Prof John Hennessy, president of Stanford University, offers three insights into the characteristics of innovation in the May-June edition of Stanford magazine. The first is diversity of people (a range of ages and ethnicities). The second is an environment that promotes risk-taking and innovative thinking. “To achieve truly great things, one must be willing to risk failure.” The third is the skill of transferring knowledge to organisations that are able to convert that knowledge into something “with broader impact”. After a month at Stanford, I have come to appreciate the special culture that promotes innovation here. Sadly, I also realise how far short Australian universities fall in their aspirations towards embracing those three characteristics.