The Natural Edge Project The Natural Advantage of Nations Whole System Design Factor 5 Cents and Sustainability Higher Education and Sustainable Development

"BIOMIMICRY is one of those rare hopeful notes in the modern chorus of environmental warnings."
Jonathon Porritt, Chairman, Chair of the UK Prime Minister's Sustainable Development Commission

TNEP International Keynote Speaker Tours

Innovation is increasingly been seen as central for business, research and government. Significant advances in economics in the last two decades have highlighted that creativity and innovation are very important to achieving lasting economic growth. "New Growth theory" is now showing that new designs, new ideas and innovations are very important to achieving lasting economic growth.

The Commonwealth Government of Australia in1997 recognized this and wrote, "Innovation is a central driver of economic growth and social development. The evidence for this relationship is compelling and now widely recognised: innovation is a major determinant of the success of firms and of economies. The development and commercialisation of new products, processes and services are key drivers of economic growth. Innovation depends on research and ready access and receptiveness to new technology and ideas. It propels productivity, spawns new industries and transforms existing industries. Economies which can effectively foster and commercialise innovations will grow faster and will generate more jobs and higher living standards."


Nations and firms are increasingly aware of the importance of being ahead of the next so called 'wave' of innovation. Many nations and firms have missed these multi-billion dollar opportunities in the past because they imagined the future to be the same as the present. Australia was the third country in the world, after the US and the UK, to develop an electronically programmable computer (CSIRAC, in 1949). CSIRAC's co-inventor, Dr Trevor Pearcey, went on to build a highly advanced transistorised computer, CIRRUS, at the University of Adelaide, in 1963. Both projects lapsed from lack of private and government support, and Australia lost a clear opportunity to join the world leaders in the ICT wave of innovation.


There is increasing awareness that Australia can not afford to miss the next waves of innovation. Many people are asking what exactly will be the next wave? In order for a wave of innovation to occur there needs to be a significant array of relatively new and emerging technologies and a recognized genuine need in the market that is leading to a market expansion. Numerous experts now recognized that there is now a critical mass of enabling eco-innovations making integrated approaches to sustainable development economically viable. This plus increased regulation through for instance the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol and the EU Emissions Trading Scheme suggests that the next wave of innovation will be in sustainable development. As reported in Small is Profitable, 42 voted as one of the three best books by the Economist magazine for 2002, 'These developments form not simply a list of separate items, but a web of developments that all reinforce each other. Their effect is thus both individually important and collectively profound.'



Figure 1 Critical Mass of Innovations meeting real market needs creates new Waves of Innovation


If the last wave of innovation, ICT, was driven by market needs such as reducing transaction costs, we believe that there is significant evidence that the next waves of innovation will be driven by the twin needs to simultaneously improve productivity whilst lightening our environmental load on the planet. We now possess both the technological innovations and design know-how to tackle many environmental problems cost effectively and in some areas very profitably.


Specifically, this involves everything from green buildings, hybrid cars, wind power, resource processing, transport systems, wide array of recycling and other enabling technologies. (See Figure 1) However this is just the start, still more innovations are emerging from the fields of materials science, green chemistry, green nanotechnology and from simply having the wisdom to learn from nature. One of the best books on this is by Janine Benyus called Biomimicry. Her book asks how does nature do business? How does nature work?

Nature manufactures an amazing array of products and yet it does it very differently than our present industrial system. Nature manufactures with low energy flows, near body conditions, no persistent toxics. Everything that is an output of a process is food for some other process. The loops are closed. Researchers and business people can learn from nature to create better products. Nature has evolved over billions of years. Hence there is much we can learn from the way nature designs things.



Figure 2 Waves of Innovation of the First Industrial Revolution


Why does this matter to your firm or your government? The ICT revolution has largely added to the productivity of traditional sectors. It has not been a wave of innovation that was 'creatively destructive' of traditional businesses and industries. The ICT revolution has largely added to the productivity of traditional sectors. But the scale of change needed to genuinely achieve sustainable development this century will see 'Creative Destruction' in traditional sectors in how they deliver services. We will always need for instance energy but how that is delivered will change significantly. Hence firms and nations that miss these next waves of innovation to achieve sustainable development risk losing significant long term market share and eventually being completely replaced.


In their 2004 survey of numerous industries Innovest found that companies who are environmental leaders financially have outperformed the environmental laggards in their industry sector. No nation therefore can afford to ignore sustainable development in their Innovation and R&D&D programs.


Therefore TNEP is seeking to organize tours of eminent thinkers and innovators in this area to assist any nation learn out to best embed sustainable development in their National System of Innovation.