Fantastic; more faffing around for an Advanced Technology Institute

Oh great – yes the May 24 budget announcement has $178 million allocated over five years for the evolution of Industrial Research into an Advanced Technology Institute.

But buried in the numbers (page 108, here) is a huge reason to not get too excited that too much is going to happen anytime soon.

Why? Namely a $1.871 million allocation to the Ministry of Science and Innovation (subsumed now into MoBIE) for ‘Advice and Support’ on shaping the Science and Innovation system MCOA (M84)’.

What does it mean?

Exactly nothing; now and in the immediate future and for a fair while beyond that too probably.

But the good news is there will be more meetings. Might as well get some consultants in to…..can’t have enough of those. The odd report or two or three probably won’t go astray as well.

So, just at a time when we (NZ Inc) really needs an ATI to be bursting into life and adding another extremely necessary piece to our innovation ecosystem, we’ve got some sand, lots of it, thrown into the gearbox.


There’s a good reason the word ‘evolution’ is used in the opening sentence.

Trying to prescribe what IRL-cum-ATI should look like, and trying to backseat-drive the process through bureaucrats is stupid. (Not the least reason is that during the MSI’s 18 month lifespan, many of its best people have left).

For goodness sake, give the combined brains of IRL, industry (and government with a very small ‘g’) the mandate simply to get on with getting on.

This will mean growing the Auckland and Christchurch parts as required, as well as refreshing and refurbishing the Wellington HQ. IRL has a modular laboratory/office design that can easily be set up in different sites. These are ready to begin, now, if only the green-for-go button is pressed.

As with nature, an embryonic ATI could evolve very quickly, and start providing the services and skills required to create high margin (as well as high value) manufacturing.

Call me a pessimist, but as things stand at the moment, given the underlying ‘advice and support’ for IRL/ATI, we’ll still be faffing around this time next year and no further ahead.

And that’s exactly what we don’t want.


About sticknz

sticK is by Peter Kerr, a writer for hire. I have a broad science and technology background and interest, with an original degree in agricultural science. My writing speciality is making the complex understandable. I am available for outside consultancy work, and for general discussions of converting a good idea into something positive
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3 Responses to Fantastic; more faffing around for an Advanced Technology Institute

  1. As I’ve said before Peter, the ATI as proposed is a really bad idea. If we believe in evidence based science, then let’s see some evidence that this ATI would add any value. The only evidence I can see is to the contrary.

    • sticknz says:

      From the evidence seen overseas, a halfway house between research and industry appears to be very effective. (See Switzerland, Finland, Denmark). I’m not suggesting we blindly copy them – there will be a NZ model. But, we can’t predict what that should be. We should let ‘it’ kick off and evolve. Given our country’s biological background, there could/should probably be a biotechnology component to the whole thing.

      Almost more the point I’m making is start the blimming thing. Doing nothing’s worse in my opinion than doing the wrong thing.

      What do you think?

  2. Peter,
    I think spending $160m doing the wrong thing is a lot worse than doing nothing. And it’s not like nothing is being done anyway. But the notion the IRL are going to lead us the promised land is really quite pathetic. With all the money the CRIs have had handed to them over the years, where are the results? Why is it suddenly all going to come right just because IRL change their name to ATI?


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