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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 locations, industries and sectors of the economy. Within the innovation system, individuals and organisations are often mutually interdependent but not necessarily always connected. Their activities and interactions within and between their immediate clusters are also increasingly influenced by the broader regional, national and international contexts.

The many interactions occurring simultaneously and iteratively over different time scales drive the performance of the system as a whole. The system's behaviour is complex, non-linear, and its properties and outcomes emergent. These processes are difficult to describe by measurement 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. As of 2018-19, the report has gone fully digital, marking a key milestone on its own journey of transformation. The new digital AIS Monitor continues in the tradition of providing high-quality metrics from reputable sources with expert commentary and analysis. It also 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 coverage of the AIS Monitor is broadly consistent with previous years' AIS Reports. One difference is that indicators in the AIS Monitor are organised into chapters and sections by common themes, rather than according to any particular conceptual framework. Its main focus is on the patterns of innovation over time. Previous efforts in this space have revealed numerous gaps in Australia's evidence base. This issue was noted in a report to government titled Australia 2030: Prosperity through Innovation prepared by Innovation and Science Australia and in response, an Innovation Metrics Review has been launched with the aim of identifying opportunities for improving Australia's innovation data assets. Outcomes of the Review will be factored into future updates of the AIS Monitor as appropriate.[1]