John Allan

We Aussies like to think of ourselves as a pretty innovative bunch. After all, we created the electronic pacemaker, Wi-Fi technology, the polymer banknote, the black box flight recorder, and the dual flush toilet.

At Sensis, we’re actively tackling innovation in a number of ways, having undergone a digital transformation to enable us to be nimble, agile and responsive to market needs. Just take Skip, which allows customers to order and pay for their coffee via our app so that it’s ready and waiting when they arrive.

Unfortunately, in recent times Australia hasn’t performed very well on the innovation scale when measured against other advanced economies. A recent Innovation and Science Australia (ISA) report found that:

  • Australia ranks last for creating fast-growing businesses, scoring 0.8 when compared with an average score of 13.5 for the world’s top-ranked countries.
  • Only 9% of Australian businesses introduce products that are truly new to the market, whereas in the top five countries that number sits at 21%.
  • Businesses in top-performing countries employ three times as many researchers as Australian businesses.
  • Our growth in productivity stemming from knowledge creation rather than capital and labour is less than a third of the rate of the top five countries.

At Sensis, we recognise that innovation is core to our growth and longevity, and we believe that the innovation challenge needs to be tackled through a combination of industry, university and government. This three-pronged approach will not only develop the base skills required for innovative thinking, but to create an environment where young graduates can get hands-on experience and have the incentive to take risks.

The areas that need to be addressed include:

  1. Developing the core skills required in the next three to five years, including data science, mobile and human centred design capabilities.
  2. Combining these skills with an entrepreneurial focus as products and services across industries become more technologically advanced.
  3. Embedding technology in all courses. This might not mean hands-on training, but technology could be incorporated through case studies, as one example.
  4. Creating specific streams of study for specialisation like robotics, data science and mobile and the education sector and industry working collaboratively to upskill graduates in human centred design.
  5. Ensuring course content is fluid and reflects current best practice, rather than focusing on what everyone was doing three years ago.

Sensis has a vested interest in how our education sector is building these skills in its students – after all, we’re one of the employers who will be employing these graduates in the future. 


John Allan, Chief Executive Officer, Sensis