Innovation & skills

Australia is one of the most creative countries in the world. Overall spending on research and development (R&D) has grown by 7 per cent per year since 2001. Business is the driving force, with commercial R&D rising almost 2 percentage points faster than Australia’s GDP.

Our universities are partly responsible. Seven Australian universities make it into the top 100 global rankings. In terms of academic impact, Australian publications outperform other countries’ in 20 out of 22 fields of academic research.

Then there’s the Australian workforce. Diverse, multilingual and multicultural, more than 28 per cent of our population was born overseas. Combined with the high skill levels of migrants, this multitalented workforce helps Australia thrive in today’s globalised economy.

Charts from the Benchmark Report

The Australia Benchmark Report provides rich data demonstrating why there is no better place than Australia to do business. The report examines five key reasons for investing in Australia – robust economy, dynamic industries, innovation & skills, global ties and strong foundations – and compares Australia’s credentials with other countries.

Charts can be downloaded and saved as images for use in reports and presentations (when using please reference

Australia’s innovation credentials
1.  Australia’s roll call of innovation
Australia is a nation of inventors and entrepreneurs. The electronic pacemaker (1926), the ‘black box’ flight recorder (1958), ultrasound (1961), multi-channel cochlear implants (1970s), wi-fi (1990s), the polymer banknote (1988), Google Maps (2003) and a cervical cancer vaccine (2006) are all Australian innovations. With dynamic links between academia, industry and public services, Australia welcomes investment in its intellectual capital to help lay the groundwork for future discoveries.
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Skilled workforce and innovation indicators - Global rankings, 2019
2.  An innovative, highly educated nation
International studies recognise the high levels of skill and education in Australia’s workforce. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report 2019, Australia’s scientific publication scores are among the world’s highest, and so are its metrics for critical thinking in teaching. Australia also ranked in the top 10 for availability of skilled labour, according to a study by the International Institute for Management Development (IMD).
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World of research and development
3.  A leading economy for research and development
With strong expenditure on research and development (R&D) as a percentage of GDP and a high proportion of available researchers, Australia is among the most innovative countries in the world – alongside the US, Japan and France.
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Australia’s gross expenditure on research and development (GERD)
4.  Australian industry drives innovation
Australia’s annual gross expenditure on R&D rose by 7 per cent per year between 2000–01 and 2017–18 to reach A$33 billion. Business expenditure on R&D makes up 53 per cent of Australia’s total R&D expenditure. It has expanded rapidly from A$5 billion in 2000–01 to A$17.4 billion in 2017–18. This represents a CAGR of 7.6 per cent since 2001, almost 2 percentage points faster than Australia’s economic growth over the same period.
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Relative impacts of Australian scientific publications by research field, 2014-18
5.  Australian scientific research has a major impact
In 20 out of 22 fields of academic research, Australia’s research publications achieve an impact that is at least 20 per cent above the global average. Australia’s 10 strongest categories of published research are: space sciences, physics, computer science, clinical medicine, multidisciplinary, engineering, molecular biology/genetics, materials science, environment/ecology, and plant & animal science. These categories neatly reflect Australia’s diverse research interests and economic strengths.
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Academic ranking of world universities, 2020
6.  Australia’s top-ranking academic institutions
Australia has seven universities in the top 100, according to the 2020 Academic Ranking of World Universities (ARWU). These are: the University of Melbourne; the University of Queensland (Brisbane); the Australian National University (Canberra); the University of New South Wales (Sydney); the University of Sydney; Monash University (Melbourne); and the University of Western Australia (Perth). In 2020, 23 Australian universities were listed in the ARWU top 500 ranking, compared with just 14 in 2004.
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Australia’s employed persons by industry, 2019
7.  A services-based workforce
Approximately 90 per cent of Australia’s workforce is employed in the services sector. Within these services industries, over 44 per cent (5.7 million out of 13 million people) work in sectors where having a tertiary education is more common than not. In some services sectors, over 60 per cent of the workforce holds a tertiary qualification. These high-skilled sectors include: education and training; professional, scientific and technical services; financial and insurance services; and health care and social assistance.
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Foreign-born population
8.  Australia’s overseas-born population
With 28 per cent of its population born overseas, Australia is well ahead of the OECD average, and above major developed economies including Canada, Germany, the UK, the US and France. Around 60 per cent of Australia’s overseas-born population (2.4 million) has a tertiary education, and many of them are from Asia (around 2 million) or Europe (1.1 million). With a high proportion of skilled migrants, Australia’s workforce is culturally diverse, with language and business skills that give Australia a built-in advantage in many aspects of crossborder business.
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