Hot on the heels of the Government’s much anticipated innovation statement, Assistant Minister for Innovation, Wyatt Roy, visited Swinburne University of Technology’s Hawthorn campus to meet with Vice-Chancellor Professor Linda Kristjanson. Wyatt toured the Factory of the Future and Software Innovation Lab, together with local federal MP, Josh Frydenberg. We sat down with Wyatt Roy and found out more about his approach to innovation.
You’re 25 years old, making you the nation's youngest ever Minister in a portfolio that the PM has placed great importance on. It must sometimes feel like a wild ride. How do you keep your feet on the ground?
WR: I’m really lucky, actually. I have great mates who are not interested in politics, which is a very healthy thing. Like anything in life, you have to put work into it, so I make a concerted effort to spend time with my mates. Having a healthy work, life balance is a critical to my success.
Innovation is something you are passionate about. What does it mean to you and why is it so important?
WR: I think that defining innovation is something that people can get a bit lost in sometimes. Innovation is not a product, it’s not something that you can go and buy. I see innovation as the output of a deeply entrepreneurial culture, the output of a culture that embraces people and ideas and is tolerant of risk and failure. Failure is part of the journey to success. That’s what innovation is; the output of that culture. I want to see that culture thrive in all parts of our society.
It’s often said that to be truly innovative, people have to be prepared to fail, but what does that mean in practice?
WR: If you don’t fail, it’s impossible to learn from those experiences. Culturally this is difficult for our country in many ways. We often too quickly write off those who fail. If you look at the innovation hubs globally, the reality in their economies is that failure is seen as a learning experience. This is the attitude we see in Silicon Valley, in Boston, in Tel Aviv, in Europe and all around the world. We need to be more open to that approach here in Australia.
From the Government’s experience, there are a number of policy levers around taxation, bankruptcy and insolvency laws that we can move, which can give us a greater tolerance and acceptance of risk and failure.
At Swinburne, we're proud of our focus on entrepreneurship. What advice would you give to aspiring Australian entrepreneurs who are studying at university right now?
WR: I would always say to people to have a go! If you have a look at our very successful entrepreneurs, they’ve always been people who are prepared to get out and have a go and take on a very large amount of risk. That’s where they find their success.
Take a look at Richard Branson for example. Nobody thought Richard Branson would be successful when he started. He couldn’t get his record label off the ground, he couldn’t get artists to sign with him, but he persisted. I think with enough enthusiasm you can overcome any hurdle that is placed in front of you. Ultimately, in Richard Branson’s case, he went on to build a very successful empire. He took on an enormous risk in an airline. Everyone thought he would fail but he pushed through. If you approach the business opportunities that are presenting themselves in a changing world with enough enthusiasm, then you can overcome any challenge that is placed in your way.
At 25 years of age, Wyatt Roy is the youngest serving Australian Minister, in either a federal or state jurisdiction. In 2010 Roy was elected to Parliament at the age of 20, making him the youngest ever Parliamentarian elected to an Australian Parliament.