How Australia's innovation policy will shape the legal market

Posted 11 February 2016

Australia's innovation landscape has been in the news recently, with the federal government releasing details of new policy initiatives aimed to promote innovation within the country. The specific measures are aimed at the hard sciences, with a goal to increase the country's ability to innovate and remain competitive internationally.

The new policy will also present a considerable opportunity for those looking for work in the legal sector as further opportunities open in areas supporting these initiatives.

The core focus of this new initiative is to build a culture within Australia where innovation is ingrained into the fabric of both the public sector and private enterprises. This means driving small businesses, large firms and public agencies to think disruptively and look for new opportunities to improve their services.

Along with this broad focus, the government is committing new resources to a variety of different initiatives. In total, the federal government will be investing $1.1 billion into new measures designed to improve the country's performance. The bulk of this investment will be going towards the country's scientific research sector.

Further changes are targeted towards Australia's patent system, with the goal of making these services more conducive to innovation within the country.

For example, the announcement aims to make it easier for companies to recoup the cost of intellectual property by treating them in the same manner as other depreciating assets. The purpose here is to make it more attractive for Australian companies to invest in new research, through these further tax allowances.

Beyond specific changes to the way intellectual property is taxed, the federal government is aiming to make it easier for organisations to invest in research conducted in partnership with universities. Improving this pathway to commercialising knowledge that is generated through higher education.

Finally, there have been significant changes announced to the way public entities formulate procurement contracts and engage with the private sector. The federal government is aiming for public entities to become leaders in digital transformation while also becoming easier to work with.

Speaking at the launch of the initiative, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull reaffirmed the commitment the federal government has to this area.

"Right across the board you will see there are measures to ensure that government is digitally transformed, so that it is nimble, so that you can deal with government as easily as you can with eBay or with one of the big financial institutions," stated Mr Turnbull.

"We should be able to transact with government for most of our engagement on our smartphone. Digital works, it transforms, it makes it easier for business, easier for government."

While these changes are currently just proposals and are yet to be implemented fully, they underscore the developments that will shape both the public and private sectors over the coming years.

The revisions will also be different for both types of organisation. Public agencies will now be considering how they can deliver services effectively while maintaining regulatory compliance and adequate security at the same time. Individual companies will instead be evaluating their current approach to research and development and intellectual property, in order to develop new products, processes and services.

For the legal profession, this will present both an opportunity and a challenge, especially in areas like intellectual property and government procurement, as well as for private enterprises and public agencies more generally. Likewise, while many of the efforts are aiming to reduce compliance and red tape, private firms will still need legal guidance to navigate this new landscape.

While the demand for government legal jobs is still untested, this renewed focus on innovation will certainly see a significant change for those working in the public and private sectors.