Aussie Dow boss tells how country can compete in “increasingly crowded marketplace”

Australian-born Dow Chemical CEO Andrew Liveris has suggested there are lessons for Australia to learn regarding Dow’s efforts to become more competitive.

Liveris, who has headed the US chemical giant for a decade, said the early signs regarding the government’s prioritising of areas of strength – such as through the Growth Centres initiative – were positive.

Dow had undertaken furious “re-wiring and re-hiring” in the last five years, he said. Under his leadership, Liveris said Dow had moved from lower-margin products and exposure to commodity price fluctuations to one displaying a “spirit of invention” and emphasising “high tech, short cycle” innovation.

“We launched 5,000 new products last year,” he told the audience at University of Technology, Sydney Business School event yesterday.

“Ten years ago we would have launched less than 500. Advanced manufacturing is all about short-cycle innovation, smart scale, high-tech.”

US patent filings were also six times greater than they were a decade ago.

The CEO also said the Australian disconnect between business and universities had to be fixed. As an example of the difference in the US, he cited an unnamed professor at Caltech who also sat on the boards of ten start-ups.

As he has before, Liveris also said Australia should create more value with its abundance of natural gas, rather than the export this without restrictions.

"This is what energy-rich countries around the world – from Saudi Arabia to the United States – are doing to secure their futures,” The Australian Financial Review reports him as saying.

“If we hope to compete in an increasingly crowded marketplace, Australia must do the same,"