Last week’s conference on ‘Re-setting Science and Innovation for the next 20 years’ had a notable element missing – business.
Arranged by the NZ Association of Scientists in collaboration with Victoria University’s Institute of Policy Studies, the one day event had many of the great and good on the science and government side of things. But no business.
Apparently BusinessNZ, the main body now representing a majority of the manufacturers, had been invited, but couldn’t make it. There was no formal representation from the primary sectors or the ICT sector either.
Some of the discussions were about how science and industry often talk across each other. If ever there was a sad indictment of two trains being on different lines and timetables, was this it?
One interesting presentation was by University of Auckland Assoc Professor Rod Dunbar, who is also director of the Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery. He commented on the number of private companies, with a strong R&D element, asking if they can come back and co-inhabit the Centre’s research and office environment. These private companies are missing the buzz and corridor conversations that drive innovation Dunbar says; and he’s attempting to accommodate the companies in what is becoming a sought-after space.
VicLink’s general manager of commercialisation, Sophie Howard, flew a small kite for ‘Open Innovation’. In other words, throwing ideas out to the ether, and asking others (invariably internet-connected) to help with particular problems. It is a trend that’s growing overseas; not without its growing pains, but one that could catch on here if the country gave itself permission to be a bit more permissive with its knowledge.
And finally, about to be Minister of Science and Innovation, Wayne Mapp, gave a breakdown of the government’s current Research, Science and Technology spend. Here are the numbers, as defined by the Ministry
• Primary/Food (includes PGP): $304.2m
• Talent (includes Marsden/HRC): $178.9m
• Hi-Tech/Manufacturing: $146.4m
• General/Infrastructure: $128.5m
• Environment/Risk Management: $90.2m
• Energy/Minerals: $26.5m
• Fundamental: PBRF/CoREs – (Vote Ed): $250m