Innovation and innovation policy

What we do

Innovation is “the successful application of new ideas”. This perspective has guided the firm’s approach to the management of innovation in private and public organisations.


Our approach emphasises the contribution of creativity, ingenuity, and initiative to innovation outcomes, whilst recognising the enabling role of research and development.


Howard Partners has been at the forefront of exploring the links between the arts, design, technology, and innovation for greater use of integrative and inductive (design) thinking in management strategy and practice.


Our recent projects have addressed the transformative impact of digital technologies and their role in fundamentally changing strategic orientation, management practices, business processes and ways of interacting with customers and clients. This area of practice is closely aligned to our work in management strategy and organisational communication.


The firm has prepared a number of influential reports and papers for Government and Business. A number are referenced below.

Projects and assignments


Innovation, Ingenuity, and Leadership: Evolution of the Canberra and region innovation ecosystem - a policy biography, 2018


The project sets out a Narrative of the innovation, business and economic development policy settings for the Canberra Region over the last 20 years - with a particular emphasis on the last 10 years. It draws attention to the growth of Canberra based start-up and new technology-based firms (NTBFs), the expansion of larger national and multinational businesses in the city, the design and delivery of innovation and enterprise development initiatives, and building effective partnership arrangements with universities and other research organisations.


Some of the key findings include:

  • Over the period 1997-2018 policy emphasis has shifted from a concern with the impact of swings in public sector employment, towards a broader engagement with the innovation system, and a much more focussed industry development strategy built around sectors with strong capability and growth potential.
  • The ACT Government has been able to achieve a great deal in innovation, business, and economic development with a very small amount of money. Much of this has been achieved through leadership, personal interactions, engagement of staff, continuity, and the development of mutual trust based relationships. This has enabled creation of substantial leverage in working closely with teaching and research organisations and the business community.
  • The ACT Government, tertiary education institutions and business, have nurtured a robust and vibrant start up environment focused innovation ecosystem. It has a strong network organisation and is regarded by many as “benchmark”.
  • Over 20 years the management of research commercialisation has become more professional, building on early successes in the life sciences at ANU, and the risk approach to investment of ANU Connect Ventures.  ANU Connect ventures has emerged as a leader and model for early stage venture investments.
  • Many very successful Canberra and Capital Region businesses have been built on providing products and services to Commonwealth agencies, particularly Defence and security agencies and processing and policy agencies, and have leveraged this capability into creating strong international businesses.
  • University property development and campus masterplans have delivered significant economic benefits to the economy and have assisted in urban renewal and vitalization programs.


The project commenced in May 2018 and was completed in August 2018. The report is expected to be published shortly.


CBR Innovation Network Impact Review, 2017


Howard Partners was commissioned to undertake a review of the economic impact and effectiveness of the CBR Innovation Network in meeting its stated vision ‘a network linking businesses and entrepreneurs to accelerate innovation and growth to maximise wealth creation’ and to provide evidence based recommendations on future directions and funding requirements.


The review commenced in late January 2017


Key findings included:


  1. CBRIN has been very successful at positioning Canberra as an innovation ecosystem. The profile of Canberra as an innovation hub has been substantially enhanced.
  2. CBRIN is principally a network, also engaged in the delivery of events, mentoring and matchmaking, and innovation capacity building programs through its own resources or specific funding from Government. CBRIN is highly regarded in these areas.
  3. CBRIN has a role to manage contracts and provide (‘manufacture’) overheads with separately constituted entities, including Griffin Accelerator and KILN Incubator. It provides free co-working space for Entry 29, which manages entry and exists of start-ups into the space. Entry 29 is managed by a separate Board.
  4. CBRIN does not have a mandate for ecosystem governance beyond the network which is implied in the Funding Agreement. To reach out it has developed a ‘hub and spoke’ arrangement (as set out in the Funding Agreement) to link to other innovation hubs, districts and precincts in Canberra and beyond. This is to be commended, but more work needs to be done.
  5. CBRIN has a strong ICT focus, which encompasses a range of functional areas, including health.


The Review was completed in March 2017.  A number of recommendations were made, most of which have been implemented.


Assist Industry Science Australia (ISA) develop the 2030 Innovation System Strategic Plan, 2018


Howard Partners Pty Ltd, in collaboration with Technopolis Group Limited, based in the UK, was commissioned to provide professional advice in the development of a long term strategic plan ‘to maximise Australia’s innovation potential, positioning Australia to seize the next wave of economic prosperity and ensuring Australia’s wellbeing and economic growth in the future’.


The services were provided by a Team constituted by Dr Erik Arnold and Paul Simmonds from Technopolis Group Limited, and Dr John Howard, Don Scott Kemmis, Dr Mark Matthews, and Todd Williams from Howard Partners Pty Ltd. The Team provided high level knowledge and experience in strategic planning together with deep seated knowledge of National Innovation Systems in Australia and across the world.


The project commenced in December 2016 and was completed in early 2018.  The Howard Partners Consultation Report and Expert Opinion Survey was published at the same time as the Report.


Smart Specialisation Strategy (S3) in support of Economic Development for the Hunter Region, NSW, 2016


Smart specialisation has emerged as a concept and agenda for science, technology, and innovation (STI) policy in national and regional economies.  Smart specialisation strategies have been developed across the EU and are a condition for Horizon 2020 funding.  It provides an integrated, place based, and transformation policy framework as a basis for regional development investment.


The aim of RDA Hunter’s Smart Specialisation project is to identify, build on, and promote the Hunter’s current and most promising potential future strengths and to focus government resources for stronger economic growth. It will draw on the outcomes of Hunter Innovation Scorecards by identifying the strengths of the region’s key sectors, developing innovation activities that will grow these sectors further, and directing resources to realise that growth.


It is intended that the Smart Specialisation Strategy will be a catalyst for new activities to strengthen the economic development of the region by: Informing policy to ensure effective and efficient spending of research and innovation funds; Identifying regional priorities based on current strengths and comparative advantages that support high value-add activities and offer the best chances for strengthening competitiveness; Recommending potential areas for future comparative advantages, entrepreneurship and growth; Encouraging partnerships (locally and beyond the Hunter) in governance and project delivery; Supporting productive research and innovation activities for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of the region.


The project was launched by the Prime Minister in Canberra on 16 March 2016. View Report


Securing Australia's Future - Capabilities for Australian enterprise innovation: The role of government, industry and education and research institutions in developing innovation capabilities - key informant interviews, 2016


The aim of the project is to compile a review of evidence relating to the roles of government, industry and education and research institutions in supporting the development and dynamic mixing of technical and non-technical capabilities that enable business innovation.


The project is based on the premise that international studies have found that, while building a mix of capabilities is a high strategic priority for companies, and the required capabilities have evolved, the methods for building those capabilities have not. This project seeks to examine the way that Australia’s high-performing enterprises identify, manage, build and mix the capabilities to succeed.


The primary focus of the interviews is on examining current innovation policy initiatives implemented in Australia (and other jurisdictions) and to explore additional options for how policy instruments may foster optimal investment in and dynamic mixing of technical and non-technical capabilities of Australian enterprises.


The project was launched in June 2016. View Report


Australia’s Innovation Future A Report for the Senate Inquiry into Australia's Innovation System on the Structure and Performance of Australia's National Innovation System

This Report addresses the Terms of Reference of the Senate Economics References Committee inquiry into the Australian Innovation System.


The Report was presented by Professor Roy Green from UTS.  John Howard, in his role as Adjunct Professor at UTS, provided research and writing support.


The Report recommends that Government should take action, in collaboration with research organisations and business, to lift innovation performance in five Strategic Action Areas: leadership and policy direction; building enterprise capability; lifting investment in science and research; supporting local innovation ecosystems; and addressing skills formation through an integrated tertiary education system.

View Report


Senate Inquiry into Australian Innovation System: Issues Paper, the Senate, 2015


The Paper sets out a range of issues to assist the Committee in its deliberations in relation to the Australian Innovation System


View Paper


Innovation, Ingenuity and Initiative: the Adoption and Application of New Ideas in Australian Local Government. 2012

Canberra, ANSZOG Institute for Governance, Australian Centre of Excellence for Local Government, 2012.


The current economic, financial and policy climate requires that government services have to deliver significantly better performance at significantly lower cost. In Local Government the potential for innovation cuts across all functions and services including asset management, development control, waste management, sustainability programs, natural resource management, community services, trading enterprises ad economic development.


This project sought to identify areas where Local Government has embraced the adoption and application of ideas and sought to demonstrate ways that the business of local government is undertaken.


View Report


Innovation, creativity and leadership: a study of the ACT innovation system. 2008, ACT Government, 2008


The Study involved developing an understanding and analysis of the ACT Innovation System. It drew on similar studies of comparable regions and  made observations and recommendations regarding a 'best practice' innovation policy framework for the ACT. It includes case studies of ACT enterprises with a track record for systemic innovation and identifies the local system factors that support innovation in the ACT economy and sought to promote a shared understanding of the ACT Innovation System.


The Study report documents Canberra's innovation infrastructure covering scientific, cultural and business capabilities. The study draws attention to the importance of design, art and creative practice and its relationship to science and technology in driving innovation performance. It also makes a number of recommendations for taking Canberra's innovation strategy forward.


The report was launched by the ACT Chief Minister (Hon. Jon Stanhope) on 19 March 2008.


View report


Between a 'Hard Rock' and a 'Soft Space': The Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences in Innovation Systems, Canberra, Council for the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, 2008.


This paper discusses the contribution that the arts, humanities and social sciences can make to innovation systems and innovation policy by embedding design and creative practice in innovation. The paper argues that innovation is not only the province of scientists, engineers and economists; it has also captured the interest and attention of researchers in the creative, visual and performing arts and in what the European Union refers to in its Framework 7 research program as the 'socio-economic sciences and the humanities'.


The paper notes that some periods in history have been characterised by rapid economic, social and cultural change associated with complementary and mutually reinforcing developments and breakthroughs, in both science and in the arts. However, in addition to these 'supply' factors, 'demand' factors have been at work as well. Often, changes in underlying economic, social and cultural frameworks have allowed the generation, application and adoption of new ideas.


Innovation policy is a major economic development strategy - a strategy that is being adopted and implemented by cities, regions and nations to achieve economic results, measured as positive changes in employment, income, exports and productivity. This paper argues that innovation policy should reflect broader perspectives, and the contribution of the arts, humanities and social sciences to innovation.


Download Report

Changing Paradigms: Case Studies in the Management of Innovation in Australian Business, Melbourne, Business Council of Australia, 2006.


This report presents findings of a study of innovation in Australia’s larger businesses based on a series of case studies undertaken with the support of the Business Council of Australia.


The firms covered in the study all saw a need to innovate as a basis for business viability and sustainability. However, they saw the approach to innovation from a number of perspectives.


View Report


Recipes for Success: Case Studies of Innovation in the Agri-food Industry, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, 2001


Recipes for Success is a book of case studies. It shows how many novel products and processes evolved and contributed to business success, and illustrates the importance of innovation as a core business behaviour. Although prepared 15 years ago, the findings and observations are still relevant today.


Download Report


Views of Recipients of the 125 per cent Tax Concession: A Report from 50 Consultations and Interviews

Canberra: Department of Industry, Science and Resources (with Graham Taylor) 1999.


The Economic Impact of Venture Capital in Australia

 Canberra: Department of Industry, Science and Resources. 1998




During 2018 Howard Partners is celebrating 20 years as an independent public policy research, advisory, and management consulting firm.


Howard Partners was honoured to have contributed to the Innovation and Science Australia Strategic Plan, Australia 2030: Prosperity Though Innovation, released in early 2018. Our Consultations Report and Expert Opinion Survey was released at the same time.


Howard Partners has recently completed the Performance Review of the Rural Innovation System for the  National Primary Industries Research and Innovation Committee. Publication is expected shortly.


The firm has also recently completed an innovation narrative of the Canberra Innovation System for the period 1998-2018.  Publication is also expected shortly.




Dr John Howard

PO Box 4090, Manuka, ACT, 2603


P +61 (0) 2 6273 5222 (Canberra)

M +61 (0) 4 0358 3600