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Is Australia in need of a reboot? Why greater support is needed for home-grown innovation

The prevailing reliance on international innovations, particularly in the telecommunication industry, as the 'go to' solution has resulted in a concerning depletion of Australian talent. Innovation is at the heart of national evolution, yet it seems Australia is moving further away from our own inventions, and becoming increasingly dependent on international services. Why are we constructing a societal paradigm in which we feel more comfortable accepting the ideas of international powers rather than having faith in the success of our very own innovators.

Rene Sugo, MyNetFone's CEO, has contributed his thoughts on this challenging issue in a recent BRW article, reproduced below for your convenience.

How Australia’s lack of support for innovation fuels the brain drain

The lack of support for start-ups in Australia, especially from the technology sector, is simply reinforcing the much discussed ‘brain drain’ problem. We are not investing enough in research and development at the grass-roots level and Australian businesses are failing to make jobs attractive enough for our brightest home-grown talent, as highlighted in this insight from Mumbrella.

But pumping investment into tech start-ups is only half the problem. The other part of the problem stems from our over-reliance on overseas innovations to drive growth.

The telco industry is particularly guilty of this – adopting innovations from overseas rather than investing in developing locally. Decades of throwing money – overseas – to solve problems instead of seeking an answer from our own industry has led us down a dangerous path. We now find ourselves in a situation where hardly anyone is creating ‘new stuff’ and the majority of significant breakthroughs are coming from overseas. Even when we see innovative breakthroughs being implemented in Australia, if you scratch the surface you’ll find it is often foreign firms that bring the ‘innovative’ part of the project to the table, and the local providers are simply implementing it.

While there is nothing wrong with taking up innovative products, services and software developed internationally, I think we are missing a great opportunity by not challenging ourselves to come up with solutions. The mentality to ‘buy’ our way out of problem, instead of ‘solve’ is driving our best and brightest offshore.

True, the exodus is due in part to the path of deregulation that has occurred within the telecommunications sector, which at its core simply entailed the incumbent provider opening their services for resale. The model provided no impetus or incentive to innovate, and as a result companies have become resellers rather than innovators. Of course the telco landscape is not all there is.

Where innovation is happening more now, is in the app space, where cost and barriers to entry are much lower than in the telco industry itself. Take the example of mobile game Crossy Road, developed by two Australians. The game earned them $10 million in three months!

Key to driving local innovation in the telco sector is understanding and anticipating what the market needs, ensuring the education system is more innovation-focused and putting in place an environment that will nurture our talent. After years of neglect, only then will the right talent be in place to develop products to support our evolving requirements.

At MyNetFone, we promote an innovation-driven culture. Staff are encouraged to submit ideas. Thoughts put forward by staff have resulted in the development of new products and enhancements to existing products. We were the first to develop and launch a cloud-hosted PBX service and more recently we added SIP trunking to our iBoss aggregation platform after our team saw an opportunity to open another avenue for provision of voice services in the NBN world.

Both of these innovations started with an idea, and the willingness to invest our own IP and resources in something new. Ultimately, innovation does not thrive in solitude – companies have to empower all their staff to drive innovative influence and generate new ideas.

Despite actively advocating an innovative workforce, I have found it challenging to find good talent locally with the right skills to work on our projects. Whilst SMEs have traditionally lost out on obtaining the ‘brightest and best’ recruits to larger corporates - that are seen to offer more prestige and benefits – I believe SMEs are in a unique position to provide rapid career progression for the best talent and present opportunities to get stuck into innovative and market-leading projects.

For far too long the chase of short-term profits within the information technology industry has been a killer of innovation. Whilst it is hard for established sectors to compete with the buzz that cloud, apps or social media companies generate, now is the time for the telecommunications industry to pause, take stock and re-energise the sector by investing in true blue-sky projects, using local talent.

MyNetFone is committed to Australian innovation - and reaps the rewards

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