It was one among Julie Bishop’s pet tasks as overseas affairs minister: an innovation hub she described as a “beautiful little funky, hipster, Googly, Facebooky-type place”.
However the “innovationXchange” – established in 2015 to plot new concepts to ship an more and more tight overseas assist price range – could properly have innovated itself out of existence. It has been scrubbed from the overseas affairs division’s organisational chat and rebranded on the web site.
Requested by Guardian Australia concerning the obvious lack of the standalone initiative, the Division of International Affairs and Commerce defined that innovation had “now been embedded as a apply throughout the division”.
Whereas it has been a perennial matter for questioning at Senate estimates hearings, innovationXchange attracted maybe essentially the most consideration in 2015 when it was revealed Dfat had spent more than $1,700 on three beanbags.
This was, Dfat mentioned on the time, a part of organising a “collaborative workspace and a brand new manner of working that encourages creativity and innovation”, which additionally included a convertible convention desk that doubled as a desk tennis desk.
In any case, the beanbags had been deemed “cheaper, extra sensible and adaptable than a three-seat sofa, which was valued at roughly $2,300”.
The present location of the beanbags couldn’t be ascertained at time of writing.
Beanbags apart, the innovation scheme – with preliminary funding of $140m over 4 years – has spawned extra substantive tasks.
It has, for instance, funded a trial in Fiji of a robust, low-cost robot that would assist farmers in creating nations. It has additionally checked out devising new methods to ship schooling in crisis-affected international locations.
However there are a number of indicators of a shift in emphasis from the Bishop-era venture.
Dfat’s lately revamped organisational chart now not contains any center supervisor particularly chargeable for innovationXchange.
That could be a change from July, when the organisational chart nonetheless had an assistant secretary-level place accountable for the initiative.
The following piece within the puzzle is the rebranding of the “innovationXchange” part of Dfat’s web site to hold the brand new banner “Innovation@Dfat”. Archived variations of the web site recommend the previous model was nonetheless in use as recently as 9 October.
A Dfat spokesperson mentioned innovationXchange had been “established to spice up innovation throughout Dfat, and the help program particularly, by trialling new applied sciences and companies supply approaches”.
“This has now been embedded as a apply throughout the division, reflecting the significance of innovation in Australia’s worldwide growth program and response to Covid-19,” the spokesperson mentioned.
The spokesperson added that there had been “no discount in Dfat’s total staffing, nor discount in our efforts to advertise innovation, as a consequence”.
The innovation part of the web site nonetheless says: “We’ll proceed to reply to the rising demand for help from Australia’s bilateral and regional assist program, incubating concepts and supporting the adoption of modern approaches in many alternative contexts.”
However, considerably ominously, the latest revamp removed the phrase: “Our future guarantees to be as inventive and thrilling as our first three years.”
Dfat’s rapid future guarantees to an look earlier than Senate estimates on Wednesday and Thursday subsequent week.