Leaders call for action at veski 10 year symposium

9 May
Panellists at veski's Smart Australia 2030 symposium at Deakin Edge, Federation Square
Panellists at veski's Smart Australia 2030 symposium at Deakin Edge, Federation Square

Strategic international and inter-university collaboration on developmental research projects with translational outcomes must be ramped up immediately if Australia is to have globally competitive industries in 2030, according to some of the brightest minds in Australia addressing the 150-strong invited crowd in Melbourne this week.

The leaders, from research, industry, business, government and academia, were gathered at Federation Square on Thursday night to discuss key topics and formulate ideas for a Smart Australia in 2030, as part of veski’s 10-year anniversary celebrations.

“Australia cannot be competitive working in isolation from the Asian, European and US-based research communities. We need to refocus our limited resources in a much more strategic way and ensure collaboration occurs between our universities. Time is of the essence. We need to get on with it, get global and get internationally competitive,” said Professor Alan Trounson, international healthy ageing expert and IVF pioneer, President of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and founding director and former chairman of veski.

The event saw presentations on healthy ageing, energy and sustainable foods by Trounson, Holmes and current veski chairman Professor Snow Barlow respectively followed by a Q&A with panellists including Mary Harney, Chief Executive, Geoffrey Gardiner Dairy Foundation; Silviu Itescu, Chief Executive Officer, Mesoblast; Alastair Lucas, Chairman of Investment Banking, Goldman Sachs Australia; and Madeleine McManus, Past Victorian State President, Engineers Australia.

Inaugural veski innovation fellow and future energy specialist Professor Andrew Holmes AM also called for collaboration, in the form of developmental research partnerships “to help us understand the major foreign markets in China, India, Japan and Singapore, and the products which need to be developed for these markets”.

Professor Holmes, a Royal Medalist who this month assumes the Presidency of the Australian Academy of Science, also called for a strategic bipartisan plan to make change occur and prevent a brain drain from Australia to the rest of the world.

“We can’t continue to waddle from one electoral cycle to the next. We need a commitment, a constant, because smart people won’t hang around if the funding dries out. They are in the most demand around the world. A smart country needs to develop a culture pervading the way we operate in our community and Victoria is a great place to start this great reputation,” Holmes said.

Held as part of veski’s 10-year anniversary celebrations, the symposium was inspired by challenges facing Victoria which include a recent announcement by the National Commission of Audit recommending a drastic cut to a number of innovation funding programs, as well as the state’s changing workforce, declining industries, and burgeoning population.

The veski symposium, supported by the City of Melbourne and Federation Square, and moderated by Jonathan Green, presenter of ABC RN’s Sunday Extra, sparked robust discussion and heated debate in the Twitterverse around #veski2030.

Seed-funded by the State Government of Victoria, veski delivers a dynamic program of fellowships, awards and international networks including the veski innovation fellowships program which brings Australian expatriates and leading researchers with outstanding skills in science and innovative technology, typically in the top five percent of their respective fields, to Victoria.

In May 2014, veski celebrates 10 inspiring years.

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