Accelerating Innovation & SDGs: Post-COVID Recovery for WA

Updated: May 11

We hear from local business leaders about how they've been innovating their way through this crisis, and which accelerating trends will shape their sectors going forward.

As COVID-19 continues to wreak havoc across the globe, Western Australia is in an enviable position with its sights set on recovery.

Innovation will play a critical role in communities emerging healthier, more resilient and sustainable. It's also central to advancing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

(from left to right: Dr Marcus Tan, Founder of HealthEngine, Cettina Raccuia, Innovation Lead at RAC, Elizabeth Brennan, Non-Executive Director of Wide Open Agriculture).

The United Nations Association of Australia WA Division (UNAAWA) held a panel discussion titled Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure. It was conducted on 5th August via Zoom.

The Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure explored different sectors of Western Australia’s business community and discussed the innovative techniques being used by businesses to make their way through/out of the crisis during Covid-19. The speakers for the panel discussion included: Cettina Raccuia (Capability Manager for RAC WA); Dr Marcus Tan (Founder, CEO and Medical Director at HealthEngine) and Elizabeth Brennan (Non-executive Director for Wide Open Agriculture).

President of UNAAWA & Chair of SDG Business Forum Series, Dr Sandy Chong, highlighted the purpose of the panel discussion in her introductory statement. Addressing the SDG Goals, she said, "Our aim is to advocate and educate the WA community about what we are doing in terms of promoting sustainable development goals and the ways we can achieve that.”

The panel discussion highlighted the impact of the on-going setback in business and discussed as to how it will change or transform the business sector in future. This also mirrored the interlinked nature of the SDGs and how innovation can bring about a change in particular sectors and industries.

One of the panel speakers, Elizabeth Brennan, spoke about the challenges being faced to put forward innovative ideas into practice in the agricultural sector. "The sector has always followed an inter-generation approach. With the current challenges that we are facing with regards to climate change or global food and security, there is a need to bring a change in our approach. Because we have been following a tradition, it is hard for new ideas to be accepted but, is also very important.

Another big challenge is the access to basic data service provision. Internet is a very important tool for business and for a lot of regional communities in Australia, it is a data desert. So, to have wonderful things like Telehealth services, they are few and far between. Access to internet is a very big challenge”, she said.

Marcus Tan also spoke about the challenges in the field of medical and health care. “Bringing a change in healthcare sector is extremely challenging, largely because of its nature. There are lives at stake and so, it is very challenging to find and convince doctors to take chances, or adapt to innovative ideas because of the fear of repercussions.”

While the Covid-19 has had a severe impact globally, the panel also discussed if there have been positive impacts that the panellists observed in the past few months.

Cettina Raccuia pointed out, "The power of people has been very positive. There is a sense of compassion, energy and willingness to try to contribute and help in every way that they can. Even those who don’t belong to the role are willing to help in any way they could. This is not just happening at RAC, it is happening on a global level where people or communities want to do everything they can to make this time easier for themselves and for others”, she said.

“The agenda for Telehealth was set for a 10-year adoption. So, the response that we were predicting in 10 years, we received in 10 days, which was very surprising. We did lose 60 per cent of our customers overnight but, as a team, we were able to pivot through and helped them get back online. It did mean putting in more hours but, we all believed in our capabilities and the circumstances only made us work better.” Marcus Tan added.

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