Australia’s quest for the bionic eye: barriers to innovation
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 17:47 by Leigh Dayton
It is a goal of successive Australian governments to develop an internationally competitive knowledge-based innovation system for the 21st century. Yet despite the fact that Australia produces its share of the world’s scientific articles, in proportion to its population, and the existence of high-profile biomedical success stories such as Resmed’s devices for sleep disorders, Cochlear’s bionic ear and the Gardasil vaccine against human papillomavirus and cervical cancer, the effectiveness of national innovation is low when compared to other developed countries. The principle aim of this research is to derive new insight into the complex, often messy process driving the development of Australian biomedical and scientific technologies. While it takes a system-wide theoretical approach, it focuses on the “middle-ground” between fundamental science and final-stage commercialisation, using the bionic eye initiative as an extended case study. In the first part of the thesis, I review texts and archival documents pertaining to Australia’s innovation system policy, keeping in mind the National Innovation Systems framework. But in order to understand the drivers and dynamics of the system, it is necessary to view innovation from the participants’ perspectives. Following ethics approval, I recruited and interviewed 29 participants in the Australian Research Council’s Research in Bionic Vision Science and Technology initiative, announced in 2009 and funded over 5 years. Using this mixed methodology, the study explores the interpersonal, political, cultural and organisational factors influencing innovation, as well as identifying possible points of intervention for governmental policy makers and leaders managing emerging fields of complex scientific and biomedical research. Key recommendations address identified barriers to innovation.