On 27 June, TCI members and other cluster practitioners met in Sydney to discuss the present status of Industry Clusters in Australia and how the practitioners’ expertise on Clusters could assist the Commonwealth in the implementation of the new Innovation Precinct program. The meeting was attended by 18 persons representing experienced cluster practitioners, new practitioners and a representative of the Commonwealth Government’s Department of Innovation.
The meeting opened with a video presentation by Dr Christian Ketels, President of the TCI Network who welcomed participants, gave an overview of TCI and suggested how TCI might assist the development of clusters in Australia. A summary of TCI’s resources is listed at the end of the report.
Dr Naomi Ashurst (replacing Anthony Murfett who was detained in Canberra) then gave a presentation on the Innovation Precinct program and answered detailed questions. $236 million is available - 50 applications were received by the Department - 8 spots available e.g. wind energy, sports technology, clean energy, climate change, steel, ICT. Some merging of submissions/parties is likely.
The Board met on 22/23 July to agree on the recommendations that will go to the Minister Rod Brown gave an overview of the state of Clusters in Australia.
Prof Brian Roberts advised that clusters should address problems associated with economic externalities.
It was suggested that there be a strong communication strategy developed for the program. Participants suggested that a workshop could be held with the Innovation Precinct Board to assist in implementing the program. A date in November was suggested – post TCI Kolding conference and post Australian election.
It was also suggested that we might explore the opportunity to meet at the same time as the announcement of the successful precincts. Participants mentioned that industry collaboration does not seem to be a strong part of Australian culture and their experience with clusters indicates the importance of using skilled facilitators to ensure collaboration occurs and is ongoing.(refer OECD measures of collaboration).
Thus, due to the dearth of trained Facilitators in Australia the Government needs to implement a training program for Precinct Facilitators. The members of this group could assist as could the Universities such as UTS Business School. The program could be run as a post-graduate course or just a series of workshops. Thus we need to approach DEEWR re accessing their workforce development fund for a Precinct [Cluster] Leadership program.
It was suggested that the Department may also wish to considering partnering with RDA and Enterprise Connect’s Innovative Regions Facilitators to work with unsuccessful precinct applicants so as not to lose the goodwill and momentum developed by regional industry consortia/clusters in the process of making precinct applications. Naomi mentioned that there has been a preliminary meeting with RDA around this topic.