The future of innovation is in good hands

The following speeches were presented at the Australia-Indonesia Centre Graduate Research Interdisciplinary Network Mentors Dinner, Tuesday 29 November 2016, University House, Australian National University. Distinguished guests included the President of the Australian Academy of Science, Professor Andrew Holmes, and the Chairman of the Indonesian Academy of Sciences, Professor Sangkot Marzuki.

Kieran Sullivan, PhD candidate, University of Melbourne

Salamat Malam and good evening distinguished guests, ladies, and gentlemen. Before I begin, I’d like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting this evening and pay my respects to elders past, present and future.

When I was volunteered by my colleagues to give this talk, I am not going to lie, the stress kicked in. Not because of the distinguished guests in the audience judging my every word, or the possibility of tripping as I walked up to the podium, but because after two degrees and seven years of study, I still struggle to define what innovation actually is. So of course I did what every PhD student does when they don’t know something – I went to Wikipedia. Two hours later, I emerged from the abyss that is Wikipedia knowing slightly more about a lot of things but still no closer to being entirely comfortable with the idea of innovation. So I changed tack and whipped out my smartphone. Through the power of modern technology, in a matter of minutes had half a dozen definitions from my colleagues sitting here tonight, but still no definitive consensus.

While that may sound bad and be a poor reflection on the cohort, I’d argue the opposite – I actually think this lack of consensus is a good thing. We are all from different backgrounds. We come from different disciplines and have different experiences. We are diverse. As much as some identities within the public domain try to deny it, in this new world that is emerging, diversity is our strength. Without ideas from outside each of our comfort zones, innovation will be stifled and we will stagnate. Australia is a multicultural country where the sum is greater than the parts, and programs like this only reinforce this idea for me. In a similar manner to needing to bang together a few atoms to get a nuclear reaction going, we need to bang together a bunch of ideas in order to innovate and create the products, services, business models, and range of other things that Australia and the world need to continue to prosper into the future. In Australia, we have the diversity that forms the foundation that is needed for innovation to take place. After today’s tour of Canberra Innovation Network and DFAT’s Innovation exchange, I am happy to see that the public and private sector groups and research institutions are creating space and environment to enable the mashing together and challenging of ideas that is critical to innovation.

Building on to this diversity and mixing of ideas, I strongly believe that young researchers are acutely aware of the world in which we live and their place within it. To bring it back to my area of research, as a civilisation, we are facing existential threats of climate change and broader sustainability issues. As young people, we didn’t create the problems now being faced, but it is up to us to solve them. Our careers are going to be defined by how successfully we are able to drive the large scale and rapid transformations that are needed. To be rather cliché, it was Einstein who said “You can’t solve problems by using the same thinking you used to create them”. This evolution in thinking that we need is in itself an innovation. The knowledge and passion that I have seen and experienced from young Australian researchers tells me that the they know where we need to get to and are full of great ideas of how to get there. All that is left to do is make it happen.

To summarise, I am convinced that not only do young Australian researchers have the individual knowledge required to be successful in their chosen field, the combination of diverse ideas, culture and experience provide a strong base for innovation to occur. An awareness of their place within the world, the scope of the challenges and opportunities we are facing, and the dynamic nature of modern life provide space for innovation to grow. The example set to us by researchers who have come before shows us just how successful we can be when we set our mind to it, collaborate, innovate, and push the boundaries of what is possible. If the people that I have had the privelige of spending the last 6 days with are any indication, the future of Australian and Indonesian innovation is in great hands.

Thank you. Terima Kasih

Bintang Yuwono, Researcher, Institut Teknologi Bandung


In the universe where time and space framed our perception of a dynamic world, we find changes in nature that drives mankind to take action toward constantly changing goals in order to survive and excel. In a practical world, changes can be observed in technology, industry, markets, demography, interests, and perceptions. None the less it has not change the fact that we all face the same problem, the only thing that diverts is in how we make meaning out of it.

Sustaining our lives in a fast changing world—we took innovation to help us move forward through good and hard times. Innovation in research has led us to the future with great supports in collaboration of interdisciplinary, multi-specialities, and cooperation—all within the global initiative in solving world problems.

Young researchers as you can see sitting next to you—have the ability to capture new opportunities. I believe that our competence in leadership, entrepreneurship and new disruptive strategies are keys to unlock the world of innovation. There is a story that I would like to tell you about the power of young generation in making change happen—days before the Indonesia Proclamation of Independence, young generation of Indonesians take courage and manage to bring Ir. Soekarno, the President, to a private talk to push the proclamation faster despite holding on consensus against the colony. That ‘courage’, I believe, is what young researchers have in achieving new innovations in complement to their ethics, skills, and knowledge. Young researchers use the courage to step into a cross-cultural and changing environment at work and social events to be able to express their feelings, ideas and the urge to make change. We are the drivers of change—against the rigid structure—through disruptive innovation and evolutionary transitions.

On behalf of young, fresh, best minds, we assure you that the future of innovation is in good hands, where our courage and leadership are keys in capturing new opportunities. Though with any means of being disruptive, in making innovation as great and tangible for the times we live, in the urgency of change, towards great things in our lives and furthermore for generations to follow.