Med Tech Talks
The importance of storytelling for successful innovation with Corrie McLeod
Corrie McLeod is a med tech innovation and communications expert who understands the power of effective storytelling from her experience as founder and publisher at InnovationAus.
InnovationAus is an independent publication that reports on the impact of government policy on Australia’s technology sectors, including financial services, cyber security, manufacturing and med tech ecosystems.
In this episode you will hear about:
Corrie McLeod [00:01:24] Thank you. Looking forward to this discussion.
Robert Klupacs [00:01:27] Corrie, we got a few questions for you today. It’s been a few people have rung in when they knew that you’re going to be coming on. So hopefully we can get to the bottom of a few things. First off, Corrie, you clearly have a passion for communications and in particular, communications innovation. Where did the passion come from? And and why are you so passionate about shining a light on innovation in Australia?
Corrie McLeod [00:01:50] I think probably fell into sort of technology sort of back in the day when people were, you know, there was a raft of apps and the technology was really changing. And then I think as a comms person working with lots of different companies where technology was at the heart of what they were doing and the problems they were solving. And I guess as as things evolved, those problems became very vertical, very interesting in terms of how technology was being applied in very specific settings to solve problems. And that’s just been a really engaging place to be. We started InnovationAus about six weeks from when Malcolm Turnbull announced the National Innovation Science Agenda. So all of a sudden people started to talk about innovation and it was a good thing and it was, you know, it’s also a challenging thing because innovation became in everybody’s title and LinkedIn, it became the word of the day, but it also really did signal a shift where there was a focus on what technology and innovation could look like in a industry development context. And that was kind of our our area of focus from a publishing perspective.
Robert Klupacs [00:02:56] Right? So as a fan of AnnovationAus was and I’ve read it’s a great thing, but for our listeners, what are some of the insights? Can you give us some of the insights into the work that InnovationAus actually does and the mission of this independent medium and the challenges that you face as an independent publisher?
Corrie McLeod [00:03:15] I think when we started, I’m going to say in my opinion, it was at a real low point for publishing. I think the idea that publishing models were really around volume of eyeballs meant that the the type of ability to cover things of substance was really reduced. So from a publication perspective, we built something on the thesis that quality publishing and quality insight would build value. How you commercialise that was not well known, and it’s taken a long time to not through it, and we’re still learning through it. I will say that since we started, there’s been a proliferation of deep niche publications that are independent and have found their audiences, and I think that will continue to evolve. So the reason for the publishing is industry development. So our editorial director, James Riley, when he sits down to write and when he works with the rest of the editorial team, he is looking at a mid-sized Australian company that has intellectual property, real numbers of people and export focused. What does that person need to know to flourish and create new industries, new jobs, and bring intellectual property to light? So in terms of our reporting team, we have two in the press gallery. So James and Brandon are in the press gallery, and then we have two reporters in Sydney and a much broader team around who are producing events and graphic and creative, etc.. So we really at the heart of the publication is the editorial. And then following from that is a lots of peripheral things where we take ideas and can turn them into events and further deeper discussions.
Robert Klupacs [00:04:46] So I’m interested. So what’s the level of readership of the books? I think it comes out weekly, doesn’t it?
Corrie McLeod [00:04:51] It’s actually it’s actually daily. So we have the newsletter itself goes to about 20 or 22,000. The biggest single group of readers is the Department of Industry and then other federal government departments. I think one of the things that we’ve really learned from a publishing perspective is a lot of publishing is focused very much on a specific type of person in a specific type of industry. Now, that’s easier to sell from a commercial perspective because people are buying that person in that organization’s awareness. When you’re trying to be horizontal, so our readers go across federal, state, government research, professional services, the R&D tax scale ups, and there’s a whole kind of ecosystem of people to bring together which is valuable. But it’s hard to from a publishing model perspective because what you’re selling is much broader than a publication that’s reaching to someone in manufacturing or in public sector.
Robert Klupacs [00:05:49] So 23,000. So how long’s it taken to get to that level?
Corrie McLeod [00:05:54] Eight years.
Robert Klupacs [00:05:54] Eight years. And what’s the goal?
Corrie McLeod [00:05:56] Hundred I think probably, I mean, I’m probably less focused on numbers and more focused on change and influence and understanding. And I think we’re probably more likely to start diversifying in the way we report on different sectors. So we’ve been very horizontal, but how do we get more focused on space or medtech and how do we, you know, build expertise in verticals?
Robert Klupacs [00:06:19] Fantastic. One of the touch on the importance of communication and in particular. Science communication. I found out recently, for example, that the most popular course at University of Melbourne is science communication, which is, I find amazing. Our audience ranges from students who have just into the world of MedTech. That’s our audience all the way through to experienced executives and everyone in between, including entrepreneurs and people not just in Australia but overseas. Why do you think effective communication of technology, business of policy is important and what can we learn and do better, actually?
Corrie McLeod [00:06:54] I think it’s everything. You and I were just speaking a moment ago about the Avalon Air Show and the ability to kind of walk around and kind of connect dots and have these little magic light bulb moments when we’re talking about science and innovation. We’re really talking about, you know, tools to help solve problems. And the and the more you can kind of have the opportunity to, you know, see how these different things can mix together and create. Yeah, it’s a bit of alchemy in a way, and getting it to realize that if you can explain it effectively. So I spent a bit of time on the CSIRO stand yesterday with a, you know, virtual reality having a great time and learned a lot in a very short space of time in a medium that was designed to be immersive and engaging. And I think yeah, as the National Science Agency, the CSIRO, yeah, it’s one of its core things. How do you take these stories and all this research and reach, you know, the whole country? And so I’m really fascinated the way that you get people excited about stuff that can be pretty sometimes if it’s in its little box, not as interesting as unless it’s told. Well, and that’s that’s pretty powerful.
Robert Klupacs [00:07:56] We picked up something you said, unless it’s told well, I mean, I work with some of the world’s best scientists here, but sometimes putting them up to speak about their work and it becomes very dense, very technical. They’re obviously passionate, but you can see people’s eyes who are intelligent but not in the field glazing over. When you when someone comes to you with a great story, how do you mentor them to actually make it exciting but understandable?
Corrie McLeod [00:08:20] It is. It is hard. And I would say that sometimes that person who is at the pointy end of the research might not necessarily be the best spokesperson. And I think that that is just the fact of the matter. Like, if you’re asking people to fundamentally be different to what they want to do, and I think to tell a good story, sometimes you can’t include all of the footnotes. And I think scientists like to include footnotes. So I think finding a way where there’s trust between the person that might be leading the research, but also that they’re working hand in glove with someone that might be able to tell a story a bit more of an engaging way when you see that happen. Well, I think it’s pretty transformative. I don’t think we can expect all people to have the same set of skills.
Robert Klupacs [00:08:59] Yeah, that’s a good point, because I’ve seen so many good stories with investors potentially coming through and there’s just this disconnect between language and its heart and we need to bridge that. And so the key thing that we’ve come up in this podcast all the time, it’s about making it understandable, not necessarily going to the detail, but scientists sometimes can’t help themselves.
Corrie McLeod [00:09:21] Any a picture. And if you paint a picture about possibility and someone is thinking about like actual milestones, and I think that can often feel fundamentally really conflicted about trying to paint a picture that’s not about what is possible. It’s about what it is right now. And there’s a bit of a disconnect there.
Robert Klupacs [00:09:38] This is a question that few people have now that you were coming on, they’re really interested in and views. So prosperity in Australia has relied on our building industry and the export of natural resources to fuel our economy, the so-called holes and homes concept. We’re reaching a point where we need to achieve a need to advocate for greater investment in other industries to boost our economy. We were just chatting about that before. Do you believe the federal and state governments should look at the innovation in particular in our field medtech as an ecosystem that can propel Australia’s economy.
Corrie McLeod [00:10:11] 100%, 100%, And this conversation comes up all the time in a whole bunch of different areas, like you’ve just spoken about med tech and just recently just hearing some stories about what it takes to keep this innovation, this intellectual property onshore and scale it to a point that it is available for export markets in a more fully formed product and service. And we see that across anything from every industry has the same challenge where there’s often the lack of, you know, amounts of capital to scale and grow here and also the type of industry to actually buy here. There’s a whole bunch of things that sort of crash together in that, including government procurement, like we need to be able to buy our own products and services that we I think we’ve been very grant focused. I think there’s a opportunity to use procurement as a much more effective lever to to buy. I mean, every company you’ll talk to, the best thing that you can do to support them is to buy from them and getting those things right that we can start moving up the value chain to make sure that we don’t lose things overseas before we even know we had them. That’s definitely something that we’re pretty passionate about from a reporting perspective.
Robert Klupacs [00:11:15] Now for this next question, I’m going to give you a time limit because I suspect you’ve got lots to answer here. But what area of technology innovation currently has you most excited? I see it most, but you allowed to have a few for the future of Australia. And I know you’re seeing everything across the gamut.
Corrie McLeod [00:11:30] I think so. I’m very interested in quantum. I think that I think Quantum because it is an area that we have deep expertise built over decades and we’ve seen types of expertise over years where we we fail to grab the moment. And I’d say I’m quite interested in what’s going on in sort of the sector, like 30 years of mining, engineering, technology and services capability that’s been built in our digging holes. Where do we maintain the intellectual property? We grow it here as opposed to buy it back later? Obviously, some of the stories we’ve been talking about today from a medtech and bionics perspective, this incredible success stories in this country and how do we replicate them, learn from that, you know, maturity and make sure that we just, you know, continue to grow those sectors where we’ve got a really good reputation. So there are a couple, but there’s lots of areas where I think we need to learn from missed opportunities and make sure that we fund Invest focus now.
Robert Klupacs [00:12:28] So you mentioned earlier before we kind of started the course, but you had you were talking about space.
Corrie McLeod [00:12:33] Space. I find space interesting one because I think we have the stuff that the stuff that we have when you talked about like maybe holes in homes, like we also have a huge geography. So we have we are attractive to our partners because of the size of the country and where we are strategically located. So I think it’s really important that we don’t get distracted by that and look at where we’re building the intellectual property capability and not just launch locations and going to seeing some of the space companies yesterday. There is some incredible stuff happening in this country and I’m pretty excited about it.
Robert Klupacs [00:13:07] Corrie. We’ve asked all of our guest on the podcast this question. I’m really keen to hear your thoughts because you’re probably coming at it from a slightly different perspective. Despite having a very strong research and development sector where Australia ranks 25th amongst 132 economies of the world in the Global Innovation Index, we don’t perform very well. On the translation side of that, what do you think Australia needs to do to improve commercialisation or monetize or get the benefit of the great innovation being done in this country?
Corrie McLeod [00:13:40] There’s a couple of things. One, there are a number of organisations and I guess experts that really understand what that translation and commercialisation layer looks like. We talked a little bit earlier about, you know, scientists and researchers, and they’re not necessarily the people that want to be doing the commercialisation stuff. So how do we actually understand that it takes a myriad of skills at the right time, in the right way and understand those and encourage the development of those those layers? Culture has a lot to do with it. I think the culture about the pursuit of knowledge and the way that we look at, you know, the balance between what we publish and patents. And then once we have those patents, how do we put the commercial frameworks around them that ultimately that’s structural and cultural. And I just think, you know, industry policy that’s kind of patient and consistent, that helps give a roadmap for people who if you think about, you know, the science and anything of economic complexity, these are not short term things. And I think having consistency from a state and federal government perspective where all of those pieces can come together with a level of certainty around what some of those policy frameworks look like, I think is really important.
Robert Klupacs [00:14:49] You know, I know from your perspective you must have looked around the world about what other countries do and lay that lay that across. Do you see any things that you’ve seen other countries doing well that we could quickly pick up and bring to Australia?
Corrie McLeod [00:15:01] Well, again, I think the obvious ones that spring straight to mind would be like Singapore and Israel and both of them have a profile that is not dissimilar. They’re relatively small countries that aren’t rich in natural resources, heavily focused on intellectual property and skills and looking at where they sit in the value add in terms of the various, you know, supply chains, if you like. So just looking at that, there’s also, I think, settings within universities where there’s sort of a more equal treatment of how intellectual property is traded so that it’s more easy to kind of bring out with certainty and commercialise. So there’s I think those countries like that, I think we can take a lot from and also the fact that, you know, there’s a there’s a level of ambition that comes from, you know, just the all the kind of cultural and geopolitical settings that we can look to, I think has some guidance on how we might really sort of double down and focus on the stuff we’re good at.
Robert Klupacs [00:15:55] We’re both technology geeks, you and I. Technology is fantastic. And I know in particular, I love exciting, shiny new things. In your opinion, you should just try to look at building technology as our primary focus, or should we see technology as an accelerator of business, both existing and new in economic growth? And should the focus be on building a culture and ecosystem that allows the right technologies to flourish?
Corrie McLeod [00:16:22] Well, I think it has to be both. And I think, you know, what we would see is is a lot of technology and the term dual use technology’s come up a lot. And I think how do you take a technology built in one sector and apply it into multiple vertical sectors where it iterates and matures and becomes, you know, a more mature products that then is, you know, much more easily exported to other markets. So I think the better we can adopt and use technology and make sure it’s available for multiple markets is really important. And you know, again, we talked about the Avalon and a lot of things that that might have been built for the space sector, which are being adopted into Agtech or, you know, various ways of looking at resilience. And so developing technologies around multiple use cases I think serves a dual function. It makes it more effective. The companies that are adopting the technology as well as that technology evolving as well.
Robert Klupacs [00:17:17] Yeah. I mean, we’ll both be on this show and let’s talk about this for our listeners beforehand. But we’re both amazed by the amount of technology that was there which could have applications across many sectors. And we’re both talking before about 3D printing and the capabilities. Do you see you talk about dual use just before, but do you see from what you’ve been reporting on right now some dual use or capable, large capable uses of existing technologies that we haven’t thought about before? Is anything that you’ve seen that you think, you know what, let’s get behind that.
Corrie McLeod [00:17:47] Oh, I was actually interested. The CSIRO yesterday had, I guess, printed solar panels, which was basically like old school film. So if you think about photovoltaics and there was a wave of manufacturing on the actual solar panels that we used to having on our roofs, So but we weren’t building those solar panels and, but we had that intellectual property that came out of units largely. And now if you see about this film that you can put on a satellite or in an agriculture environment. So if you think about a technology that had its initial use and now it’s sort of been reinvented in a much more kind of flexible, adaptive physical form that could be applied anywhere. Like that. That is a brilliant example as one example and of anything, I think of the observation space. Observation. Anything like that. You can see across, again, multiple, multiple sectors anywhere. We have better situational awareness. And that’s that’s about resilience and floods and fires as well as it’s about defense and, you know, agriculture. So I think there’s a lot of movement in that area as well.
Robert Klupacs [00:18:48] We spoke before about, you know, maybe scientists aren’t the best spokesmen, but maybe scientists need to be trained. One of the key tenets that we’ve had in this whole series is the value of mentorship, both the impact it’s had on our guests, but also how it could be used much better to help other sectors. So two questions. Firstly, you know, as a person who loves innovation, it’s been done by, in a lot of cases university scientists and they struggle to perhaps communicate. How do you mentor people, innovators, to actually make this story? And as you said before, not everyone can do it, but I mention some people you’ve been able to mentor to get their story out there in a much more efficient way.
Corrie McLeod [00:19:28] This is probably a random response to that, but we do a lot of media training as an example, and one of the things that I found is a light bulb moment for a lot of people is where I ask them to mentally put on the jacket they were wearing when they were, you know, selected for their role or had this breakthrough. How did they feel? They felt capable, confident, excited, passionate. And how did they bottled that feeling. To tell that story. And that’s a mindset. You can see people completely change because suddenly they they’re in their happy place. And if you can tap into someone who’s at that moment where they’re feeling capable and confident and grounded and excited, then their answers change the way they deliver their message. Change. It’s not about us. It’s just the right thing to say. And I haven’t punctuated that properly. It becomes about telling a story at the time when they’re at their best. So that’s the one thing I would say to people think communicating is how do you get yourself in the space where you’re at your best.
Robert Klupacs [00:20:28] And you get the same thing in terms of the written communication? A lot of sign is I work with a lot of putting the detail in those slides. Wonderful stuff. But you know the words a picture paints a thousand words. Do you actually help them through that to present complex stories with the images, for example?
Corrie McLeod [00:20:45] Yeah, images are obviously really important. And we talked about like virtual reality and all sorts of, you know, great things that help immersive. But even as far as asking someone to go back and work through a process of how has the world changed? What’s what’s the problem with the challenge or the opportunity it’s created? How do you fit into that challenge? So then suddenly someone’s going, Oh yeah, the world has changed. Well, yeah, I can see that challenge. Oh, I can see why what you’re doing fits within that. Even just taking a step back to put in that particular kind of discovery or research in the context of the world is a is a way of helping frame the conversation in written as well of what’s important.
Robert Klupacs [00:21:25] Yeah, that’s really cool. So we spoke about how you how you mentor, but what you’ve done is quite extraordinary. You know, you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve started your own little company to Who told you.
Corrie McLeod [00:21:36] I wouldn’t name one person. I would say that I have kind of a range of people that pop up in my life. And one might be someone who’s really good and pragmatic on business. And, you know, I caught up with someone here in Melbourne on Tuesday and she’s also female owner of of a business. And yeah, she was just so good to talk to because I was like, “Oh, so glad we talked” because she just had all this great insight and advice that I needed. So it’s different people at different times, but they’re trusted people that I’ve known over a long period of time that have different strengths that you can call on to help.
Robert Klupacs [00:22:06] Yeah, but she probably cultivated that network is fair to say.
Corrie McLeod [00:22:09] Yeah, and I think being vulnerable has a lot going for it. I think knowing how to be vulnerable with people builds relationships because we spend a lot of time walking around looking like we’ve got all the answers. And building relationships is about letting the guard down and saying, This is what I’m experiencing. And they go, “mate, let’s talk”.
Robert Klupacs [00:22:28] Fantastic. Last question for you. The name Hello Espresso. I’m fascinated. Where did that come from?
Corrie McLeod [00:22:34] Well, so I’ll give you the whole answer. But so the core first company was espresso Communications and then Hello Espresso was sort of designed as the overarching company when innovation also was introduced. But espresso, as well as having a history of espresso like coffee related. Yeah, there’s a company in Canada where I’m from, which is my uncle’s company, which is a coffee company. So but I had I started Espresso as a consulting company when I was a single mum to a boy. He’s always I was always single. I had him on my own. So I went on sort of maternity leave and I had this tiny little squad and I just got to start doing something and I was having coffee with some friends Fiveways in Paddington and I’m like, What am I going to call this company? I have to register for trading. I looked up and one of my friends said, What about espresso? It’s got precedent and PR and movement and said, Sounds good. And it was just something I was going to do until I finished. I could go back to work with this baby. Anyway, it’s 20 years later, so the guy.
Robert Klupacs [00:23:32] Corrie, we’ve reached the end of our podcast today. You know, thank you so much for giving us your time and for sharing our insights into innovation generally and also how we can do it better. To that, to our listeners, I hope you enjoy listening and I look forward to introducing you to our guests in future podcasts. There are links to everything we talk about in the show notes and we look forward to welcoming you next time.
Corrie McLeod, Founder and Publisher at InnovationAus
Listen to other episodes of Med Tech Talks here