Taking Australian science, innovation and research to the world

A photograph of Dr Heather Smith PSM By Dr Heather Smith PSM, Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Australia is home to some of the world’s best researchers, research institutions and research infrastructure, as well as entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses.

Across a range of industry growth sectors (such as: advanced manufacturing; cyber security; food and agri-business; medical technology and pharmaceuticals; mining equipment, technology and services; and, oil, gas and energy resources), our researchers and businesses are working to meet the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century.

It is well established that by improving levels of international collaboration—especially through researcher-to-business linkages—countries can improve their competitiveness, create more novel innovations, grow productivity, strengthen the impact of their research and help solve global challenges.

For example, Australia is working with organisations internationally to support the adoption of Open Data Cube (ODC) technology. Developed as part of the Government’s Digital Earth Australia Program, the objective of the ODC is to increase the impact of satellite data globally by providing an open and freely accessible exploitation tool for monitoring and detecting changes in the environment.

A photograph
Digital Earth Australia enables products such as the Intertidal Extents Model (ITEM) to map the extensive intertidal regions of Australia’s coastlines. This dynamic zone is a rich and important ecosystem, providing crucial habitat for migratory shorebirds, as well as the first line of defence against extreme storm events.

Fostering collaboration is the focus of the Global Innovation Strategy (GIS), part of Australia’s National Innovation and Science Agenda. The GIS establishes a whole-of-government framework and includes a number of competitive programs that support Australian researchers and businesses to work with international counterparts. To date, over 160 collaborative projects have been supported with more than 25 partner economies.

Through the GIS, the Government has established ‘Landing Pads’ in San Francisco, Tel Aviv, Shanghai, Berlin and Singapore that facilitate accelerated access to global opportunities for emerging Australian entrepreneurs and their businesses.

Another great example of research-industry collaboration supported by the GIS is Australia’s partnership with the United States to create an innovative hardware and software system to assess the rehabilitation progress of victims of spinal cord injury and other neuromuscular conditions. The walkWELL remote sensor rehabilitation monitoring system is the result of researchers and industry working together internationally in the medical technology sector.

A mobile phone showing the walkWELL app on screen
walkWELL mobile app used to track progress against assigned exercises and goals

With these priorities in mind, the Government has released the “Partnering with Australia on Innovation, Science and Research” booklet. The booklet provides an overview of potential collaboration opportunities, highlighting Australian organisations open to engaging with international partners on innovation and science.

A computer screen showing the walkWELL dashboard
walkWELL dashboard graphically charts progress in mobility to validate treatment choices and further encourage adherence to the prescribed exercises

Investing in and encouraging international partnerships on innovation and science will open opportunities to build on Australia’s strengths. The Foreign Policy White Paper will support Australia’s strategic global engagement on innovation and science, and help to deliver prosperity and security for all Australians.

A photograph of Dr Heather Smith PSMAbout the Author

Dr Heather Smith was appointed Secretary of the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science on 18 September 2017.

Heather has had 17 years’ experience in the Australian Public Service at senior levels, with responsibility for a number of significant government programs covering economic and public policy areas.

Prior to this appointment Heather was Secretary of the Department of Communications and the Arts (2016-2017). She has served as Deputy Secretary in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet (2013-2016) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (2010-2013). In October 2013 she was appointed by Prime Minister Abbott as Australia’s G20 Sherpa, a role she held during Australia’s Presidency.

Heather has also held roles with the Office of National Assessments (2005-2010) and (2000-2003) and the Australian Treasury (2003-2005).

Before joining the public service Heather was an academic working on North Asia at the Australian National University (1994-2000). She also worked at the Reserve Bank of Australia (1988-1990).

Heather was awarded a Public Service Medal in the Queen’s Birthday 2015 Honours for her outstanding public service as Australia’s G20 Sherpa.

Heather holds a Bachelor of Economics (First Class Honours) from the University of Queensland and a Masters and PhD in Economics from the Australian National University. She has been a visiting scholar at the Brookings Institution in Washington D.C. In 2012, Heather completed the Advanced Management Program at the Harvard Business School.

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