Converging what where? – Of helixes, quasi-industrial policy and incantations

There’s a story, surely apocryphal, of Shakespeare being locked in attic room and only given food in exchange for pages of an overdue play script.  That tactic –  “sliding pizza under the door in exchange for good ideas” is something that gets talked about in “strategic niche management.” 

Its cousin, pump-priming and state-agency-as-facilitator/networker was on display last night at a small event in the south of the city centre.  

The Defence Innovation Partnership – made up of elements of Australian states, the Defence mob, some universities, some local governments, some industry, held their first Adelaide “convergence” meeting since, well, 2019 (these things really do only work if they are face-to-face).  There were four speakers (including one zooming in from Canberra because, well, COVID).

There were various takes on the implications of climate change for the South Pacific (pretty bleeding dire, obvs), and the dangers of both overstretch and over-reach (politicians asking the military to do too much of things within its skillset and too much beyond its skillset).  There was time for a few questions (not mine, which is probably a good thing) around local impacts, actual size of the ADF etc etc.

None of the Big Thorny Questions were tackled on the evening (and oh my, there are many), but to criticise the event, its organisers and participants for that would be to misunderstand what this is all about.  This is about Granovetter’s “weak ties” turning into weak-ish ties and then, perhaps, occasionally, into strong ties (which leads to grants, start-ups and who knows some Real World innovation. This is in-the-flesh triple helix or quadruple helix or whatever helix we happen to be up to these days.  And to this end, there was enough good booze to lubricate tongues and enough food (some of it veggie) to keep the conversation going.

Is this part of the thin end of the militarification wedge that Guy Rundle just wrote of? Is it a contribution, however small and well-meaning to the “khakification of Australian leadership”? Probably.  This is what humans DO though, especially when stressed; they hope that yesterday’s incantations will “work” tomorrow. And maybe they will, for specific definitions of “work.”

Next meeting, in September, is on … science fiction. If I’m here, I’ll be there…

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