16 Nov 2015

Innovative companies driving Australia’s next growth phase

An opinion piece by NAB Group Executive, Business Banking, Angela Mentis.

CLARITY, leadership, purpose and the first green shoots of confidence can be a powerful combination.

Six months ago when I was out speaking with businesses across the country they were cautious about where we were headed. Cautious about the economy, cautious about political uncertainty and concerned about future competition that threatened to disrupt the value chain. While businesses remain focussed on the risks and challenges – it’s what smart businesses do – something interesting has happened of late.

Now, when I’m in the offices and boardrooms of businesses large and small, confidence has returned. As these businesses look to the future and the opportunities that challenge brings, there is a far greater sense of optimism – and we know optimism and confidence are infectious.

The renewed focus on innovation and agility coming from our nation’s leaders, together with the passing of the China Australia Free Trade Agreement means Australian businesses are re-igniting entrepreneurial drive and the desire to innovate.

This is important because leading businesses of the future – the thought leaders, doers and job creators – will be those who are confident, optimistic and innovative.

A recent NAB research report into business innovation in Australia identified “highly innovative” businesses are stronger performers both in terms of business conditions and their level of confidence.

There is no shortage of firms – more than 1 in 4 – across all sizes of business that identify themselves as “highly innovative” and highly innovative firms can be found across all sectors of the economy – including some more “mature” industries such as manufacturing and retail, and in both very big and small firms.

Most “highly innovative” firms, particularly very big business, believe the key opportunities for Australia are linked to Asia, both in terms of increased trade and the growing middle classes.

We know investment and innovation translates into job creation. Latest job figures show the economy is generating more jobs, and in another sign of optimism, NAB’s monthly confidence survey shows hiring intentions among the nation’s companies are at the strongest levels in four years.

Backed by solid economic fundamentals, these insights tell us the next phase of growth is here. Our challenge as a nation is how we collaborate more internally and externally – sharing information about innovations, trials, mistakes made and lessons learned – so that we accelerate entrepreneurial drive and translate these fundamentals into meaningful activity.

This is a challenge our nation’s leaders – political and business – are embracing.

As Australia’s biggest business bank, we’re sending a strong message to the Australian business community that we continue to back businesses that back themselves. This commitment echoes the faith we have in Australian business, and supporting them remains our biggest priority. It’s what will help us build a better Australia.

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