In an effort to drive an innovation culture in Australia, the government introduced the 2016 National Innovation and Science Agenda (NISA) – an initiative worth $1.4 billion over four years. Yet Australia continues to lag behind the world’s Smart Nations, such as Singapore and Israel – small nations with thriving startup and innovation ecosystems. Singapore, which has an economy five times smaller than Australia, recently announced an $18 billion investment in R&D across five years – an investment significantly larger than Australia’s NISA initiative.

So what are we missing? We have the economic capacity, the talent and resources to leverage innovation on the ground. Despite this, a cultural fear of failure and lack of government backing has severely inhibited innovation in Australia, with entrepreneurs and leaders often turning to North America or Europe, and now Asia.

Currently, startups have a high failure rate in Australia – but with the right ecosystem, this can change. Innovation is the sum of change across the whole ecosystem, leveraged through collaboration and strong relationships.

We need to bringing different people together to deliver innovation, from entrepreneurs to start-ups to corporates. Diversity drives create cutting-edge visions and ideas.

Every year, more and more Australian entrepreneurs and startups are shaking up the business world, driving new ways of thinking and operating. However, we still have a long way to go. To keep pace with global leaders in innovation– including some of our regional neighbours, like Singapore – we need to build a healthy innovation ecosystem here in Australia.

4 key ways to build a healthy innovation ecosystem

1. Foster a dynamic culture

To develop a rich ecosystem in Australia, we firstly need to foster an energetic, dynamic and forward-thinking culture, underpinned by inspiring change makers. This culture must be diverse, inclusive and supportive on every level, from individuals, to schools, to the local and federal government.
Without a rich ecosystem and dynamic culture, entrepreneurs and innovators face an uncertain future. We need to create a supportive and encouraging business culture and environment for entrepreneurs, investing more time, energy and spend in technology and innovation.

2. Drive diversity

To become an innovation nation, we need to drive diversity on every level. A diverse business world encompasses everything from gender parity and multiculturalism in the workplace, to a strong mentoring culture and educational opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds.
We also need to teach entrepreneurial skills, such as coding and app development, at the primary and high school level – not just at the tertiary level. Across local and federal government, we need to treat innovation and digital disruption as an enabler, not an inhibitor. We can learn a lot from Singapore’s Smart Nation vision – a government-wide initiative to enhance the interconnectivity of people, communities, businesses and technology in Singapore.

3. Collaborate to succeed

Due to our close proximity to South-East Asia, we need to harness stronger partnerships and business ties with our neighbours. Countries like Singapore offer largely untapped potential for Australians to market new products and technologies. Taking your business or startup to market in Singapore will open up a world of new opportunities. Singapore is rapidly becoming a gateway to the rest of South-East Asia – a regional market set to boom in the next five years. Singapore is leading the way in attracting the best technologies and innovations in the world, by collaborating in R&D and commercialisation both locally and globally.
We also need to collaborate within our own backyard and ecosystem. Collaboration drives stronger partnerships and networks, boosting business prospects locally and globally. We need to stop working in isolation, and overcome our fear of collaborating with others here in Australia.

4. Be comfortable with failure

Finally, we need to learn that it’s okay to fail. Failure enhances learning and can drive success going forward. Innovation and entrepreneurship are all about taking risks. With a positive mindset and the emotional intelligence to bounce back from challenges, entrepreneurs can embrace failure as a strategic tool.
As a nation, we need to use failure as a springboard to grow. Failure strengthens the resolve to charge forward, driving change and innovation for entrepreneurs and startups. Overcoming failure is a leverage point that can propel us into exciting new territory.