They’re all inventions which changed the face of the world.
They’re all examples of original and innovative thinking. And they all began as sparks of brilliance in the minds of South Australians.
From Sir Howard Florey’s insights into the properties of penicillin and Lancelot de Mole’s development of caterpillar tracks, to H.A. Milton Blake’s experiment with UV light absorbing materials and Edward Both’s many life-saving medical inventions, our state has been long home to bold thinkers who respond to a problem with “I have an idea…”
It’s been one of our state’s great superpowers, and has done much to put us on the world’s stage.
It makes sense that South Australia is the nation’s great incubator. We have a highly educated, technology-savvy population drawn from every corner of the Earth; and with a population of 1.7 million we’re right in that sweet spot of being simultaneously big enough to support bold thinking while still being a place where good ideas don’t face an obstacle course of entrenched interests putting up barriers to entry.
Our state governments have also gotten behind our innovators and entrepreneurs by establishing innovation hubs – our defence precinct in the north, the Tonsley Innovation District in the south, the high technology Lot Fourteen in the heart of the city – thereby creating a critical mass of industries and expertise that cross-pollinate one another. In terms of brute numbers, South Australia shouldn’t be able to compete with the bigger eastern states. But we have done more than survive: we have thrived.
Why? It’s because we have been up to the challenge of addressing wicked, complex problems, and finding those areas of strategic advantage where we can leverage our unique qualities to punch above our weight.
My government’s Hydrogen Jobs Plan is a perfect example of the value of this kind of thinking, where we are faced with a series of challenges:
- How do we build a more complex state economy and create a more diverse range of outputs, thereby reducing our vulnerability to demand fluctuations for resources and commodities?
- How do we develop new export markets and reduce our reliability on a handful of traditional customers? How do we decarbonise our economy and reduce the impacts of climate change?
- How do we support local manufacturing and mitigate the supply chain issues that bedevil international trade? How do we create and sustain high-paying, high-technology jobs in South Australia, particularly for skilled tradespeople in traditional, high-carbon industries that are starting to disappear.
These are all complex issues that demand innovative solutions – but they are also interconnected.
Creating a local green hydrogen industry moves us forward on multiple fronts at once. And it does so by capitalising on something which our state possesses in abundance: coincident sun and wind.
It’s a natural advantage, just as much as the iron ore that has enriched Western Australia in recent decades, or the rich coalfields that fuelled growth in NSW and Queensland through the 20th century, or gave Victoria its gold rush in the 1850s.
It’s a bold project, but I am confident that this is the right decision – and the right direction – for our state.
We need flexibility and creativity if we are to address the many tests ahead of us, from climate to economics to public health to education. This isn’t an idle intellectual exercise: people’s health, happiness and prosperity depend on us getting this right.
Sticking to tried-and-true ways of doing things makes no sense in a world that is dynamic and ever-changing. It sets us up to fail.
Now, more than ever, we must be brave enough to challenge the existing orthodoxies and using the best information at our disposal to do the risky things. If not now, then when? And if not in South Australia, then where?
It’s vital that government creates the conditions required for others to innovate, but I believe that we need to do more than that: government must be prepared to step up and lead by example.
There are those who argue that government has no business taking these risks, but I reject that sort of binary thinking: it’s up to all of us, the public and private sectors, research bodies, institutions, start-ups and everything in between, to help and support one another for the greater good.
Innovation is the key to unlocking our state’s potential – and that’s exactly what we’re doing here in South Australia.