The new year is a time when people look forward, but also look back.
Now that 2015 is done and dusted, exporters also have high hopes for the new year.
Here are a six key wishes we would like to see granted in 2016:
1. Support for manufacturing
Manufacturing in Australia has been struggling to survive for some time. As such an integral element of production generally, manufacturing should be a priority. The government’s innovation statement, released late last year, was a turning point for innovation as a stimulant for the economy. However it lacked any significant change for manufacturing. Exporters, many of which are also proud Australian manufacturers, would flourish under better policy for industry.
The patent box-style AIM Incentive (developed by Cook and other industry leaders) will ensure protection and support for companies with Australian-based manufacturing, as well as incentivise new manufacturers to commercialise within Australia.
2. Better policies for keeping IP in Australia
Attendees at Wyatt Roy’s policy hack earlier this year developed a list of ideas to boost Australia’s economy. Keeping intellectual property in Australia was one of them.
In order for Australia to maintain high levels of exporting overseas, it is imperative to keep innovation in the country. Losing the manufacturing and commercialisation of products offshore not only damages the Australian economy but also neglects local talent and weakens business relationships among local companies. We need a policy that rewards manufacturers who export their products but retain intellectual property in Australia. The AIM Incentive is ideal. It will promote innovation within industry, as well as increase our competitive advantage, maintain jobs and increase sales throughout international markets.
3. Continued support for trade relationships between nations
2015 saw some big changes for exporters, including increased openness to trade with a variety of nations. The China-Australia free trade agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership both demonstrated Australia’s willingness to engage in trade with a variety of nations. Support for exporters through trade agreements ensures that we can have a seamless trading environment based on common international trade and business standards. What’s important now is how these agreements translate into action. It’s up to policymakers to work with these markets to make sure the agreements make the difference they are intended to make.
4. Keeping the innovation cycle turning
Manufacturing and innovation need to work hand-in-hand with one another to establish a successful export system. Any part of the system that goes missing has a domino effect on the rest.
The existing R&D Tax Incentive aims to support innovation by offering businesses financial assistance to offset the costs of R&D. However it is limited in its effect: any innovation resulting from it can be vulnerable to being sold or manufactured overseas.
If policy acknowledges R&D as the only important element of the innovation cycle, it ignores the others – and risks losing valuable organisations internationally.
With other markets introducing tax incentives that require R&D to be carried out in the country of origin, we also risk losing R&D as businesses choose to relocate entirely for the better overall benefits overseas.
Policy must recognise that manufacturing and innovation as two sides of the same coin.
5. Implementation of renewable energy
Corporate social responsibility towards the environment is becoming increasingly important for organisations and business owners.
Renewable energy will not only lessen the effects of climate change but will also encourage camaraderie in the workplace. Environmentally sustainable practices are beneficial to businesses as they encourage public and corporate support of company policies around sustainability – we saw this at Cook after implementing our own green initiatives.
And given that the Australian government pledged to double its funding for research into clean energy by 2020 at the Paris Climate Conference, there’s no better time for businesses to get involved.
6. Support – for everyone
Startups – which are growing rapidly thanks to 21st Century technology – contribute just as much to the innovation economy as large companies. These have been known to thrive on collaboration and community support. Opportunities for new entrepreneurs to develop their offerings and move towards exporting them should be available.
We’ve seen some positive developments in 2015 – the new policy focus on innovation shows promise and the weakening Australian dollar has provided some relief. But we’re still a long way from where we’d like to be: a country set up for exporters to flourish. Here’s to innovation, jobs and a strong economy over the next 12 months.
Barry Thomas is Managing Director of Cook Medical Australia and Director Cook Medical Asia Pacific. Barry has more than two decades of international leadership and expertise in the pharmaceutical and medical device industries and he currently spearheads the world’s fastest growing region for Cook Medical. His current position sees him working to expand the opportunities for people in Asia to access Cook Medical’s advanced and minimally invasive medical devices.