Transcript - Indian Innovation Forum 2013 - Prof Glyn Davis

Professor Glyn Davis, AC Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne

Prof Glyn Davis is the Vice Chancellor, University of Melbourne. The University of Melbourne is amongst the leading Universities in the world.

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I think there are three things that are hugely important innovation that make Australia so attractive. The First is the natural talent. Lots of great people both Australians and the many international students who have come to study in Australia so there is a pool of very well trained people and really first class minds.

The Second is deep tradition of innovation, we don’t think about ourselves that way but you only have to mould wi-fi, the black box recorder, the bionic ear, you can see a long tradition back to the stump jump plough and so on, a long tradition of innovation and of carrying it into industry. So again though we don’t think of Australia as a highly industrialised nation actually we got long tradition of great industries that develops skills.

And I guess the third is an openness to ideas, when you sit on the periphery of the world you have to look outwards. And So Australians engage very early with new technology, they are very great adapters and adopters of new things that are new and they are interested in new ideas and that combination seriously skilled people a long tradition of translation of research into industrial product and a natural curiosity, I think makes Australia a very interesting place for innovation.

Well I am really excited about what’s happening at the moment with bionics and this is a nice example. So 30 years ago people started wondering how they could use electronics to help people who were hearing impaired improve their hearing particularly the profoundly deaf and the development of the bionic ear began as a research project at the university of Melbourne led by a Professor Graham Clark and over time it developed 1st prototypes and then commercial versions of a revolutionary type of hearing aid actually embedded in the cochlear of the ear and providing information to the brain of quite an extraordinary sophistication compared to an earlier generation of hearing aids.

We are only 2 per cent of the world’s population and yet we punch them out of our way. We do have a series of great innovations we can point to as examples of what Australia can do. But we’ve got lots of opportunities to take this further.

University of Melbourne has been engaged with India since independence, since this became one of the world’s great nations.

Many Indian companies are developing an interest in Australia and they see Australia as a potential source of research as well as markets to sell into and of course we are interested in working side by side with Indian researchers. Exciting! But the other way of doing this is to think globally so one of the big research presence in India is IBM who has a series of important facilities across India and a world class laboratory in Bangalore which is in some years in the building and does remarkable research. Well the university of Melbourne works closely with IBM which just a few years ago established its 1st and only laboratory in Australia at the University of Melbourne and many of the people they have hired to run that laboratory have worked in Bangalore or are IBM staff who’ve been recruited from Bangalore. And this is great, great exchange of people and ideas and projects between Melbourne and Bangalore, and between Australia and India. So not all research partnerships are just university to a company or even one company to another, global companies and India has its own set of global companies and emerging powerful companies work across the globe and you can build into their programs something in Australia. So we see lots of opportunities but very early days.

The University of Melbourne is Australia’s leading ranked university and it’s in the global top 40 universities and it works closely with a no. of Indian universities to build mutual projects but increasingly the focus is on working with Indian industry around research problems, around some of the shared grand challenges that we all face and some of those are commercial, many of them are in public health and there is lots of opportunity to work here in India as well as for Indian institutions to engage in Australia.

I think India and Australia face some grand challenges together, around public health, around the environment, around the economy and research from both places, and universities in both counties and from University of Melbourne can be important in addressing those grand challenges. And, so what I very much hope to see is the development of research with scholars from Australia spend time in India and vice versa, students and PhD’s. So that we build a group of people who know each other’s country well, who can identify similar problems and who can test how ideas developed in one nation, might help in the other and I think that’s what a great research partnership brings and I think the University of Melbourne can along with other Australian universities play a really important part of that dialogue, that exchange, that sharing of innovation that over time will benefit us both.