A Smarter Australia

By Alexandra Meldrum

smarteraustraliaforumWe hear much about the importance of transitioning to a high-tech knowledge economy. There is some good news: at the end of 2015, New South Wales was the leading state in Australia on all key economic indicators. To look to the future, Engineers Australia is holding an Innovation and Education Forum in March to which all are invited.
At a national level, the Australian Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda was released in December 2015. Many people in Australia would now be familiar with images of The Ideas Nation and the Ideas Boom through current media advertising under a $28 m Federal Government ad campaign. Yet, Australia has struggled to match other developed countries in the application and commercialisation of ideas. We have fallen behind our peers, consistently ranking last or second last among OECD countries for business-research collaboration.
Innovation requires the development of commercial opportunities. Australia excels in research, but we struggle to translate this to practical innovation, bridging the academic and business worlds.

One aspect of innovation and productivity is skills development. In education, the market and competition is globalised. In Australia currently, we see contradictory trends. On the one hand, Australian universities have improved their placings in global rankings such as The Times Higher Education. Yet our children, especially girls, are turning away from studies of the higher levels of mathematics and science

We need a stronger focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) in our schools. Studies continue to show that this begins in primary school, where the attitudes can be set. Parents and Teachers have an important influence at this stage. It’s important that our children, girls and boys, are attracted to develop their skills in STEM. Whilst not everyone shall become an engineer, these skills underpin innovation, productivity, and a majority of new jobs in the new economy.

Engineers Australia is the peak organisation for Australian engineering professionals with more than 100,000 members. We are holding an Innovation and Education Forum commencing 4:45pm on Thursday 10 March.

The forum will stimulate engagement with the key polices and topics in innovation and education that are directly relevant to engineers. Ideas generated at the forum will be taken forward into our policy work, including workforce of the future, women in engineering, continuing professional development, enhancing living standards, sustainability, productivity and innovation. It will also inform Engineers Australia’s engagement with the education sector including schools, vocational education and universities, to continue to strengthen engineer’s future capabilities.

I hope you’ll join us at this event. All welcome.

When: 5 pm Thursday 10 March
Where: Level 47, MLC Building Martin Place
Cost: $50

Register to attend


Prof Mary O’Kane, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer

Professor Mary O’Kane is the NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer. A computer engineer undertaking pioneering research in artificial intelligence, she is a former university vice-chancellor, a member or chair of many Government and private sector boards and committees, an active consultant. She has breadth and depth of experience in the innovation, research, higher education, public policy spheres.

Prof Hugh Durrant, Chair, NSW Innovation and Productivity Council

Professor Hugh Durrant-Whyte is Chair of the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. Known for his pioneering work in robotics, he was named “Professional Engineer of the year” (2008) by Engineers Australia Sydney Division and NSW “Scientist of the Year” (2010). He was previously CEO NICTA, and Research Director of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Autonomous Systems (CAS).

Alex Metelerkamp winner 2014 Sydney Young Professional Engineer of the Year Award

Alex Meterlerkamp is a technology entrepreneur and engineer who believes the engineering mindset is becoming increasingly applicable and powerful. Alex is passionate about combining scalable technologies and entrepreneurs into companies of global impact.

Alexandra Meldrum Chartered Professional Engineer and Board Member Engineers Australia 2014-15.