty I have is I can’t think of an answer to this question. When attending some events I’m often reminded of this conversation in the Life of Brian:

Reg: Right. Now, uh, item four: attainment of world supremacy within the next five years. Uh, Francis, you’ve been doing some work on this.

Francis: Yeah. Thank you, Reg. Well, quite frankly, siblings, I think five years is optimistic, unless we can smash the Roman Empire within the next twelve months.

Reg: Twelve months?

Francis: Yeah, twelve months. And, let’s face it. As empires go, this is the big one, so we’ve got to get up off our arses and stop just talking about it!

Perhaps the answer is right there…  what do you think?

This Post Has One Comment

  1. Since my posting, Prof Cheng contacted me and informed me that:
    “We have formed 36 roundtable working groups at the Summit, 18 on strengthening Australian Innovation and another 18 on Asia Capability. I plan to engage these 36 working groups in the coming months to develop an action plan to implement the recommendations they generated at the Summit. Our larger goal is to formulate a comprehensive, integrated research and engagement agenda to help reinvent Australia for global competitiveness.”

    Excellent news – and I’m not surprised since having met Prof Cheng I know that he is someone who will take action.

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