The Age’s Innovation Summit: Embracing failure to change Australia

“Australia has so many opportunities to grow markets, and the waves of disruption that are coming are scary, but are also amazing opportunities to do some things we haven’t been comfortable enough to do before,” he said.

The pandemic has shown us the value of a new approach to problem-solving, Marshall said, where every state, university and agency collaborated using the power of science and innovation to be one of the first countries to accelerate a vaccine candidate into clinical trials. And we can use that momentum to tackle other seemingly impossible problems.

“It’s dangerous to decide the future based on where we are today. To me sovereign capabilities means the ability to do something different, and create an ecosystem of people who can quickly respond, be agile, and transform for what suddenly emerges tomorrow,” he said.

“And that requires investment in many different broad areas of research, but also industrial capability as well. Because what I can tell you is whatever plan we have today, will not be what happens in 20 years time.”

Whisstock pointed to the ongoing European conflict for an example of why an Australian space industry could turn out to be so vital.

“One single individual, Elon Musk, switching on a bunch of his company’s satellites above Ukraine, completely revolutionised the communications capacity of that nation in the context of war,” he said.

“Having the infrastructure not only to get things up there, but also to build the stuff that goes up there — it is a pretty unpleasant environment, space — is really important. Because it’s going to become the competition area of the future.”