Australian inventions – we’re not as good as we used to be 11



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For a small country, Australia has always punched above its weight in terms on innovation. But are we now losing future wealth and prosperity because of the difficulties of innovating in the 21st century?

In the 20th century it was said that Australia was a nation that rode on the sheep’s back, referring to our long dependence on wool as our main export, while in the last 50 years particularly we’ve made a lot of money ripping minerals out of the ground and shipping the raw materials overseas.

But we do have a long and proud history of making things for a better modern world. A roll call of some of our past inventiveness is an impressive line-up:

  • refrigerator (1856)
  • stump jump plough (1876)
  • electric drill (1889)
  • paper notepads (1902)
  • military tank (1912)
  • heart pacemaker (1928)
  • solar hot water (1953)
  • black box flight recorder (1958)
  • ultrasound (1961)
  • bionic ear (1979)
  • wi-fi (1992)

Of course we haven’t stopped, but often now much of our inventiveness is being ‘lost’ to overseas interest and investment. An article today highlighted the story based on the number of patent applications Australians make. In the year 2013 Australians made 3,061 patent applications in this country, while overseas Aussies filed for 9,012 patents. China, the new world powerhouse, is making 396 patent applications for every million Chinese people, while Australia’s number is 116 per million of our population.

So how do we boost local innovation, and having it stay in, and benefit, Australia. Some degree of our innovation of late has come from people immigrating, so do we look at increasing the numbers of bright minds from overseas? We already do well in this area, with the second-highest inventor immigration rate in the world, behind the US.

Or is the answer in adjusting our taxation system? A recent US study looking at patent applications and taxation has found that a link between state tax rates and the movement of scientists , finding them likely to stay put in an encouraging tax environment. A controversial point in Australia recently is a higher tax for the extremely wealthy. Could this be a way of financing home-grown, home-benefitting innovation?

Do you think Australia is relying too much on mining to fund our future as a country? Would you like to see our ideas be funded and developed here, or are you happy that they are funded overseas? Should the exceedingly wealthy play more of a role in paying for budding inventors?

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  1. they all leave and go overseas or sell their inventions overseas, here we do not encourage any form of science , an area which the Government has cut funding too

  2. Indeed we are being left behind especially compared to some Asian countries such as Singapore, South Korea, Japan and China where the upcoming young generations are excelling in the fields of Maths and Science and in advanced technologies which are highly encouraged and supported by their governments. If we are not careful we are soon to become second or third class citizens in our part of the world and beyond. Australians need to wake up now or suffer the consequences.

  3. Cutting funding to the CSIRO is not the place to start. Science is mumbo jumbo to the flat earth Liberals who seem happy to see Australia left behind by the rest of the world.

    1 REPLY
    • a guy who used to work at the CSIRO told me that they bought the patents to his research for $1, so he was excluded from any profits as he was working from them. How does that encourage scientists to invent anything?
      he now works as a home repair handyman, another scientist lost ‘from the trade’

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