[LINK] Universities Australia

Tom Koltai tomk at unwired.com.au
Sat Sep 10 16:58:37 AEST 2011

> -----Original Message-----
> From: link-bounces at mailman.anu.edu.au 
> [mailto:link-bounces at mailman.anu.edu.au] On Behalf Of Tom Worthington
> Sent: Saturday, 10 September 2011 11:21 AM
> To: link at mailman.anu.edu.au
> Subject: Re: [LINK] Universities Australia
> On 09/09/11 09:33, Tom Koltai wrote:
> >> -----Original Message-----
> >> On Behalf Of stephen at melbpc.org.au
> >> Sent: Friday, 9 September 2011 1:04 AM
> >>
> >> A productive country: The contribution of Australian 
> universities to 
> >> national productivity ... Universities Australia, 7th 
> September 2011 
> >> htp://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/resources/633/1140
> Keep in mind that "Universities Australia" was formed by the 
> universities to promote their interests: 
> http://www.universitiesaustralia.edu.au/page/about-us/
> > The report fails to analyse the cost to the nation of the 
> best of the 
> > best teaching our neighbouring countries how to create 
> cheaper goods 
> > with better economical management in place to compete with our own 
> > rapidly depleting manufacturing efforts. ...
> There seems little point in leaving the education market of 
> our region 
> to universities in the USA and Europe. Australia might as well make 
> friends, and earn a little money, by teaching our neighbors. 
> In any case 
> this market is likely to shrink in the next ten years, as 
> universities 
> in the region grow their own capabilities and as most education moves 
> on-line.
> > I emanate from an era where the Government paid for the 
> education of 
> > the individual from birth till degree. ...
> I recall Gough Whitlam speaking on an outdoor podium at the opening 
> Griffith University. When his notes were blown around he 
> quipped about 
> this being a problem with the concept of the "open university".
> > Foreign students were the exception rather than the norm 
> and a degree 
> > had to be earned and not paid for in advance. ...
> Students still have to study for their awards. If my students 
> do not do 
> the assigned work to the required standard, then they fail. To avoid 
> unpleasantness I use progressive assessment. Those who are unable, or 
> unwilling, to do the required work get the hint early on and can 
> withdraw before they fail.
> > In other words, real teaching for the right reasons. ...
> There is no shame in charging money for education, provided it is a 
> quality education. Quality requires standards, testing and 
> independent 
> verification.
> > Somewhere in the last thirty years, education has turned into a 
> > business that has sold out our intellectual property to the student 
> > intake from foreign countries leaving us dependent on those 
> countries 
> > for almost all aspects of our economy. ...
> Education is not a commodity you can lock up in a box. Educating our 
> students alongside those of other countries improves the 
> education for 
> all (I learn a lot form my international students). Also, 
> from a cynical 
> point of view, this is a way Australia can pick the best and 
> brightest 
> of the international students and invite them to stay and 
> contribute to 
> our economy. Others can return to their country with contacts in 
> Austrlaia who can foster trade.
> > ... to fix the economy, we, as a country need to
> > concentrate on encouraging and funding innovative 
> non-service oriented
> > (manufacturing) start-ups. ...
> Much of making manufacturing profitable is about the service economy. 
> There is little point in engineering a better widget if you 
> can't sell 
> it to someone, because you don't have the legal, accounting and 
> marketing skills.
> > The country needs more blue collar workmen, that speak English not 
> > PhD's. ...
> The people who operate machines need formal qualifications, as the 
> machines are now mostly computer controlled. These need not be PHDs, 
> mostly vocational (TAFE) qualifications. But there need not be a 
> distinct boundary between the two: some of the people programming the 
> machines will need PHDs.
> > Unfortunately, in the main, win win commercial negotiation strategy 
> > appear to be outside the ability of most academics ...
> ANU and University of Canberra have an excellent program with the ACT 
> Government, to teach commercialization to the students, called 
> "Innovation ACT" (I am one of the mentors for the program): 
> http://www.innovationact.org/

Unfortunately Tom, although it looks good.

$79 million capital raised, $44 million revenue earned. 

I think there are better odds at Randwick.

ATP has been running in various guises since 2000.

Even the CEO, who's BIO says he is well versed in start-ups, hasn't
actually done any - outside of "innovations" and his bio states that his
only commercial experience outside of academia was as the Research
Director of a company. (Not sales and Marketing - Research Director. I
have never seen a Research Director achieve a marketing budget...).

The Directors read like the who's who of the Australian Chancery list of
Vice Chancellors.

In my opinion, although the sentiment is good, the execution is a FAIL.
Universities need commercial input to successfully commercialise.

Sack all the academics bar one as a liaison. Hire some real
ex-entrepreneurs. Preferably retirees who have the patience and

As guest speakers, get in the guys that started the companies that
everyone admires. Failing that, the guys that helped start the companies
that everyone admires.

Although the mentoring appears to be an excellent start; unfortunately
it is still presided over by Academics with NFCC. (commercial clue)

My earlier comments stand. For Australian Universities to actually get
anywhere - they need to seriously get involved in commercialising their
grad projects successfully.

To do so, academics need to remove themselves from the commercialisation
process - Totally. It's been invented, it works, Geeks no longer
needed... Scott McNealy, come on down...

PhD's let go the reins. Hand them over to those MBA types... Otherwise
in another decade, we might see another annual report that states:

79 million raised to fund revenues of 44 million (Which unfortunately
was not enough to buy everyone at university in Oz a can of coke....)

I reiterate, for the record - FAIL.

To save money (Innovations appear to be a loss leader), the Government
could put the concept out to public tender... 

Wanted: Company to commercialise 48,000 patents held in Dusty filing
cabinets in 36 universities around the Australia. Proceeds of
commercialisation 70/30 split in favour of the winning Company...

70/30 ? Yeah, I see the eyebrows raised now.

The Reason Innovations fails continuously is that it wants 95% of every
deal every time. In the real world, inventors are lucky to wind up with
10% of the equity after commercialisation has been effected.

When will Innovations realise that it needs to lower it's expectations
of returns to ensure success ???



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