From a disruptive catchcry to mainstream business

| December 11, 2015

The ecosystem of start-ups and creativity leading to innovation and economic growth relies on a few key ingredients. Jessica Purbrick-Herbst from CRC for Spatial Information says we need a culture that accepts that innovation and disruption are mainstream business and not just buzzwords.

Innovation and disruption were the catchphrases of 2015 in the research, science and technology sectors. Having recently wandered across into research from the social enterprise start-up world it at times feels like taking a step back in time.

By its very nature, research, science and technology are innovative and disruptive.

In early December the Turnbull Government announced its National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA). By all accounts it’s an applauding initiative. Yet, within moments of the announcement the regulators, legislators and auditors talked of “accountable innovation”, “low-risk start-up investment”, and a myriad of stop signs appeared – it was enough to create living room friction in my house.

Let’s take the NISA for what it could be – a bucket of money that individuals and organisations can access to turn great ideas into a commercial reality or fail quickly and make those failures open source for others to learn from. Think of it as the ABC’s The New Inventors but with cash to actually create a culture of investment and creative economies that stimulate growth through education, science, technology and finance.

The ecosystem of start-ups and creativity leading to innovation and economic growth relies on a culture of entrepreneurship and the learnings of others, collaboration from business, risk tolerance, access to capital and importantly, a regulatory environment that supports innovation. For Australia to be an innovation hub we need these five key ingredients. And it is very much the role of government to provide the recipe, the method and the ingredients.

The CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) collaborates with the private sector, research agencies and government departments in Australia and New Zealand. The purpose of the research we undertake is to build capacity for Australia and New Zealand to compete strongly in a global market. Whilst without the CRCSI the research and capacity building would still occur, it is the mechanism of the CRCSI that will bring the opportunity to market at a faster pace.

The harnessing of multiple agencies allows the CRCSI the agility to meet the needs of government and the private sector across four research areas. The focus of Positioning, Rapid Spatial Analytics and Spatial Infrastructures supports the work of; Agriculture, Natural Resources and Climate Change; Built Environment; Defence; and Health. And the realities of this work will or already have achieved these results:

  • Accurate real-time positioning down to 2cm will allow for automated machine operations and driverless cars in the future – see National Precise Positioning
  • First response mapping using globes allows coastal communities to understand and prepare for sea level rise – see Cyclone Pam Crisis Map
  • The Spatial Hub provides farmers with better tools to increase profitability know-how and reduce the cost of capital borrowings
  • Handheld sensors determining biomass (the amount of green feed available to livestock) have already seen farmers reduce the cost of farm inputs such as supplementary feeding and fertiliser
  • Using online spatial tools local government and developers can plan sustainable suburbs using predetermined criteria such as low carbon living, green space, schools, low rise versus high rise and walkable precincts
  • Earth changes to land boundaries means councils can more readily reorganise land ownership and boundaries after earthquake displacements
  • Investing in the Semantic Web (third generation www) will deliver a national framework to improve access to the web in the use of a natural language to search across locations, the ability to link information to location data across organisations, process data across the web and the development of a trusted model for crowdsourcing data.

Taking this research to market is the innovative challenge for the CRCSI. The mechanism of an innovative hub will provide a simple pathway for research to reach the market either as a commercial product or service or as an open source offering that will lead to improved wellbeing and social good across Australia and New Zealand. To achieve this, the culture of investment and creative economies will need to accept that innovation and disruption are mainstream business, not the catchcry of today.

A great starting place to learn about spatial information is here: