Why innovation is important

11 August 2017

From the black box recorder and the pacemaker, to Wifi and the bionic ear, for more than 160 years, we've been fostering innovation. But what does innovation really mean and why is it important?

University of Sydney Director, Educational Innovation Professor Adam Bridgeman says innovation is vital for our economy and to preserve and improve the world’s standard of living.

It’s not only about new inventions; it’s about using new and current resources in a more innovative way. It’s about keeping up with the times, while making sure you’re a step ahead of the pack. It’s also about doing something better than it’s already being done.

Take something like transplanting bone tissue. As the second-most transplanted tissue in the world next to blood, fixing bones is a big deal. And even though it’s been done successfully for a while now: why not make it better?

That’s what Professor Hala Zreiqat who heads up the University’s Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering Research Unit thought when she embarked on a mission to change the way we fix bones by using 3D printing biomaterials to create new ones.

Professor Zreiqat and her team have since developed a synthetic bone material that is 100 times stronger than anything else available on the market. “Using 3D printing, not only can we make it much stronger, we can make the material personalised so we can print it to suit the particular defect in each patient,” she says.

We’re doing similar things with radiotherapy, gel-based batteries, using robots to help increase crop yield, developing a way to give waste products another life as bio-fuels and bio-chemicals, and working with Microsoft on quantum computing.

The same goes for education, Professor Bridgeman says.

“Innovation in education is often taken to be synonymous with new software or the novel use of technology, however, often the innovation is actually the way these are used to improve learning and engagement.

“Our new curriculum is bold and possibly brave in the way it sets out to refocus and extend undergraduate education,” Professor Bridgeman says.

“It is designed to equip all of our students with the qualities that they will need to succeed and be leaders in a very different world.”

Innovation is increasingly important today

University of Sydney Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Duncan Ivison says while ‘innovation’ was a buzzword at the moment, it had always been part of the University’s vernacular.

It is also increasingly important today.

“Rethinking how we live and work in the midst of the dramatic technological changes occurring all around us is vitally important,” Professor Ivison says.

“We are living through the emergence of a new industrial revolution, one where artificial intelligence, quantum computing and other technologies that haven’t even been invented yet will have far reaching consequences for not just our economy but our society and culture.

“It is exciting to be at a University where we have not just the leading scientists and engineers helping to drive this extraordinary innovation, working also very closely with our industry partners, but also researchers in the humanities and social sciences who can help us understand and also shape the human dimensions of these challenges.”

Celebrate with us at Innovation Week from Monday 14 to Friday 18 August 2017 and find out more about how we’re contributing to a better future.

Innovation Week 2016 highlights