Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Innovation at Australian Unviersites

Greetings from the Australian National University in Canberra, where I am attending a workshop for Early Career Academics (ECAs) on innovation. It was pointed out that as well as measures of academic output in terms of appears produced, the reputation of the university is also important as Australian universities earn a significant proportion of their funding from international full-fee paying students.

One problem for ECAs is that more and more PHDs are being produced and so there are proportionally fewer jobs in research, particularly in universities. Most new PHDs will not go on to research, but have to do teaching or work in industry, even if they come back to research later. What this suggests to me is that PHDs will need extra skills, in particular teaching skills and it would be better if they got those skills while doing their PHD, rather than later.

The workshop was told that there was little scope for growth in international student numbers. It was suggested that the area for growth was industry involvement. However, I suggest another area is retraining of the current workforce for new jobs.This is in addition to redesigning university degrees so they provide job-ready skills.

The workshop was told about the difference between creativity and innovation: creativity being about novelty and usefulness and innovation and implementation, which goes a step beyond.

The workshop heard from the ANU Research Services, Academy of Sciences Early Career Research Forum and ANU Edge.

It was interesting to see how innovation being done at ANU compared to other universities and countries, in particular Cambridge University and the UK. I see something I wrote on this in 1997, got a mention in a Cambridge University study: "A pilot study on the emergence of university-level innovation policy in the UK".

ps: A surprise last speaker at the innovation workshop was Pia Waugh,  on and GovHack. She mentioned that next years GovHack may be a "follow the sun" event, held at sites around the world in different time zones.

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