It was my first concerted attendance at a focused workshop in California. Whilst I have made many trips to North America for various client meetings, negotiations and conferences, it represented a chance to engage deeply on an issue without the urgency of networking, the pressure to close a contract or satisfy a time-sensitive milestone. This workshop was orchestrated by Spruce Capital Partners and a major corporation, seeking business concepts to address GHG emissions on the premise that no price existed for carbon. A terrific array of science and business leaders assembled, looking at ideas ranging from vegetation in prairie systems, soils and the opportunities in various new microorganisms to fix nitrogen, cyanobacteria and algae as part of an integrated bioprocessing technology as routes to creating value whilst capturing carbon. It also afforded opportunities to discuss some of the political and commercial carbon realities in Australia, and some reflections on the local Australian innovation system to a broader audience. Finding myself in a team looking at aquaculture opportunities, presented an opportunity to examine not only direct solutions but start to explore issues of verification of GHG capture and a range of remote operating systems that may be required to drive labour and compliance costs down in remote regions. From the terrestrial and plant teams also assembled (and their obvious interconnectedness) arose the impressive prospects of plants like bamboo as a species with the potential to play a role in extensive carbon capture (via its root architecture) and present as a renewable resource for bioenergy, bio-products and food production. Another opportunity was linked to replacement of concrete by biomaterials in housing and construction. My mind turned to Australian possibilities for alternative feedstocks in Northern Australia for a range of applications and I am looking forward to learning more on its local and global possibilities. It was the pulse of the discussions that I found most interesting as the participants gathered together in discussions, in both plenary and at the breaks. The willingness to share and moot ideas was present but it was underpinned by my sense of a “freedom to share”. This took some time to reflect on but my working hypothesis on why this “felt” different is predicated on two phenomena which Australia may struggle to broadly replicate. The first of these is that there appears to be enough (financial and human) resource present in the North American innovation system that if a current project or opportunity doesn’t go to plan then another “isn’t far away”. Conversely, I have always sensed a need to hang on tightly, perhaps too tightly to resources (and even ideas) in Australia for fear that there are not those additional resources nearby. It was almost as if Californian participants accepted that 1 + 1 can (almost always) be greater than 2, whereas I am not always sure that is the foundation of similar local discussions. The second of these was the catalytic role that the “High Net Worth Individual” (HNWI) and associated philanthropic investment vehicles and the Government (Federal/local) can play in the innovation system. Perhaps California is a unique environment in which to make this observation, but my sense here is that federal funds can, in very simplistic terms, follow philanthropic interests as lead “market indicators”. Grant funding then supports the basic research that underpins the applied research that HNWI and philanthropic funds invest into the local start up ecosystem. Similarly, the outcomes of Federal investments can coax HNWI and other interested parties to explore new technology and business options. And, it is not just about investments, it is about investors and investments – an enlightened breed of entrepreneurs and investors can indeed pave the path with a critical mass of resources. Coincidentally as my thoughts have come together over the past few weeks a debate is underway around the role of and returns on public science funding in the development of deep science products. I have seen evidence of this discussion led by Marianna Mazzucato through her various publications and podcasts, challenging current practices and paradigms around the role of public science funding. A view I shared in the forum amongst participants was an observed tendency to over value technology at the point of licensing through a combination of underestimating the further (relative) resources needed for commercial success and a focus on sunk costs rather than market value. This does not mean zero valuing technology or to work in counterpoint to the concepts raised by Dr Mazzucato. However there is an equilibrium that needs to be struck between research technology transfer agents and their commercial negotiating parties to ensure that fair, reasonable and pragmatic arrangements are struck to advance commercialisation and impact objectives. Leading a practice that has worked for both licensor and licensee over the past few years has afforded me a unique vantage point to observe the machinations of technology transfer negotiations and the range of behaviours and outcomes arising therefrom.