US Studies Centre Program on Innovation

Global pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc. (known as Merck Sharp & Dohme in Australia) provided funding of USD $500,000 over four years to establish a research program on innovation.

The US Studies Centre Program on Innovation analysed American innovation experience to help stimulate innovation and commercialisation of scientific and technological discoveries in Australia. Focusing on the analysis of US experience of the commercialisation process from research to business, with the aim of increasing the productivity of relationships among government, business and universities in Australia, the Program is one of the most comprehensive of its type. The research program was directed by Professor Bruce McKern.

Building on the University of Sydney's considerable expertise in the science and business of innovation, the Centre brought together leading Australian and American experts to study the ecologies of centres of innovation and develop policy recommendations for improvement of the Australian environment for innovation and commercialisation.

The first phase of the Program on Innovation was a set of projects comparing the development of the highly successful biotechnology cluster in San Diego with the more fragmented biotechnology developments in the Australian states. These projects evaluated the forces stimulating the development of innovative clusters, including the availability and sourcing of venture capital and other resources, issues of scale and agglomeration, the role of networks and international partnership, intellectual property regimes in each country and the process of technology transfer from universities to the private sector. The program developed recommendations for policy for business, universities and government.

In December 2008 the Centre published its first innovation research program report. The Innovation in America: a Comparative Study report, prepared by researcher Dr Thomas Barlow, provides a comparison of key characteristics of the United States innovation system compared with Australia and other developed countries. 

The second report for the innovation research program was published in September 2010 and compares the biotechnology industry and its supporting ecosystem in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane with that of San Diego, California.

Summary of research:

Full research papers:

In early 2011 Dr Barlow prepared the US-Australian Research Collaboration Survey which was published by the US Studies Centre.

A report written by Dr Fiona Q Wood in September 2011 is an evidence-based context for understanding the importance of entrepreneurship to Australia’s economic prosperity, published by the US Studies Centre.

Innovation management and policy researcher, Don Scott-Kemmis, conducted a pilot study on the formation of Australian mining technology services and equipment suppliers in November 2011 for the program.

Professor Bruce McKern wrote for The Explorer – Shell Journal of Projects & Technology Innovation Special issue on China Innovation in early 2012.



Advisory Committee on Innovation

The Committee provided advice on the Centre's Research Program on Innovation, directed by Professor Bruce McKern.

The Committee Members were:

  • David Anstice (Chair)
    Until recently Executive Vice President, Strategy Initiatives, of the US pharmaceutical company Merck & Co. Inc., currently Chairman of the University of Sydney USA Foundation and a Director of CSL Limited
  • Professor Peter Andrews, AO
    Queensland Chief Scientist, Chairman of the Queensland Biotechnology Advisory Council, co-founder of Queensland's Institute for Molecular Bioscience and director of six entrepreneurial companies
  • Bruce Kean, AM
    Former CEO Boral Ltd, Chairman, ATSE Clunies Ross Foundation and a Director, Neuroscience Victoria Ltd
  • John Olsen, AO
    Former Australian Consul-General in Los Angeles and New York and former Premier of South Australia
  • Dr Jim Peacock, AC
    CSIRO Fellow, Chair, OCE Science Team and recipient of the CSIRO Lifetime Achievement Award, former Chief of CSIRO Plant Industry



David Anstice

Board of Directors

David W. Anstice retired as a senior executive of Merck & Co., Inc., in September 2008. He had reported to Merck's CEO, in various assignments, including President, The Americas; President, Asia P… more

Professor Peter Andrews, AO

Queensland Chief Scientist

Professor Peter Andrews is an eminent Queensland scientist and bio-entrepreneur whose role as Queensland Chief Scientist involves advising government on policy and economic development issues associat… more

Bruce Kean, AM

Former CEO Boral Ltd

Mr. Kean was born in England in 1933 and came to Australia in 1950. He was educated in Melbourne where he studied Chemical Engineering and Economics. He served in the Australian Army (CMF) from 1951, … more

The Honourable John Olsen, AO

Board of Directors

The Honourable John Olsen AO is the Chairman of the American Australian Association Limited.… more

Dr Jim Peacock, AC

CSIRO Fellow

Dr Jim Peacock (AC, FAA, FRS, FTSE, FAIAST) is a Fellow in CSIRO. Dr Peacock was Australia's Chief Scientist from March 2006-August 2008. Dr Peacock is an outstanding scientist with a record of acad… more

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