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Innovation helps businesses improve their efficiency, solve everyday problems and drive long-term job creation. It is also a key driver of productivity growth and economic renewal. At the national level, an innovation system is an open network of actors clustered in various geographical locations who interact within an institutional, cultural and regulatory environment. These clusters are distributed unevenly across multiple geographical locations, industries and economic niches. Within the innovation system, individuals and organisations are mutually interdependent but not always well-connected. Their activities and interactions within, and between, their immediate clusters are also fundamentally influenced by broader regional, national and international factors.

The many interactions occurring simultaneously and iteratively over different time scales drive the overall performance of the system as a whole. The system's aggregate behaviour is complex, non-linear, and its properties are emergent. These processes are difficult to summarise without sacrificing important detail. The innovation systems approach attempts to map out the key components and linkages between them, using a variety of measures and techniques adopted from multiple disciplines. Despite the lack of a theoretical foundation for which it is sometimes criticised, this approach is tractable for policy because it highlights the key features of the innovation system plainly, as they are empirically observed.

Since 2010, the Australian Innovation System (AIS) Report has been tracking Australia's innovation performance and characteristics in an annual, hard copy publication. Since July 2019, the report has been published in a fully digital format. The new digital AIS Monitor continues in the tradition of providing high-quality metrics from reputable sources with expert commentary and analysis. It introduces some exciting new features to improve the publication's utility, including interactive charts, downloadable datasets converted to a machine-readable format, and links to complementary analytical work.

The AIS Monitor draws on policy-relevant data from a range of sources. Some of this data was collected prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, while some of it is now starting to show the impact of the pandemic on business activity. Pending further updates, the COVID-19 page summarises some of the impacts of COVID-19 on Australian businesses during the first year of the pandemic.