How Government Can Make A Difference




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Video title: How Government Can Make A Difference
Released on: November 27, 2008. © PharmaVentures Ltd
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How can government make things happen? Peter Beattie, former Premier of Queensland, explains how he helped to transform the state through government legislation and strategic funding. As Premier he noticed a need to broaden the base of the economy and wanted to stimulate scientific research and commercialisation within the region, he describes how he achieved this against strong scepticism to become a champion of biotechnology and innovation.
Development of biotechnology within the region.
Fintan Walton:
Hello and welcome to PharmaVenture business review here in Melbourne, Australia. I am honor to have the honorable Peter Beattie who is the Former Premier of Queensland. Welcome to the show.
Peter Beattie :
Thank you for having me.
Fintan Walton:
Peter Beattie , you're famous not used to be being a Premier of Queensland but also your support for technology, new technology and particular amongst the biotechnology community as someone who supported biotechnology and helped to get biotechnology off the ground in Queensland and now is part of the Smart Stage initiatives that you took at the time. So what was behind that?
Peter Beattie :
Basically what I wanted to do is to broaden the base of the economy and Queensland in Australia is the only developed country in the world that has " that lives in a mega diverse area so in another words the great barrier reef , plane forests and so on. so we had that advantage but while we had good science, we hadn't commercialized it enough and also an opportunity to develop all sorts of if you like medical outcomes, agricultural, food you name it based on research and science and we set out with a long term strategy called Smart State to deliver and that wasn't easy let me tell you in the early days
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
When you get significant breakthroughs like Ian Frazer [ph].
Fintan Walton:
Yes.
Peter Beattie :
Who developed the vaccine for Cervical cancers and people can understand the benefits of biotechnology. My view is that this century is going to be the century of biotechnology and that was my view and that's what Smart State is about.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So this is all about how government can make things happen?
Peter Beattie :
Yes.
Fintan Walton:
And as you will be more than aware people when they look at government they quite, be quick to criticize how government gets involved. But from your own experience of trying to get this sort of initiative off the ground you know what are the key things that government really needs to do to really boost our technology in a particular area like Queensland?
Peter Beattie :
Funding is the key area but government " the role of government really is the catalyst and that's really important. Government has to put itself in the right mind set. That is you stimulate the relationship between researches and the universities, the commercialization of the research outcomes and international collaborations.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
That's basically what we do. We set up quite a number of institutions, world class research institutions and everything from as I mentioned before obviously health, we've got brain, we've got nanotechnology, food and so on.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
But the key to that is to not just put the money in and having sandwiched to encourage research, research is about partnering, it is about making setting up research institutes work together, get them out as solos [ph] not fighting one another, cooperating and part of the funding was done on that basis. But to say you benchmark itself against the world not benchmark itself against Brisbane or Melbourne, you benchmark itself against the world, it has to be world class and it has to have a program which will commercialize it. So we ended up with this new breed of people, the Winchester University professors, they would university professors come commercialize it who we are gonna role at the research outcome.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
That was the new animal.
Fintan Walton:
And you talk about how important here is to partner internationally that also means bringing technology and bringing companies into the region?
Peter Beattie :
It does, in fact what happened we reversed the brain drain throughout. We were losing a lot of our commercialized opportunities particularly at the clinical trial area overseas and a lot of our smart researchers went with it, I mean they will follow the money. We know we will love them in the morning but they will still follow the money. So realistically we had to get the critical mass of researches in the right institutions, with the right philosophy and culture of commercializing that then became a brain gain and yes we did attract peoples from overseas. We've got fellowships that are very rewarding fellowship with new ones with $850,000 [ph] professors in the team would actually come and locate here in Queensland for a period of a time and then go back. So you develop these long term cooperative arrangements and everybody knows in the science community if you collaborate you get quicker results and better results.
Overcoming hurdles and becoming champion of biotechnology and innovation.
Fintan Walton:
Sure. The key other element to biotechnology and commercialization is something that just talked a lot here and around the world, it's not unique just to Australia, is what we --we talked about a funding gap you know get trying to get companies from off the ground is relatively easy and then they hit the wall when they can't get enough funding and so forth and from your experience of looking at those sorts of issues what is the solution to that?
Peter Beattie :
Well that's a tough question. Can I go just one step back?
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Peter Beattie :
My government invested about 3.4 billion into research generally, so we gave them the platform to commercialize. We then looked in a number of models and then we actually, when we get Smart State we identified each one of our strengths, but perhaps more importantly each one of our weaknesses. So one, we needed bricks and mortar and infrastructure then you need brains, then you needed the fellowships to attract people, this whole issue is one of the most difficult ones.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
Now of course what we did we partnered in the United States and we've worked on relationships so that you can perhaps do a clinical trial, level one then you might do clinical trial level two or three somewhere else. But you attract funding for the -- from overseas and we've done a lot of that for the different levels of trials then you have got to work out the IP issue. I mean you can take Ian Frazer for example, he did a lot of that work and then he ended up with the partnership with Merck [PharmaDeals ID = 16438].
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
So that led to that. We've attracted Pfizer for example there major animal growth headquarters will be in Brisbane shortly as part of our " of the deal involving another company. So answer to your question, it was a complicated range of a number of things, one we attracted overseas investment, we brought up people here. We used the international biotechnology conference to attract that. We " one of our investment arms QIC established its specific fund with a $100 million and that was the target particularly commercializing opportunities, clinical trials for early start ups. So there was a fund locally. We attracted venture capitalist here. We worked on them but of course that's not easy.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Peter Beattie :
That's difficult but that over period of time succeeded but it was actually based on collaborations, so particularly linked between our institutions and American institutions produced a lot of that funding.
Tackling issues of resource investment.
Fintan Walton:
Right. So the other issue that people often look at and I could see how you've tackled the issue in Queensland. Resources is an area that is well invested, one of the criticisms that people will have is that money tends to go into resources rather into biotech, is that a fair comment? And then and if it is true other ways in which we can change that?
Peter Beattie :
You mean resources in terms of the building?
Fintan Walton:
Building, mining.
Peter Beattie :
Oh I see its meaning oh I see I am sorry. I am absolutely sorry.
Peter Beattie :
Absolutely understand your point.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Peter Beattie :
Look that is, that is exactly what happened in my state, we are a mining state.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Peter Beattie :
We export coal, we have got large agriculture and tourism. What we wanted to do is to change the nature of the state and that wasn't easy earlier on, when I came forward, my government came forward with the Smart State philosophy and started investing in science a lot of people didn't get it for some time. It was only after we started to get results in Ian Frazer and so on then people started to understand it. It was a tough call because people just couldn't sort of get what this was biotech is all about.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Peter Beattie :
But the reality is, if you invest in brains then you drive jobs and we are getting thousands of people now working in this industry.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
It is driving enormous growth. It is not just the huge breakthroughs like Ian Frazer its sort of various clinical test you need to do, it's also the equipment so all sorts of roles actually that the biotechnology industry is very, very broad at. But it wasn't changing mind set and we had to explain in the end that if you wanted to grow the economy then as you grew the economy there will be all sorts of jobs not just in bioscience, What, by that I mean if you got for example a big biotechnology industry you -- with facilities you needed plumbers, you needed painters, you needed IP attorneys.
Fintan Walton:
Sure.
Peter Beattie :
You needed all. So it's about growing.
Fintan Walton:
To fill the cluster?
Peter Beattie :
Absolutely, well we did more than that. We also revolutionized their school system. We encouraged more students to study science and we run programs to do that.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
And that school revolution It was all about, we said to the mums and dads, we mainly used mum power let me tell you. We said to the mums if you "you and your kids to get jobs in the future in this very competitive global world this is how we'll do it.
Reactions to the Terry Cutler report
Fintan Walton:
Now the other thing that's happened recently is the Terry cutler Report that has just come out. I mean, there has been a lots of comments about that particularly from the biotechnology perspective and what is your reaction to the Terry cutler Report?
Peter Beattie :
What I think the first thing we want to say is Hello Luya, thank goodness the report was done.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
Because frankly Australia hasn't looked strategically. Smart State was a 20-year plan and politically too often governments just think from the next election and they have a plan that goes beyond one election that's politically very difficult and I know how hard that was. If what, have a report like this, the first think is Hello Luya you stay, Secondly, look my issue is that I think there is a lot of good stuff in there(indiscernable) and I congratulate him on that. The whole commercialization aspect and, and funding, and strategic position is important. I know people say we shouldn't pick winners like say picking the biotechnology industry like we do, what we do. But the reality is you do need to do that and they need to sort of try and identify where the trends are going to go as well in terms of funding programs and the commercialization of the research. For example I strongly believe that with global warming you are going to find all sorts of other diseases, tropical diseases like malaria spreading into areas that didn't have before. I think Australia needs some specifically picked tropical medicine as one of the areas of research.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
I think early diagnostic, early diagnostics for health is another one. And having said all that the other, the third one is bio field. My own issue is I would like to see an enormous amount of emphasis coming out of the debate from this report focused on how do you commercialize? How do you partner? How do you collaborate with your world?
Fintan Walton:
Is not one of the criticisms I mean it's at hasn't reached out towards that funding gap we talk about, in terms of the commercialization, in terms to focus more on ensuring that the universities are well funded?
Peter Beattie :
Yeah and that's fine, they have to be. But you've got to go to the next step as you say, you are absolutely right and that is the key to it because there is no point having good science if it doesn't go anyway.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Peter Beattie :
And that's one of the colorful changes we made in Queensland. You got to have good science,universities have to be funded properly, within you got to make sure that you commercialize it. You do the clinical trial, we then partner it with the world. And again I come back to what I said earlier, we need benchmark, you don't benchmark within Australia or amongst the universities here. That's a self-indulgent, inner reflection you got to go to the world.
Role and responsibilities as trade commissioner for the state of Queensland.
Fintan Walton:
Now your current role is as Trade Commissioner for the State of Queensland and you are based in California?
Peter Beattie :
That's right.
Fintan Walton:
And you are basically the champion for biotechnology and other technologies I understand?
Peter Beattie :
That's right.
Fintan Walton:
And so what is " how is that actually working for you at the moment? and are we seeing starting to see a difference?
Peter Beattie :
Yeah, and indeed I " have just led a delegation of 18 members of the North American bioscience advisory council which we have set up, there are key people from universities, New York banker, Dow chemicalswe bought them here to continue that partnership that I have talked about. We are working on the relationships in key institutions, was recently on behalf of the government have signed a statement of intent with the Government of British Columbia.
Fintan Walton:
Right.
Peter Beattie :
And we added that-- there will be prostate cancerresearch partnering between Queensland University of technology and University of British Columbia. We've also have been doing some work in the environment with Simon frazer. In Washington state for example we'll be partnering here in key research and that's being assisted by the government at the moment, we will be doing things with Mission Bay, in San Francisco. We got a particular relationship with San Diego as well and South Carolina. So I am building those sort of partnership collaboration units or links so ahead of that comes research. So that's basically what we are doing.
The future of biotechnology in Australia.
Fintan Walton:
And when you look at biotechnology here in Australia and not just in Queensland and we are here at the Ausbiotech currently, you know it is clear that the biotechnology industry faces big challenges going forward here in Australia and some, I think the enthusiasm is there to try and build that but there are big issues particularly on funding, so what's your perspective on that are you hopeful that biotechnology can actually be successful here in Australia?
Peter Beattie :
Well I am. I mean, there are two powerful biotech states Queensland and Victoria. Victoria really are now and the critical mass that exists will continue to drive the biotechnology industry but the issues about funding government has to address. The reality is when you are a country of 22 million people you do need government to act as catalyst to build for the future and there needs to be funding to do that and the second thing is add dollar, what's happened to it in recent times does give us enormous opportunities for collaborating and partnering. We are attractive to the American dollar, not withstanding what's happening in Wall Street, the reality is the dollar where it is we are a great collaborated good science.
Fintan Walton:
Yeah.
Peter Beattie :
Look, I am very optimistic about the future but it's like any other major industry particularly a smart one like this, we can't sit still. Too often people just pat themselves in the back and say that's terrific. Well there will be new emerging technologies, there will be emerging challenges as you quite rightly say. We've got to be strategic about where we go. We can't do everything, we need to be focused on our key strengths, build on those get the appropriate funding and then commercialize them in partners across the world, that's what we need to do.
Fintan Walton:
Okay. Well thank you very much indeed Peter, for coming on the show .
Peter Beattie :
It's a pleasure.
Fintan Walton:
It's greatly Appreciated. Thank you.
Peter Beattie :
Thank you for having me.
Peter Beattie
Trade and Investment Commissioner
The Honorable Peter Beattie was the 36th Premier of the Australian state of Queensland for nine years and leader of the Australian Labor Party in that state for eleven and a half years. His premiership lasted between 20 June 1998 and 13 September 2007 when he retired electorally undefeated. Mr. Peter Beattie 's key agenda has been to transform Queensland into Australia's Smart State by restructuring the education system, skilling the workforce and encouraging research and development and encouraging biotechnology, information technology and aviation industries to locate in Queensland. In 2003, the he was awarded an honorary doctorate of science from the University of Queenslandin recognition of his leadership and commitment to higher education through Smart State initiatives and his support for research in the fields of biotechnology and nanotechnology". Currently Peter Beattie works and lives in Los Angeles as Queensland's Trade and Investment Commissioner.
Government of Queensland
The form of the Government of Queensland is prescribed in its Constitution, which dates from 1859, although it has been amended many times since then. Since 1901 Queensland has been a state of the Commonwealth of Australia, and the Australian Constitution regulates its relationship with the Commonwealth. Queensland is governed according to the principles of the Westminster system, a form of parliamentary government based on the model of the United Kingdom. Executive power is exercised by the Premier of Queensland and the Cabinet, who are appointed by the Governor, but who hold office by virtue of their ability to command the support of a majority of members of the Legislative Assembly. The Queensland Legislative Council was the upper house of the Queensland Parliament until it's abolition in 1922. Consequently, the Queensland Legislative Assembly is the only unicameral state parliament in Australia. Legislative power rests with the Parliament of Queensland, which consists of the Crown, represented by the Governor of Queensland, and the Queensland Legislative Assembly. The Legislative Assembly generally sits at Parliament House, Brisbane.