Australians tend to be a proud lot. Although we don’t have the overt patriotism of the United States or the fervour and passion of some other countries, our attitude of ‘a fair go’ is still at the core of many Australian psyches. This philosophy extends to the enduring prosperity of our country, achieving economic growth and generally ensuring that a healthy economy will ensure stability for all in hard times.
Thus, when Malcolm Turnbull expresses the opinion that ‘innovation is what matters’, it reverberates well with a lot of Australians. A cynical person may be wary of simply more rhetoric, however, the optimist within is jubilant. Innovation has been a flagstone of Malcolm Turnbull’s agenda right from the start, literally from the night of the leadership spill:
'This will be a thoroughly Liberal Government. It will be a thoroughly Liberal Government committed to freedom, the individual and the market. It will be focused on ensuring that in the years ahead, as the world becomes more and more competitive, and greater opportunities arise, we are able to take advantage of that. The Australia of the future has to be a nation that is agile, that is innovative, that is creative.'
For the Queensland Eye Institute (QEI) innovation in both vision research and clinical care is essential and has always been at the forefront of our achievements to date. Without innovation, the QEI would not have lasted the fifty years that it is proudly celebrating this year. As an institute committed to world-class research and worldwide collaboration, the QEI has held steadfast to its independence, creating an opportunity for its researchers to proactively impact clinical care.
Recently, much has been made of the downturn in research funding, particularly in medical research. That is why we welcome the dedication of $500 million, over four years and about $3 billion over 10 years, towards restoring funding cuts and guaranteeing long-term certainty for Australia's premier institutions and projects. The incentives attached to investing in research projects add icing to the cake.
Malcolm Turnbull knows firsthand that ‘taking a risk’ backed by commonsense, knowledge and a clear understanding of the market can be immensely rewarding both financially and for maintaining the momentum of change and improvement. The QEI is proud of holding that same attitude and believe it is the reason we attract the finest researchers in Australia. We, like the Prime Minister, understand that it is essential to maintain relevance and build expertise, aligning all of the component parts so that once opportunities arise (as they inevitably do) they can be seized and capitalized upon.
Understanding and embracing innovation has been recognised by many of our business leaders as vital to the future economic health of our nation. Deloittes, in one of their recent publications, ‘Positioning for Prosperity? Catching the next wave.’ named medical research as one of the ‘future waves’ of prosperity for Australia. We are already global leaders in many research fields including diabetes, one of the leading causes of blindness in the developed world. Contrary to our size we have produced an, ‘outsized share of the worlds’ medical research publications. So it is no surprise that Australia has been home to seven Nobel laureates in Medicine.’#
In a recent Conversation.com article* the author writes ‘Much innovation springs from an attitude of openness to external experiences and people, but it also requires care to capture a reasonable share of the rewards. It takes an amalgam of policies for a country to push ahead where others languish.’ Australia is, and has always been, successful in innovation and it should continue to be so in the future. The youth of our country has led to an attitude of openness and an ability to ‘forge ahead’ that comes from not being mired down in thousands of years of history.
Suddenly for medical research in Australia the future looks bright. Malcolm Turnbull’s objectives, combined with the appointment of Dr Alan Finkel AO as Chief Scientist, lend promise of a re-energised research environment in Australia. Again in Dr Finkel’s initial press release, innovation was featured:
‘Dr Finkel is a prominent engineer, respected neuroscientist, successful entrepreneur and philanthropist with a personal commitment to innovation and commercialisation.’
With government, industry leaders and the public behind medical research, what could possibly go wrong…