Balancing the Scales: A New Perspective on Australia’s Approach to Commercialisation and IP Ownership

Navigating the intricate realms of technology, innovation, and grants often involve crossing the blurred lines between global commerce and national interest. An ongoing debate surrounding programs like Australia’s Accelerated Commercialisation throws light on the current direction, impact, and potential repercussions of the program’s structure.

At present, the government provides funding to companies for product development, aiming to commercialise a product developed with taxpayers’ money. Intriguingly, these products, despite their public-funded origins, are not obliged to remain within Australia. Consequently, this often results in the Intellectual Property (IP), the principal wealth generator, being exported overseas. Although these companies do contribute through taxes and possibly capital gains, the question remains: what are the taxpayers truly funding?

To elucidate this situation, consider the Australian film industry, particularly the post-production segment. Australia is a major player in this field, frequently drawing international projects and securing tax credits. The crux of this comparison lies in the economic spillover of post-production activities in Australia. They generate employment, nurture talent, and promote innovation.

The correlation here lies in the intangible return on investment for Australian taxpayers. It’s not purely monetary; rather, it’s about cultivating a local industry, enhancing skills, and generating employment. It is about the creation of an ecosystem that propels future growth and innovation.

In the instance where a government-backed company sells its IP overseas after becoming profitable, the initial outlook indicates a sound return on investment. However, this perspective is myopic. The more significant return lies in the product’s continued development within Australia and the ecosystem it supports, akin to the film post-production sector.

This rationale can be extended across industries. Consider the renewable energy sector, specifically the development of solar panels. Despite the inception of this technology in Australia, the lack of local manufacturing resulted in a negligible return on investment for Australians.

This argument isn’t against the international sale of Australian-developed IP. On the contrary, global market participation is essential. However, redefining the terms and conditions might be beneficial. Similar to the movie industry, perhaps maintaining the IP, or at least some facets of its application and development within the country, could be considered.

From an entrepreneurial angle, this might seem restrictive. Yet, it’s crucial to reiterate that this suggestion doesn’t restrict the sale of the IP or mandate its exclusive sale to another Australian entity. It primarily ensures that significant operational engagement continues within Australia, fostering long-term benefits from our investments.

Different countries have diverse approaches towards their IP and innovation ecosystems, shaped by varying factors like economic aspirations, national security, and even survival. While a laissez-faire model suits some, others adopt a more nationalistic approach towards their innovations.

We should scrutinize the value for investment the Australian taxpayer receives from programs like Accelerated Commercialisation. Immediate success might be easy to measure by examining the post-grant investments. However, a broader perspective might reveal a different narrative.

Does the original investment stimulate lasting economic activity in Australia, or is it all simply relocated to international grounds after substantial funding rounds? Essentially, the advocacy here is for the sustained domestic impact of public investments, ensuring they continue to benefit Australia in the long term.