They are leaders in their field. Some would call them trailblazers, women who have broken through the glass ceiling to move ahead unencumbered. Enthusiastic about exploring possibilities and imagining what could be, Professors Marie Wilson and Tanya Monro are innovators, passionate about change that can make a difference.
Both women agree, that for business, the ability to foster and execute new ideas, build prosperity, and generate growth, lies in Australia's capacity to foster a culture of innovation.
Brought to the forefront of political and media agendas by the Turnbull government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, innovation has been in the minds of business and community alike.
“Australia’s socioeconomic ambitions for prosperity and fairness, rest on a healthy, multi-faceted economy and a skilled and innovative workforce," says UniSA Pro Vice Chancellor: Business and Law, Professor Wilson. "Innovation has always been important for economic development, but now more that ever, as the traditional pillars of Australia's economy—mining, agriculture, and infrastructure development—are displaced by high value manufacturing and knowledge intensive services.”
UniSA’s Deputy Vice Chancellor: Research and Innovation, Professor Tanya Monro, agrees. “Australia’s future standard of living depends on our ability to innovate ‘first-in-world’ solutions to emerging problems, solutions that can be exported to world markets," she says. "Delivering more of the same, even with improvements, will not deliver the jobs and growth needed to counteract the contraction of current industries."
Both leaders assert that innovation requires a flair for networking and communication.
“You know an innovative business because it has many diverse links to other businesses and research organisations," says Professor Monro. "That kind of networking allows a business to keep abreast of emerging opportunities and threats. It will also have a real appetite for growth—because comfort with the status quo is the enemy of innovation.”
"An innovative business will have new clients, new markets, and new and improved products and services on the go," adds Professor Wilson. “If they can’t look back at the previous 12 months and see what has changed in the way they are doing business, then they are probably missing the opportunities that innovation can produce.”
For those looking to lead innovation, Professor Monro notes that they should tick these checkboxes: be curious, creative, persistent, patient, resilient, open to change, but also willing to learn from mistakes.
Another attribute for innovation is proactivity.
“People with proactive personalities have a disposition that is more inclined to take intentional actions to influence their situation,” says Professor Wilson. “They are the fixers. They tend to be biased towards action, like to discover and resolve problems, take responsibility, and seek feedback on how to improve."
As leaders at South Australia’s largest university and one committed to innovation and enterprise, both Professors believe that universities are a critical link in the innovation chain.
“Universities create new knowledge,” says Professor Monro, “and at UniSA, we take pride in partnering with research end-users, industry and communities, both to shape the directions of our research and to facilitate the translation of the knowledge generated by research, into tangible outcomes.”
Professor Wilson believes universities are an important part of the economic engine room. “They're the source of skilled graduates who work in and through business to support growth and development. They're also home to research teams that evaluate, discover and test new ideas and practices," Professor Wilson says.
From encouraging entrepreneurship, to tackling change, Professor Wilson puts it simply, "Innovation is what we do.”