Key takeaways

  • PwC attracts two plaudits at the 2015 Australian Business Awards
  • Innovation Hubs in Sydney and Brisbane are helping businesses use innovative practices to solve problems and spark real-world change
  • Nifty R&D app is revolutionising the ways in which small businesses claim a tax incentive for research and development

Australian businesses might know that embracing innovation can increase their growth prospects but they often face barriers when it comes to putting theory into practice. In the last year, PwC has spearheaded countless tools, strategies and models that empower business leaders to capitalise on the power of digital change.

This commitment was recently recognised at the 2015 Australian Business Awards, a national awards program that highlights the achievements of the country’s business and technology leaders. PwC’s trailblazing Sydney and Brisbane Innovation Hubs won the Innovation category while Nifty R&D, an app that makes it simple for small businesses to claim the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive, secured the award for Product Innovation.

Creating space for change

PwC’s Innovation Hubs in Sydney and Brisbane enable teams to draw on collaborative processes and out-of-the-box thinking to solve problems ranging across sectors such as transport, food, infrastructure and health. In December last year, the Western Sydney Innovation Hub, a 12-week pilot program that saw teams pioneer solutions for big-ticket issues within an accelerated timeframe, conceived teleworking alternatives for commuters in Western Sydney, connected students at the University of Western Sydney with a network of healthy food providers, created a central data exchange to store geocoded information and delivered an online platform that connected people with disabilities and medical practitioners. Meanwhile, the Queensland Innovation Hub, an initiative conducted in partnership with the Queensland Government, has addressed a series of challenging public sector issues including road safety, indigenous health and better management of parks and forests.

A big step forward

And in October 2014, PwC launched Nifty R&D, a cloud-based application that helps small businesses innovate by accessing the Research & Development Tax Incentive – a useful government tax break that involves a drawn-out claims method that puts a serious drain on resources and time.  Nifty R&D  eliminates repetitive steps and streamlines procedures, reducing a claims process that often calls for six weeks of calls, meetings and negotiations to just one day.

“A lot of companies do R & D but they don’t call it R&D so they often don’t realise they’re eligible for the tax incentive,” says PwC’s Nifty R&D Product Owner, Mark O’Neill. “There’s a real lack of understanding about it. The statistic we often refer to is that for every one claimant, there’s two to three who could use it but just don’t know about it. The second issue is that the process for claiming the incentive is so time-consuming. Time is at an incredible premium for small businesses and our app reduces this commitment on their side while applying all the rigour associated with PwC.”

The app, which has attracted users from the sectors as diverse as software, biology, food and engineering, also features a price tag that is highly accessible to business owners, a factor – along with a focus on the user experience – is playing a major role in its growth. It also signals PwC’s evolution from a professional services firm to a multifaceted business that’s creating innovative products that create value for businesses and turn outdated procedures on their head.

“It’s very accessible to everyone and has opened PwC up to a new market,” says O’Neill. “The response has been amazing and we’re growing about 10% week to week. We’re receiving great feedback from our customers and there’s been an exceptional adoption rate. I think it has the potential to define the market and from a process point of view, I believe that this is the way that all R&D can be done.”

Find out more about the winners of the 2015 Australian Business Awards here.


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Trent Lund

Trent is Head of Innovation and Ventures for PwC Australia. With 18 years’ experience spanning Australia, Asia, UK, Europe and the Middle East, Trent joined PwC to lead the customer centric transformation consulting team dedicated to improving the way Australia’s leading private and public sector organisations re-focus on the customer.

Before his commercial career, Trent worked with some of the earlier forms of computing, transforming traditional business through programmable logic controls to automate machinery. The learning he gathered from this early experience saw Trent ‘smash a lot of strawberries, but learned a lot about the power of technology’.

Trent began his commercial career in telecommunications in Australia and later independently as a business consultant in the UK. Trent helped high tech and communications clients develop product and market entry strategies for complex solutions such as data centres, mobile content platforms and 3G Mobile licenses.

Afterwards Trent joined Oracle to lead the mobile content and service delivery platform proposition in Europe and Asia. One of the key milestones he achieved was to architect a custom solution into 10 countries, gaining 45 million subscribers, operating in many different languages and different currencies. The key challenge was balancing the latest technology advancements with the pragmatism required to address economies in different stages of maturity, from emerging to very mature. Advising technology owners on what business models will be profitable in these environments is one of Trent’s great strengths.

Trent specialises in user experience design, customer-led innovation and disrupting business models through technology.

“Digital is challenging the status quo. We’re beginning to see how customers are interacting with technology and it’s exciting to see the escalating rate of change in all industries.”

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