What is innovation?

The Oxford dictionary defines ‘innovate’ as to change things; to renew, alter, make new, introduce as new; to make a change in something established. ‘Innovation’ is the action of innovating; alteration of something established; introduction of a new product to the market; introduction of a new practice or method. Inventium defines innovation as change that adds value.

In essence, innovation starts with recognition, research and understanding of conventional wisdom: the accepted existing situation, product, process, theory or belief. It continues with careful questioning the conventional wisdom of business and thinking of creative ways to improve it. It takes an enquiring mind, intelligence and courage.

Innovation puts creative ideas into practice. Innovation produces new or better processes, goods and services. It may disrupt existing conventional wisdom or build on it. If successful, it improves productivity, expands businesses, creates new businesses, increases competition, stimulates more innovation, raises economic growth, pays more taxes, raises funds for more R&D, and generates more everyday and skilled jobs. It has always been so since the caves. Australia should foster, nurture and recognise entrepreneurs who make innovation happen. It should promote creativity and public acceptance and support of innovation. It should ensure there are the best incentives for innovation.

Everyone can contribute to innovation. Toyota, in its Japanese car plants in the 1980s, received 70,000 suggestions a year. It assessed each and put good ideas into practice and gave recognition and reward to the creators. It became a high productivity, low cost producer with job security. Today, there is strong international competition driving innovation, which makes for greater prosperity for all.

Australian leaders must produce conditions that encourage people in work to put up ideas for innovation (productivity improvement) in their employment and create their own job security; and conditions economy wide of more and better jobs for those who must move on and for those who aspire to improve.

Robert Sobyra (“Conversation”, 17.7.18) asked a key question: “How to make a globally competitive workforce fit for the 21st century?”

Innovative economies

Conventional wisdom about encouraging more innovation is that populations should be clustered and closely connected at work in the CBDs of cities and accessible R&D centres, which is correct. The authorities believe that expanding cities into mega-cities will stimulate more innovation, for example, Melbourne and Sydney to +8m. This has worked sometimes in the past, but not today. Conventional wisdom has shifted to poly-centric mega-cities to encourage more innovation. This does not work either, as demonstrated by recent experience in China. (see “Two Mega-cities or a Mega-region? on ).

Melbourne and Sydney are already developing suburban poly-centric hubs where businesses cluster, but the clusters are not connected directly to each other for ease of meeting. The Federal Government has guaranteed that Melbourne and Sydney will become mega-cities by starting to build Badgerys Creek Airport in western Sydney before the next election and announcing that it has deferred HSR indefinitely (to protect the airport and airlines from competition). The authorities plan densification of Sydney and Melbourne to 8m and connecting them by incrementally expanding, private, high cost airlines, high cost interstate road freight and DEVs. This may be simple and easy, but it is the recipe for vitiating Australia’s relatively high innovation rating and slowing its innovation rate. It slows productivity improvement.

It is reported that Melbourne and Sydney are amongst world leaders in business start-ups. This is admirable for 5m populations. There are no mega-cities of 8m in this group, not London or New York.


New cities on HSR line

There are no suburban business hubs in the new city. Emergence of hubs is evidence that large cities are failing to optimise innovation and it is fading. They arise because businesses locate new offices where staff live and are readily available, rather than in CBDs. Staff are reluctant to travel into the CBD because of the problems of lack of public transport, congestion, and cost and time taken in commuting. People working in hubs are not in the big CBD bath of ideas of many minds face-to-face sharing ideas and creating innovations. They are only in the isolated, unconnected bathroom basins with few minds.

A mega-region

New cities are part of the new east coast mega-region to be founded to become one of the global innovation leaders. New cities must be innovative cities to be innovation cities. Six new cities of up to 3m around Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane prevent the old cities over-blowing and losing their capacity to grow innovation. Cities of more than about 3m tend to grow hubs. All the cities work together to expand innovation in the mega-region. Leaders must create an innovation ethos.

All cities in the mega-region must be connected by rapid transport to bring people together readily to explore conventional wisdom, research and share ideas leading to innovation. HSR is a key innovative resource, especially for a corridor mega-region. All cities are connected by air, FFR and road, but HSR is the quickest connection from new CBD to old CBD up to 300km apart within one-hour commuter time.

New cities are built centred around the HSR station in a trench to maximise ease of connection and convenience to promote human interaction and innovation. HSR facilitates new inter-CBD connections.


To manage doubling of the population, starting new innovation cities from scratch in the country on HSR instead of growing congested, fading innovation mega-cities with hubs is preferable, more effective and lower cost. People in the innovation city are clustered together and connected conveniently by first class Metro, tram and road transport systems to the CBD for 3m provided for from the beginning. There is minimal congestion. This greatly enhances innovation, liveability and prosperity, not destroy them.

China’s cities are growing. It has found that hubs do not work. It is forming many mega-regions. It is building a new innovation city 120km from Beijing as part of a new mega-region led by President Xi. Australia should emulate this here.

London and New York with populations of 8m are world leaders in innovation, ranked number 1 and 2. They have good public transport, especially London which started underground railways 150 years ago. However, they are very low on liveability being ranked in the fifties in the world, compared to Melbourne ranked number 1 and Sydney number 7. London and New York suffer great congestion which would slow most cities’ innovation. Their populations are unlikely to double in a few decades like Melbourne and Sydney.

London and New York lead innovation after a hundred years of experience because of philosophy, focus and funds. They know what innovation is and its great significance (end). They concentrate on the process of producing innovation (means). They provide the resources to back creating innovation (funds). They have long established the ethos for leading innovation. Australia should emulate this here.

Innovation is not closely related to city size or density. Toronto and Vienna are 2-3m and highly ranked for both liveability and innovation. Innovation is more closely linked to R&D expenditure. Australia is declining in this investment to below world standards. It would make large savings on building new innovation cities in the country. It should use these savings to double R&D expenditure to lift innovation on which it relies for its future prosperity. It should become known for its innovation ethos.


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