Regional Development Australia Hunter established a group charged with the responsibility of developing an “Innovation Scorecard’ for the Hunter region. The group consists of Newcastle Innovation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Hunter Valley Research Foundation and AusIndustry. The findings were launched today.

The Hunter is the first regional area in Australia to measure innovation in this way. This scorecard focuses on the drivers of innovation for companies in the region as well as setting the environment for innovative companies to thrive. The theme for the 2013 scorecard is ‘The Hunter’s Diversity’.

Read the results of the Hunter Innovation Scorecard?

 

University of Newcastle Chancellor Paul Jeans’ address to the Hunter Innovation Scorecard launch:

I am delighted to be here today at this critical point in the “story” of the Hunter Region. As we have heard, the Hunter is a region in transition, moving rapidly from a concentration of activities in traditional industries such as manufacturing toward new opportunities in areas such as sustainable energy, health and services, and the creative industries.

Innovation – and, importantly, collaboration – are at the heart of steering our region through this change. Innovation takes the best that the world has to offer and translates it into real change for the businesses, people and economies right here in the Hunter. In the words of Lord Sainsbury, who headed up a 2007 UK Government review into innovation, “innovation is a global phenomenon, [but] regions are the critical nexus for innovation-based economic growth”.

Before identifying what an “innovation culture” might look like for the Hunter, a few personal reflections. I feel very honoured to now be the University of Newcastle’s seventh Chancellor and as a Novocastrian myself very proud of the University’s achievements.

I am also very enthusiastic about its future – much of which will continue to be driven by excellence in teaching and research – critical elements in the innovation process.

I have been able to observe the amazing changes which have taken place in Newcastle over my working life which extends back (just!) further than the University of Newcastle itself – back to the days of the UoN’s antecedent, the University College at Tighes Hill.

It is interesting to remember that the University College at Tighes Hill was heavily promoted and supported by local industries which recognised that it was the best means of training their own requirements for specialists, researchers and managers. 

Many of the undergraduates in those days were from country areas and many were sponsored by their eventual employers. That essential link between the University and its community partners is as important today as it was then.

I remember the campaign fought by the people of Newcastle who wanted a university of their own, because they had the foresight to understand the transformational impact a university can have on a region. Universities have the power to revitalise a regional economy from the bottom up, offering life-changing educational opportunities to the people of the region while delivering a highly skilled and creative workforce to contribute to the region’s future. 

More than that, though, universities are homes of innovation. Innovation is an easy thing to talk about, and a very hard thing to define. At the University, we think of innovation as ‘translating research into something tangible’ – whether the outcome is a product, a process or a policy, the essence of innovation is taking a new discovery and  giving it real-world impact. Sometimes researchers set out to solve a specific problem – other times, discovery happens by chance. Either way, knowledge is created that can be translated into something useful. 

Newcastle has a very proud tradition of this kind of work, not only through the University but also through collaboration with partners in business, industry and government. The University’s two flagship research institutes – the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources, and the Hunter Medical Research Institute – are great examples of where the University has worked across disciplines and with partners to innovate with impact.

For example, the acclaimed Jameson Cell, a flotation technology for the coal industry, has created almost $25 billion of export income for Australia. It was created by a University of Newcastle researcher, Laureate Professor Graham Jameson. His colleague, Professor Kevin Galvin, developed the Reflux Classifier in collaboration with commercial partner Ludowici, a revolutionary innovation which separates fine particles on the basis of density and has been a game-changer for the energy industry.

Under the University’s NeW Directions strategic plan, taking us to our 50th anniversary in 2015, our vision is to deliver world-class innovation to support the development of strong regional communities, through collaborative engagement with industry, business and government partners. We want to launch three research and innovation hubs or clusters, which can act as one-stop shops to bring partners together and find solutions to complex problems. We want to engage with industry leaders and form Research and Innovation Blueprints. We want to attract more funding and grow this region’s reputation for innovation and research, and we want our emerging research areas to flourish.

While the University’s researchers, and many more like them, have used their ideas and ingenuity to solve problems, improve industries, boost our economy and change people’s lives, their work is only one piece of the innovation landscape in the region.

Today’s launch represents an opportunity to amplify the innovation potential of Newcastle and the Hunter region, bringing together the significant expertise of stakeholders across all sectors to build on an existing base of excellence. In areas of critical national importance – such as energy – government, industry and business, research institutes and universities have worked together to create collaborative hubs for research and innovation in Newcastle.

With the CSIRO Energy Transformed Flagship, the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources and the National Solar Centre all located in Newcastle, as well as the Hunter Region’s role in producing 60 per cent of the state’s energy supply, the capacity for creative collaboration to solve national energy problems is immense. In conjunction with business innovators such as Liddell Power Station, who pioneered a world first integration of solar thermal technology with coal-fired power generation, Newcastle and the Hunter region has a unique competitive advantage, which the Hunter Innovation Scorecard will help to leverage into emerging areas of strength such as sustainable energy.

Newcastle is also at the forefront of innovative partnerships in health and medical research. The recent McKeon Review of Health and Medical Research proposed the creation of up to ten Integrated Health Research Centres, which combine hospital and community-care networks, universities, and research organisations such as medical research institutes to translate research excellence into outcomes. Newcastle is well placed to seize this opportunity – its world-leading Hunter Medical Research Institute, a collaboration between the University of Newcastle and Hunter New England Health housed in a $90 million building on the John Hunter Hospital campus, has an outstanding track record of translating world-class research into real-life interventions.

For example, Professor John Forbes, one of HMRI’s leading medical researchers, led the study of treatments for a particular type of breast cancer that resulted in the adoption of an alternative treatment, anastrozole, which saw cancer recurrence drop by 24 per cent in the clinical trials. This medical breakthrough is estimated to have benefited over one million women worldwide. 

Similarly, our Centre for Magnetic Resonance in Health has a unique research and commercial partnership with global technology giant Siemens, with Newcastle one of only a few worldwide development sites for magnetic resonance spectroscopy and the first in the Southern hemisphere to receive a next-generation MRI scanner. These established linkages with health systems and international industry partners, made possible by the integrated HMRI model and its unique facilities, not only act as drivers for economic development in our region (in which Health Care and Social Assistance is the largest employment sector) but also position Newcastle as a potential leader on the world stage.

Led by the Regional Development Australia and delivered in collaboration with the NSW and Federal Governments, the Hunter Innovation Scorecard will give our region a benchmark as well as a driver for change. Understanding how innovative we are in the context of not only the nation but also other regions gives us the framework for building future prosperity, as well as a tool to  measure our progress against key economic, technological and social indicators. We will be able to track how our region’s businesses are using new ideas and cutting-edge thinking to add value, and bring together researchers, industry and government to tackle the issues and opportunities arising for Newcastle and the Hunter.

Congratulations again to the RDA and colleagues across the Hunter for bringing this initiative to life. The University of Newcastle will do everything it can to support innovation across the Hunter and we look forward to some great results on the scorecard.