Here's a statistic I found quite unbelievable when I heard it... Only 5% of corporates in Australia have relationships with universities.
Five per cent! Even if that statistic is 100% out, it's still only 10%.
This fact was shared by the Chair of Innovation and Science Australia, Bill Ferris AC, at a recent CEDA (Centre for Economic Development Australia) event titled "Unlocking Australia's entrepreneurial potential". In his opening remarks Mr Ferris commented that one of the key barriers he sees to accelerating innovation and entrepreneurship in Australia is the lack of collaboration (for commercial outcomes) between universities and business entities.
With a Prime Minister so committed to positioning Australia as an innovation and Fintech hub, the time is perfect for corporate Australia to take the lead here. In fact, I think we have an obligation to do so, and contribute to the success of these initiatives.
I'm pleased to say that Swiss Re is in the 5%. Our relationship with the University of Sydney, and in particular its Business School, is now in its second, successful, year. The core component of our relationship is the setting of a challenge for the capstone subject of the MBA program. This subject focuses on the importance of human centred design and lean principles for product development, and the students have an intense three weeks between us presenting a real problem and ultimately pitching their final idea to us.
I emphasise the word "real" here. We give the students one of our real problems and they pitch to us real product ideas as solutions. For the most part these students have no knowledge of the topic of our challenge or re/insurance industry when they start. However, they are mid-career executives in their own right working with a range of industries (e.g. finance, media, medicine, strategy consulting, etc) and so bring a diversity of experiences, skills, and insights. This is possibly the greatest benefit, as it enables innovation and creative thought beyond what would is possible within a single corporate environment. Many of the students enter the program with hopes of becoming entrepreneurs or leading a start-up. This challenge gives them the perfect opportunity to demonstrate their ability to do so, and allows them to break from the mould and accomplish what they cannot within the hierarchy of their own organisations..
The challenge we set for the 2016 program related to the ageing population. Our question: How can Swiss Re and our clients best engage with this group to ultimately deliver product solutions for a financially secure future? We didn't ask for them to develop an insurance product, it was a broader brief to consider this demographic group. To understand their needs; to understand their concerns; and to develop a product that would facilitate awareness and engagement with the industry.
With such a broad brief it was unsurprising to have an equally broad range of solutions presented. One focussed on the financial/savings component, one on raising awareness of risks and others on the need for ongoing mental stimulation and connectedness post retirement from formal employment.
All ideas had a level of commercial viability and our next step will be to determine if and how we can make them a reality.
To me this is an example of true innovation and the benefit of being one of the 5%.
Where have you seen great innovation through collaboration?
Category: Funding longer lives: Health/medicine, Longevity risk, Pension/retirement, Social contract
Location: Sydney, New South Wales, Australia