The role of the Gippsland RIS3 project in Gippsland, Australia has been set up to assist the region to develop a sustainable long-term economic development strategy, following the closure of a coal-fired power station. While the project has followed the broad principles of the EU S3 Guide, there has been quite a bit of adaptation to account for differences in governance, data and limited capability.
The preliminary mapping of the region and its innovation potential has had to rely predominantly on qualitative sources as there is no available useful data on innovation in Australia. The value of the mapping has been to indicate that there is plenty of inventiveness in the region, but that the regional innovation system is very undeveloped. Collaboration is very uneven, and usually found in relation to a specific activity rather than ongiong systemic relationships. The Entrepreneurial Discovery Process (EDP) consequently has been very important. Quite apart from revealing some genuine innovation project opportunities, the emphasis on continually engaging with a quadruple helix of stakeholders has begun to demonstrate the value of more structured collaboration, and to build the capability for maintaining collaborative structures. The EDP has been framed specifically around the sectors of food and fibre, energy, visitor economy (tourism) and health, initially focusing on scientific opportunities arising in specific sectors, then looking to identify new opportunities from cross-sectoral partnerships. Each of these sectors has a direct connection to the SDGs, and contributes to the region improving in citizen well-being against the relevant SDG targets.
The work in the energy sector is perhaps the most useful example on which to focus. Innovation opportunities related to community energy and smart grids have generated considerable interest and investment, in a region which has depended heavily historically on coal.
The most interesting example is a community which is an 'end of line' power supply'. It is surrounded by forest, and the regular power supply stops at this community. The community has established a framework which uses solar panels with a locally-developed systems for energy capture and use. This has improved the reliability of power supply, reduced the cost, and contributed to emissions reduction. The next step in the application of smart grid capability to protect the town's power supply from bushfire. In these examples, the innovation is not so much in the STI domain, but socioecological. It draws on STI innovation from outside the region, while focusing on the importance of coming up with new models of power generation and supply.
Australian thinking about the relationship between the SDGs and the S3 work is framed by an approach to the SDGs which avoids too narrow a focus on a particularl SDG or Target(s).This perspective understands the United Nations to have developed a 'comprehensive global agenda for transformation', rather than 17 separate Goals with their targets. The Agenda is described as having four key organising principles:
- a focus on universal, essential public services to which all citizens should have access (SDGs 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 11);
- the importance of public and private sector collaboration in ensuring that all citizens have access to the means of gaining a livelihood (SDGs 8, 10, 1, 2, 12);
- transformation of the relationship between people and planet (SDGs 13, 14, 15); and
- reconciliation (SDGs 16 and 17).
Hence, many of the Goals are significant, but in the implcation of our focus on each of these four themes rather than their specific elements.
Australian mainobjective is to build a stronger profile for the SDGs in Australian government policy. This is necessary at every level in the Australian multilevel governance framework. As their S3 moves more explictly into exploring cross sectoral innovation, the search for STI opportunities will continue, but the importance of the socio-ecological innovation dimension will become more important.
Main SDGs in the Smart Specialisation Strategy of Australia
- SDG 2. Zero hunger
- SDG 3. Good Health and Well-being
- SDG 7. Affordable and clean energy
- SDG 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth
- SDG 9. Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
- SDG 10. Reduce inequality within and among countries
- SDG 13. Climate action
- SDG 14. Life below water
- SDG 15. Life on land
- SDG 16. Peace, justice and strong institutions