Yes – the Australian government has recently launched the National Innovation and Science Agenda which aims to cultivate Australia’s newest economic pillar: Technology and Innovation. “Welcome to the Ideas Boom” the homepage boldly and proudly states like a gatekeeper of previously untrodden territory. But are these policy changes (welcome as they are) driving this shift, or are they merely reactive in the face of an unstoppable emerging trend. This is a matter for debate. As Australia jumped from the 13th largest market for tech IPOs in 2013 to 5th largest in 2015, futurist, Roger James Hamilton, suggests that a set of perfect climatic conditions are seeing Australia organically turn away from the embers of the resources boom, making headway towards a technology boom.
‘Australia is fast becoming a hot spot in the world for technology advances’
As a world renowned futurist, social entrepreneur and founder of Entrepreneurs Institute, Hamilton meets with leading entrepreneurs at his Fast Forward your Business events held in Asia, Australia, UK and South Africa. With his global perspectives, Hamilton told Dynamic Business that Australia is fast becoming a hot spot in the world for technology advances, leaving the US, Japan and other major tech players behind:
“Australia’s reputation in the tech world has grown rapidly, not only because of global tech companies listing in Australia, but as a result of Australian technology getting more press internationally than ever before,” he said.
“Sydney-based Atlassian listed on US Nasdaq in December last year, valuing it at $6 billion and making it one of the world’s biggest IPO’s last year.”
‘Tech IPOs have had a good track-record post-listing’
Hamilton comments that in the first half of last year, over 30 global tech companies listed on the Australian stock market, compared to 15 in the US. This is reflective of market sentiment, according to Hamilton. He believes that overseas investors and tech companies have taken an increased interest in Australia because tech IPOs have had a good track-record post-listing. By contrast, many recent tech IPOs in the US have fallen below their IPO price after being listed at inflated prices.
“This is part of a larger trend that has also seen more tech IPOs outside of the US in markets. Australia has benefited from being an English-speaking nation with Asia at its doorstep, and Western investors see Asia as the region with the greatest potential for high-growth tech start-ups,” said Hamilton.
While he agrees that Australia’s growing reputation as an attractive place to ‘set up shop,’ “has a lot to do with” the demise of the resources boom, Hamilton believes that this is only one climatic factor among many. Following reports that some US firms are coming to Australia as a result of ‘reverse takeovers’ by mining businesses, Hamilton asserts that there are few listed companies in such difficulty that their public status is their only remaining asset.
“The window in which such reverse takeovers will take place in Australia is a small one, but the tech boom will be a longer term wave,” he said.
‘This new tech boom is being driven by Australia’s tech entrepreneurs and investors more than the government’
Firmly of the opinion that there is a more sustainable growth pattern in Australia’s technology sector, Mr Hamilton points to the tech billionaire Elon Musk, founder of electric car company, Tesla, and his decision to choose Australia as the first country to roll out Tesla’s ground breaking home battery system, Powerwall.
“Australia is leading the world in the use of solar power, having more rooftop solar power per capita than any other country,” he said.
“Google also chose Australia as the country to test their new drone technology, and now Drone Racing, which began in Australia, is becoming a worldwide phenomenon”
And Hamilton does not credit government policy for a looming technology boom; rather, he opines that this has been in the making for some time thanks to our own evolving, self-educated outlooks:
“This new tech boom is being driven by Australia’s tech entrepreneurs and investors more than the government. The government has become very ‘tech friendly’, but largely in reaction to the shift.
“For example, just this week the Australian government set up a financial technology advisory group to support the growth of fintech in Australia, whilst crowdfunding, mobile payments and digital currencies have already been growing rapidly over the last three years.”
‘The optimism in the Australian tech industry stands out’
So change is afoot, but a successful sea-change to an economy powered by technology can only be measured by Australia’s ability to adapt to the effects along the way. Hamilton warns that while technologically advanced countries have a competitive advantage over their neighbours, more jobs will get lost to technology. But this, he says, is heavily argued with many believing that new jobs are created in place of the old. Hamilton comments that “understanding how technology is changing is no longer just a luxury, but is becoming a necessity.” And it starts with education:
“Until the education system is redesigned to educate students on computer science, problem solving and entrepreneurship rather than the current system that tests memory, calculation and critical analysis, we will need to self-educate ourselves on the shifts in technology to ensure we are not left jobless and without an income as a result of these changes.”
The National Innovation and Science Agenda, indeed, might not be driving the shift from resources boom to technology boom, but perhaps it is reasonable to suggest that it is, at least, a fair attempt at adapting to the changes underway.
“The success is already becoming apparent, and provided recognition and support is given to the growing Australian tech industry, it will attract more bright young Australians into the industry. I travel to countries across Asia and Europe, and the optimism in the Australian tech industry stands out.
“The change in the digital landscape over the next five years will be greater than what we have seen over the past two decades combined,” said Hamilton.