Innovate Australia is currently developing the Australian Innovation Index (AII), with the first edition to be published in 2018. Professor Kelvin Willoughby, who currently works for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Moscow, is leading the development of the AII.
The importance of innovation is recognised around the world. One internationally recognised and valuable reference on innovation is the Global Innovation Index (GII). The 2017 GII ranks Australia 23 out of 127 countries, a fall from 19 in 2016 and 17 in 2015. The slide in ranking, though, does not mean that Australia is performing badly at innovation. Rather, this innovation inflation indicates that there are gaps in our innovation ecosystem and that other countries are simply doing innovation better.
Also, in an Australian context the GII has some limitations. For example, the GII metrics do not capture some of Australia’s best performance areas. This necessarily skews the rankings and, more importantly, does not provide the appropriate diagnostic and monitoring tools for the Australian innovation system or the economy. Furthermore, the GII adjusts its framework on an annual basis, and while this might improve the data for each particular year, it does not allow direct comparison of scores and rankings from year to year.
Innovate Australia’s AII will initially use a relatively small number of indicators and build on those over time. Developing the index will require a high level of collaboration in data collection and verification, and Innovate Australia is confident that the AII will realise considerable identifiable and measurable benefits for Australia.
The AII will allow Australian governments, business, universities and other organisations to understand the innovation capacity of individual states and territories. This will help determine where Australia’s innovation strengths lie and where improvements could be made.
The AII will initially provide a benchmark of the innovation metrics for Australian states and territories and, in subsequent years, present useful metrics for government strategy and policy development. This, in turn, will improve governments’ decision-making capacity. Importantly, the AII will afford direct comparisons of individual indicators over time, allowing performance to be tracked.
The state-by-state information on the various indices will assist the decision-making of those who wish to invest in and/or trade with Australia. The rankings in the AII will also help drive efficiencies through generating friendly competition between Australian states and territories.
Innovation Science Australia’s vision is for Australia to be ‘counted within the top tier of innovation nations, known and respected for its excellence in science, research and commercialisation’ by 2030. Innovate Australia believes the AII will be part of Australia’s proactive response to current technological, social and environmental issues, and help position Australia as the undisputed leader of innovation in the world.
There are other possible benefits to the AII. For example, it could be used as the basis for an annual State of Innovation Award which, in turn, could further promote and generate innovation.
While Innovate Australia, with Professor Willoughby’s assistance, has undertaken to publish the first AII, we are currently seeking support to ensure the index can be further developed and maintained over the long-term. Not only will this require funding—possibly through the Australian Government’s Economic Data and Analysis Network (EDAN)—it will need champions to help support and promote the AII as an essential part of Australia’s innovation strategy.
 Innovation and Science Australia, 2030 Strategic plan issues paper, Australian Government, 20 March 2017, p 3.