I have spent the past decade promoting the importance of university-industry collaboration in helping Australia accelerate digital innovation and improve its economic resilience. Digital innovation has a particularly important role to play given it cuts across every industry sector, impacts companies large and small, and has the potential to deliver immediate benefits.

The National Industry Innovation Network (NIIN) was recently formed to create a collaboration vehicle for industry, academia, and government to apply innovation at scale to economic and societal problems that matter. The NIIN is an affiliation of companies and universities linked by a common goal: to increase the pace, scale, and impact from innovation in Australia. The NIIN is anchored by Cisco and backed by other industry partners and universities wanting to make a difference.

A recently released video demonstrates the appetite for an industry-driven approach to innovation and the calibre of those involved, including the eminent former Chief Scientist, Dr. Alan Finkel OAM.

Australia has a unique position to influence major market shifts that we’re seeing today, and we need a national industry innovation-led model to help capture these opportunities ahead.  Technologically progressive economies outperform the average with investment in digital infrastructure delivering higher economic returns than investment in traditional infrastructure.

Australia’s capacity to be competitive, productive, and economically resilient is underpinned by its world-class research and education. Our ability to adapt and harness technology innovation at scale and improve collaboration is a prerequisite for improved global competitiveness and differentiation.

The NIIN is an alliance that collaborates on some of our greatest challenges, such as climate change, securing the nation’s critical infrastructure, skilling our future workforce, or re-thinking how we deliver healthcare and other government services.

There are many reasons the NIIN has gathered so much momentum so quickly:

  • It is a coalition of willing, committed, and passionate individuals and institutions that want to make a difference.
  • It aligns with the government’s focus on industry-led innovation and research
  • It sits outside (but complements) formal research vehicles

The NIIN is particularly active in responding to current and predicted skill shortages related to critical technologies, helping fill both specialist roles and blue-tech jobs.  Importantly the NIIN provides opportunities for students to work with emerging technologies as part of industry projects.


The NIIN is only just getting started, but as the testimonies in the video case study demonstrate there is a genuine appetite to innovate differently with industry at the centre.


About the NIIN

The NIIN is a collective of industry and university partners committed to advancing the use of digital technology. The NIIN is anchored by six innovation centres, six research chairs, two health labs and the Cisco-Curtin Centre for Networks. The purpose of the NIIN is to help industry solve critical challenges using digital technology in collaboration with researchers and students. The NIIN represents a digital innovation ecosystem comprising companies (vendors and end-user customers) and universities. Since it was established, the NIIN has created linkages that allow industry and education to mobilise quickly around national challenges. This model also reflects that urgency is required if Australia is to realise opportunities and mitigate competitive threats.



Reg Johnson

General Manager, Education

Cisco Australia and New Zealand