Industry and university partnerships set to reshape Australia’s digital future
Chief Transformation Officer, APJC
Innovation, Digitization, Education
Australia is far ahead of the pack on most measures of digital readiness. To continue pushing the digital boundaries, the country’s universities must deepen partnerships with industry players, especially technology companies.
Australia is well placed to reap the benefits of digitization, according to a Cisco and Garter study. This conclusion is based on community foundations such as Australia’s strong education system. Reviewing the country’s technology infrastructure and adoption, ease of doing business, talent situation, start-up ecosystem and business and government investments, the Australian Digital Readiness Index 2018 ranked Australia in the highest category of digital readiness. This makes the Aussies a global digital leader – with one caveat. Not all Australian states are up to par. The speed of the country’s digitization efforts is at risk should Australia fail to build a more digitally inclusive society.
One of the most notable points the study makes, is that increased interaction between industry and academia is key to success. Quoting the research: “It is essential that governments, academia and the commercial sector continue to work together to find new ways to bring innovations to market quickly, to ensure that benefits and commercial returns are both maximized and accelerated”. Along with this advice, the study also emphasized the need for additional investment in strong cyber security capabilities and emerging fields that are key drivers of digitization, such as IoT, Quantum Computing and AI.
I recently participated in a panel during Universities Australia Higher Education Conference on this topic. From Cisco’s perspective, we view higher education systems as enterprise customers that are truly digitizing their business process and leveraging digital to drive innovation. Universities are focusing on continuous and experiential learning, teaching students the value of soft skills (88% of fresh grads now say these skills, like negotiation and conflict resolution, are more important than a degree) and we can see them gaining confidence in their role in the innovation ecosystem. In fact, half of Australia’s most active startup accelerators are affiliated with a university.
From an industry perspective, enterprises are lining up to partner with Australian universities. Cisco is one of them. Cisco’s vision has always been to aid in the creation of a talent pool that is more in tune with disruptive technologies that directly benefit the Australian market. Our partnerships with Australian universities include the establishment of the Innovation Central Perth with Woodside and Curtin University (which represents a co-investment of $30 million USD over 5 years) and responsible for a pipeline of more than 100 proof of concept projects. We also work with Technical and Further Education (TAFE) institutions in Australia for the Global Cybersecurity Scholarship program. Cisco has also established a new research chair at Flinders University in South Australia to develop innovative technology solutions for aged health care. In addition, Flinders and Cisco have established a Cisco Academy, which delivers a curriculum to train students for the jobs of the future.
Cisco is also investing 61 Million AUD in securing Australia’s digital future through our Country Digitization program. Our focus will be on funding projects that stimulate inclusive growth, skills development and innovation in for instance K12 and higher education, Australia’s key industries, as well as small businesses. With this investment in place, we aim to create more and richer opportunities for Australia to grow and prosper in the digital era.
In my view, productive university and industry partnerships are characterized by mutual value and trust. Cisco values partnerships that can pivot when necessary, when things aren’t working as they should. And third, we aim to build lasting partnerships that continue to grow and scale – identifying new opportunities as they arise.
It is Cisco’s confidence in Australia’s digitization potential and opportunities that drives us to these key industry partnerships with universities. We have high expectations – that have so far been met – so we look forward to seeing how technology will reshape Australia in the country’s digital future.