Australia like a number of other economies such as Italy has a significant proportion of its economy delivered through small to medium sized companies. Therefore in any assessment of innovation it is imperative to examine how to get small and medium sized enterprises to use the best tools, techniques and solutions to improve what they do.
Small companies spend much of their time working on problems already solved. It is not that they are so stridently independent that they will not look at someone else's solution it is that they are focussed on action, on getting things done quickly. Easy, available and effective collaboration would help to avoid this waste of time.
Small businesses know about patents but don't realise that they could add value to their businesses. There are many new ideas that come from Australian small businesses but very few result in a patent. Small business people often do not realise that the patent system can codify their ideas and provide them with legal protection of those ideas.
To get small business to increase their use the patent system would require a vital first step which is to put before them a practical and useful system for identifying solutions to problems that they face everyday.
An open, publicly owned online space like Wikipedia that helped small business discover solutions to any problem and allowed them to submit their problem if they discovered it had not previously been submitted, would allow contributors to also identify any number of solutions for any given problem.
Using the patent system as a starting point to develop this website would allow anyone to follow a simple step by step process to codify a problem and link a problem to its solutions when it was found which would save small business from wasting time solving problems already solved, would enhance collaboration across small businesses by getting people working together solving similar problems and would increase economic value by getting small business, or any business for that matter to submit the novel ideas in their solutions to the Patent System.
Such an online space for discovering the uniqueness of an idea or identifying existing solutions to important problems that would drive innovation, improve competitiveness and avoid wasting resources would not only benefit business and the Australian economy but would also assist Governments in better channelling funds to innovation, research and development.
What is needed
This idea is about the public good. It is about providing a better environment for Australian business to best allocate their time to problem solving and innovation. It therefore seems logical that this public space should be publicly owned and governed.
It is proposed that a not-for-profit foundation be established to attract sufficient private and public funds to establish this facility and that an open source licence be developed to allow everyone to contribute and benefit from the functionality and knowledge produced.