US Studies Centre Program on Innovation 2008-2012

Global pharmaceutical company Merck & Co., Inc. (known as Merck Sharp & Dohme in Australia) provided funding of US$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 was 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 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.


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.

This report 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.

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.

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

The committee provided advice on the program. The committee members were:

  • David Anstice (Chair)
  • Professor Peter Andrews, AO
  • Bruce Kean, AM
  • John Olsen, AO
  • Dr Jim Peacock, AC