GOOD GOVERNANCE - that most elusive of corporate and public sector behaviours - is more likely to be the key to Australia's progressive economic future than the more usually discussed maxims of productivity growth and innovation. That will be one of the unexpected messages at the Innovation Series luncheon today (May15) from a CSIRO scientist.
But governance in an inter-connected world is an emerging trend that CSIRO principal scientist Dr Stefan Hajkowicz is both focussed upon and curious about. CSIRO research has identified key megatrends and ‘megashocks' that will directly impact Australian business in its report Our Future World: An analysis of global trends, shocks and scenarios - and Dr Hajkowicz is the lead author of that report.
Of course, good governance delivers the conditions that allow innovation, creativity and industry to flourish - but it is rarely discussed in such economic terms.
The research reveals many elements and mega-trends that are already being adapted to by business, in order to navigate a challenging world. Dr Hajkowicz will discuss those at an Innovation Series luncheon at The Westin Sydney on Wednesday - addressing the topic Innovate to Navigate: developing corporate strategy and foresight to meet global trends, shocks and rapid change, along with senior director for the Strategic Transformations division of Cisco Services Sales, Vlada Majanovic, and Gerhard Vorster, the Chief Strategy Officer for Deloitte Australia and Asia Pacific.
But as he progresses with his research, Dr Hajkowicz is seeing enormous disruption to traditional governance models - and lack of governance - having an enormous impact in a world that is dealing with brand new information flows, such as social media. The impact on Australian business is real and complex.
"One of the megatrends we want to introduce and give more purchase to is thinking about governance," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"We are moving into new digital technologies, and things like social media, which are impacting in complicated ways. It is making big changes in big organisations - and governance and information flows are scattered.
"We (could) call this megatrend spaghetti governance. This is an increasingly complex world. Network governance models are rising to respond to these different needs that are there.
"There is a big confusion or complexity factor in how to govern today, that was not there so much before, because of the global interconnectivity and the extended trade links, plus the social media phenomenon which means that people get their information from a lot of different sources," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"One individual can write a song to say United breaks his guitars and uploads it to YouTube and it hits 12 million viewers and the share price plummets. One person can do that. That's changed the nature of information flows.
"A lot of the problems that I look into find their root cause around governance."
Another governance-related megatrend that directly impacts what has traditionally been Australia's most successful business - agriculture - is food security. It is also a golden opportunity for Australian agribusiness and food manufacturing.
"Food security is one that we have looked into a lot and it stays there on the global agenda as a massive one," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"When food prices spiked in 2008 and again in 2011, hundreds of thousands of people were thrown into starvation and malnutrition which has deep and profound implications not just in terms of humanitarian crisis but also the instability that causes. A lot of people under food pressure are more likely to go radical and ... these destabilise and markets go haywire. Street prices go up, the riots go up.
"The world does not have a problem with making food. About 35 percent of all food that we create is never eaten. (Research) by the most credible world organisations shows that the world can make enough food to supply even a growing population," he said.
"No-one in Africa ever starved because no-one in that place could make enough food. It has only been down to conflict, corruption and governance failures.
"It is not fixed by more food production it is fixed by better governance," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"Food production is still something we need to work on, but we have had the green revolution and we have incredible capabilities. The more fundamental fix is associated with how human beings govern themselves. That is where a lot of the failure is occurring.
"The real fix for global food production is to focus a lot on the technology, as you really need that, but part of my effort would be in to how do we get governance systems to become more stable, democratic, and effective? That do not have the Robert Mugabes (tyrannical President of Zimbabwe who prompted a food crisis by seizing farmland for the state)."
SWITZERLAND OF ASIA?
THERE is already some evidence that Australia can take a lead in unexpected areas - including adapting and even exporting its successful governance models (for example, Abu Dhabi has adopted some of Brisbane's municipal governance models) - but in many ways Australia has to re-imagine its role in an inter-connected world.
"We are totally plugged into global markets and will be for a longer time to come. One of the graphs that is really powerful to me is the imports and exports for Australia since 1970, which were down here and just go up exponentially," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"There are no two ways about it, we are totally plugged in to global markets and that's how we have to start thinking in the development of our products. We have go to see less of a boundary around a domestic market as we are totally plugged in to these global markets and things interconnect whether we like it or not.
"We are a small country too. It is not like the US where they can develop and grow a product in a domestic market and then export it to the rest of the world. We don't have that luxury. We are a small country," he said.
"I liken Australia to Switzerland. We have a section (in the Our Future World report) in which we ask, can Australia be the Switzerland of Asia? We are a small, stable, wealthy boutique place within a much bigger region.
"We punch above our weight in a lot of areas but we are still pretty small. Can we get really smart about the niche industries that work for us that allow us to access these international markets?"
Dr Hajkowicz said even though manufacturing and tourism sectors were challenged at present by the high dollar, they were ripe for growth and development when considered in the ‘Switzerland of Asia' context.
"Tourism is another sector that I am working in at the moment," he said. "It is a volatile sector, but I reckon volatility may actually work in Australia's advantage.80 percent of international tourist will change their destination on a whim if they have any concerns about safety. Disease, warfare, violence, those kind of things.
"Australia is actually very stable and very safe compared to a lot of the rest of the world. Even though it might be quite expensive to come here for a holiday, it might be worth it for a lot of people.
"The lines on tourism are already trending upwards. I think what has really kept tourism running in Australia is - European and US visitors have dropped off due to fiscal conditions - but in China and India and Taiwan and South Korea the numbers are going up. We are picking up that new market.
"What is also in the pipeline is that China may also lift its travel restrictions. A lot of young people there have been living in a fairly locked down system and suddenly they get all this freedom and they are ready to go and explore the world - and they are also cashed up. There is a new middle class there, basically, and Australian might be a great spot (for them) to come and do this sort of thing.
"Boeing are going to put 12,030 aircraft into the Asia Pacific region alone in the next 20 years to handle this need and we have had a lot of indications that they are moving from hub-to-hub travel to point-to-point, so specific locations in Asia might flow directly, say, to the Whitsundays.
"I am just picking that at random, but it could boom, potentially as a tourist destination. The planes like the Dreamliner, (Boeing 787), longer ranges, higher speed and lower fuel consumption, will be I think what we see.
"The big (Airbus) A380 market is there and it is meant to go from hub to hub - Sydney, Singapore, London - but it is in point-to-point where I think the growth is likely to happen.
"This could be what creates the opportunities for the tourist sector."
Dr Hajkowicz said a big opportunity for Australian tourism was simply in ‘plugging the leakage'.
"What is going on in the mindset of the Australian tourist? That is something we are looking in to about why and how this is evolving over time," he said. "This is not supported by data, but I have a feeling that as Australia matures, we actually recognise what we have got here and how valuable it is.
"So, to stop (Australians) going over to Bali or Phuket - to make you not want to, because it is better here. Two weeks on the Gold Coast for me can be more expensive than going to Phuket or Bali, definitely. Low cost airfares is a key behind all that.
"It's a Switzerland of Asia thing - that we will actually see that what we have right here is really quite special. That could see the leakage issue change."
MANUFACTURING STILL VITAL
FAR from Australia moving away from manufacturing, CSIRO research shows that the sector must adapt and is vital to Australia's development and future prosperity.
"Manufacturing is central because it does a couple of things," Dr Hajkowicz said. "It is really important for our innovation capabilities.
"There are a lot of things happening behind the scenes in manufacturing and all those innovations multiply throughout the economy. That's why it's so important that we retain the capability to ‘make stuff', because from that we can make a lot more stuff and do a lot more things. That also allows us to crank up the exports."
Largely because of energy cost advantages, US manufacturing is going through a renaissance.
"Their manufacturing sector is experiencing a reinvigoration, as it did in the United Kingdom, where it went through a very tough phase and then it went up again," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"There is no two ways about it, our manufacturing is in a tough phase, we have a lot of graphs showing industry revenue declining - but it is a fundamental thing, you can't have a successful economy running out there without a manufacturing sector.
"An economy requires manufacturing to be able to run a whole lot of other stuff. To do other stuff, you have to be able to make things. So much of what we have and do today has been made easy and possible because of manufacturing.
"So even jobs in the finance sector, service industry jobs, actors, doctors, lawyers, so much of it depends on someone making the stuff that can then enable other industries around it. A lot of industries are enabled by manufacturing," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"(Manufacturing development) that's one of the things for the nation. I think the other is around supply chain security so our supply chains are assured.
"Oil refineries are an example - we are seeing oil refineries close down in Australia and we are depending to a greater extent on offshore supply chains. The risk is that there are a lot of steps in place, (and) geo-political risk - whether intentionally or academically or by all sorts of processes - (supply chain security) is an issue there as well, I think, that is definitely worth contemplating."
Direct manufacturing is not the only opportunity for Australia. It may also provide manufacturing services to developing countries.
"There are strong global market forces at play here and that is the other sort of side of this is that we are seeing incredible growth in technological advancement capability, production capability in the Asia region - Hong Kong, China , Singapore, China, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan - all these place have incredible advancement in their capability to produce and I think in the case of China it is not just cookie cutter type stuff," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"They have advanced R&D and (we have) old plants, some of which are being kept alive on WD40 ..." Dr Hajkowicz said the manufacture of high end technologies may be where we have advantages now, but even these are to become more highly competitive with Asia.
"So that's, I think, the landscape that we are moving into -- a period of challenges which we see in every direction.
"(Manufacturers) are struggling to get investment capital to improve their plants, and that's why in years to come that will impact on our competitive capability. If we don't get that investment we will not have the capability to manufacture stuff," he warned.
"Can we run an economy in which we are all waiters and service people? I don't know. I think there are some issues myself.
"Sometimes we see an industry sector suffer for a while and then markets change in a way that is very hard to predict," Dr Hajkowicz said, saying Australian manufacturing should weather the storm.
"If you end up doing stuff in a set of circumstances and panic, and then circumstances change, you may lose doubly."
MARKETS CHANGING SHAPE
AUSTRALIAN business need to look at the mega-trends and anticipate how to navigate market changes - and there are plenty of indicators according to the CSIRO.
"Things are going on the over all around us that we need to sit up and take notice of," Dr Hajkowicz said. For example, "There is also a lot of evidence that steel production is China is starting to slow. That is a really important thing for Austalia.
"Steel consumption suggests to us that they are an economy in transition. Steel consumption is an indicator to us of where an economy might be up to in terms of its development.
"(Economies) go through an agrarian phase where we build up our agriculture, Then we go into an industrial phase where we build up a manufacturing sector to support our economy ... where we need to make train tracks and factories and so forth.
"But as that levels off, and there are signs of that in China, then the economy transitions into an advanced services sector and there is already an indication that is happening in the Chinese economy," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"I think the implications are that right now in Australia we need to be thinking about new markets. We have been looking at iron ore prices, for example, and they have come down, partly, due to softening of demand and partly due to competition from other countries. Same thing with gold.
"Australia has to look at what happens when the prices of those things come down. They have hit their spike.
"I am certainly not going to join the camp that says mining is a dirty old business and it is going to disappear - it's not. There is huge wind in it and I think it is going to stay important.
"But there are no two ways about it, we have got to look at diversification to stay strong when the prices of some of these commodities come down. Australia may need to diversify to more of an advanced services sector for Asia. We have to look into what those new growth spaces might be.
"With Australian mining the emphasis is on becoming more innovative and more efficient on how they extract ore bodies -- and our concentration (levels are) quite low now compared with many other countries. The concentrations of minerals within ore bodies here have declined over time because we have been mining the low hanging fruit," Dr Hajkowicz said.
He said Australia's innovation and experience could morph into advanced resources services businesses that work in other economies.
"You look at countries like Chile and South Africa and they have got very rich mineral reserves. Africa they have not really developed the infrastructure yet, so competitive supplies from these countries could impact (supply to) China for us."
While the emerging Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) industries held huge promise for Australia, they were also open to impact from other markets and local issues, such as environmental and agribusiness criticism.
"The other thing is that of energy demand," Dr Hajkowicz said. "It will be interesting to see what the US does, because the US has an approach to energy security that means they do not export (energy). They may change that, which means they could export LNG and damage our markets."
He said Australia also should recognise an opportunity to use its LNG for local manufacturing, but there were market challenges.
"This is one that is complicated in a lot of aspects," Dr Hajkowicz said. "Certainly domestic manufacturing industries such as plastics, chemicals all need gas to be able to make stuff - high value-add products.
"Gas prices are very high and likely to increase in line with the LNG export. The sales to the gas market mean that we are going to get a lot of gas sales over there while it puts prices up domestically. And that will make it non-financially feasible for a lot of manufacturing to occur."
ON THE SHEEP'S BACK
BOOMING Australian economies of the past had been characterised as ‘riding on the sheep's back'. While it may no longer be sheep that do all the heavy lifting, agribusiness remains Australia's brightest light well into the future, anticipating the mega-trends.
"Agribusiness is likely to see incredible growth," Dr Hajkowicz said. "Agriculture, you can't say it is booming now, but the signals are there that it will boom at some point.
"Global food prices have started to reach all time highs. That graph seems to be bouncing around at an all time high, which has a humanitarian aspect to it and also opportunity for Australia to get in and supply the emerging markets. The world will add about another three billion people to its population by about 2050.
"We are seeing the (emerging countries') income growth occur and the diet shifting to high protein, and we are seeing agricultural land disappear (globally) at the rate of about 12 million hectares a year," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"And we are seeing energy demand continuing to rise and as energy prices go up, food prices go up. The world oil graph and the world food price do the same thing because there are some fundamental drivers in there. But the biggest ingredient to ‘making' food is oil.
"We see over the next 20 years continued strong global growth in food demand. I think Australia has the potential to get into a lot of the markets, if we understand them properly."
Dr Hajkowicz saidint he past 5-10 years the cost-price balance for farmers has stabilised and moved in a positive direction.
"That is because we have seen lots of productivity growth compared with other parts of the economy, "Dr Hajkowicz said. "We have seen a lot of changes in the agricultural sector, but a lot of farmers are not feeling it. We are telling them this good news economic story but I totally empathise with the position because it does not feel like it yet.
"But given time overall it does translate to growth in the agricultural sector and the creation of new opportunities. I can't see that it doesn't. I just point to macro economic data which points to opportunities in the space of agriculture.
"I think we see a resurgence of Australian agriculture over the period of decades, not years."
Dr Hajkowicz pointed to the outstanding positive impact of the Fonterra co-operative farmer shareholder system that has conquered fresh milk markets in Asia.
"Look at what Fonterra has achieved in New Zealand. That has been a really powerful story."
Apart from determined general market growth, Fonterra mobilised to fill the gaps in supply when there were a series of health scares in the China milk sector, and has accelerated that growth since. Fonterra has led the way in promoting New Zealand produce as safe, clean and green and this has even impacted positively in the tourism sector.
"I think it cuts across to other things that are there for Australia, like what the agribusiness achieves. In China, New Zealand milk is seen as lean and safe and environmentally friendly. They have done very well to position it in that way.
"Income growth translates for a demand for protein, milk, eggs, fish, meat, and that's the next wave. We can make a lot of the stuff they (emerging countries) want.
"Let's see what we can do about picking that up in Australia," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"This is what has come out of this tourism product by the Queensland Government - if we can be clean, green, safe and friendly , if we can knock off those four things, we can crack tourism. That is what they want.
"The potential tourist very much loves natural adventure type holidays - that has come out time and time again.
"Friendly, we move into a world where social interaction is a whole lot more important. The quality of a person's social interaction is a key differentiator in a world where the online environment provides everything we need," Dr Hajkowicz said.
EMERGNCE OF ONLINE AND MICRO FINANCE
WHERE Australia does have an entrepreneurial lead is in the online world - although many Australian start-ups are being snapped up by American investors and moved offshore.
Australia is at the head of early-stage markets being developed in online and micro finance.
"I'm interested by the micro finance approach (as) B2B (business-to-business) phenomena," Dr Hajkowicz said.
One example he had seen was a website that allowed owners to rent their homes out for short periods of time while they were away. Crowd sourced funding is another adaptation.
One online initiative, called Speed Rabbitm allows someone to broadcast that they want - say, someone to collect a parcel from the other side of town, right now - and an individual responds. A deal is struck and the payment is made online.
"There are a whole of transactions out there that have wanted to happen but previously couldn't as we had no vehicle for it to occur," Dr Hajkowicz said.
"Once that closes, then the transaction costs are feasible to make this $20 payment worthwhile, as it has taken you a minute to post it and it has taken him a minute to respond, so that is all right.
"It is a more efficient utilisation of the resources in the economy because the information economy makes it easy," Dr Hajkowicz said. "eBay is an example of it, too.
"I think micro transactions - we can work on them. I think there has got to be growth in that sector."
The opportunities for growth in Australia are almost limitless, although many specifics remaon obscure at the moment, if Dr Hajkowicz's research is anything to go by.
Mega trends and mega shocks are, perhaps, new signposts for approaching business strategy by the old maxim: ‘Plan for the best, but prepare for the worst.'
•· The Innovation Series luncheon in Sydney on Wednesday, May 15, covers the topic Innovate to Navigate: developing corporate strategy and foresight to meet global trends, shocks and rapid change. CSIRO's Dr Stefan Hajkowicz will present with Silicon Valley-based senior director for the Strategic Transformations division of Cisco Services Sales, Vlada Majanovic, and Gerhard Vorster, the Chief Strategy Officer for Deloitte Australia and Asia Pacific. Sponsors of the event include Zernike Australia, Australian Institute for Commercialisation, Bayer, CSIRO, ANSTO, Shelston IP and Business Acumen magazine.