A picture’s worth a thousand words…or not in our case

I’m a sucker for a good diagram – a picture’s worth a thousand words and all that jazz.

So I thought I’d see what, if anything, came up in a search about New Zealand’s science and innovation system; diagram-wise.

The image below, taken as a screenshot, is what Google came up with when I searched under ‘science and innovation system, New Zealand’ (selecting the Google images icon as well)

S & I system NZ, Google images

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, New Zealand

To state the obvious – nothing terribly much here to explain what goes on in godzone, not a hint of a plan you’d have to say.

Well, what about a comparison with other countries?

So, I did the same for Denmark, a country that we like to compare ourselves to, frequently.

This is it here.

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Denmark

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Denmark

Again, to state the obvious – much more illustrative, many more models and examples of how Denmark’s ideas to products continuum hangs together.

What the heck, decided to do the same for Fiji (a near neighbour we’d possibly like to think we have a bit of a science and innovation lead over).

Here’s their Google search result.

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Fiji

Google screenshot, science and innovation system, Fiji

Now, there may be some peculiarity in Google algorithm for my searches. (Though I had some of my non-sciencey colleagues search too, and they came up with something very similar).

And, it could be an unfair search term for NZ Inc

Or, it could be that there is no plan.

It could be that we’re doing lots of science, lots of innovation, lots of commercialisation – but it is all adhoc and uncoordinated, relying on luck and synchronicity and who the heck knows what.

I’m also hoping I’m wrong.

If anyone’s seen a plan, please point it out.

It would be a kind of relief to see one.


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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11 Responses to A picture’s worth a thousand words…or not in our case

  1. Jane Shearer says:

    What about the diagram in the Draft National Science Strategy from MBIE?

    • sticknz says:


      But looking at the Draft here, which particular diagram?

      • Jane Shearer says:

        I was thinking of p14. Remember I didn’t say it was a particularly good diagram!

      • sticknz says:

        Page 14’s pic is the nearest thing. It tells us where the money is spent, useful.

        What are we doing though, concentrating on?

      • Jane Shearer says:

        Do you mean are we focusing on science vs innovation? My personal opinion is that both are equally important. And the evidence is that NZ has moved hugely towards innovation from the system of the late 1980s which saw the start of our major science reforms. Or are you asking the question in regard to a different aspect of the system?

      • sticknz says:

        I’d like to see something that explains the continuum from science to innovation (and sustainable businesses).

        How it is connected, the why and what we’re doing in science, to aim for a particular market or segment (or what)?

        A logic for the investment we make. In a diagram.

        Is it too much to ask?

      • Jane Shearer says:

        That would be a lot of detail in a single diagram! Or else you would have to have to a relatively small set of aims to fit it in a diagram. The MBIE RFPs do pretty clearly state the MBIE targets in terms of markets/segments. These shift over time as programmes get funded and the balance needs to change. Are you wanting the Government to pick a small number of markets/segments and only focus on those? The risk of trying to tie everything into a single diagram is simplifying to the point of meaninglessness and/or locking things down in a way that isn’t necessarily productive in an innovation system. Which of the Danish diagrams do you see as the diagram that is particularly valuable. Looking through briefly, I see a lot of diagrams with a lot of words, similar to many words I read in NZ documents. Many of them are pretty obvious linkages that could be the same for any science & innovation system rather than being a strategy.

      • sticknz says:

        I didn’t look deeply at the two images – it was more just the idea.

        What the Danish examples show though, is a why and what of their research and innovation. The reason they’re pursuing certain areas, and the targets (both science and eventual products) of the science and innovation.

        Now, they may not always get it right, but they have mechanisms to change.

      • Jane Shearer says:

        Does there have to be a specific target and rationale for everything? Sometimes I think we are over strategised which doesn’t help either.

        Dr Jane Shearer resolutionz consulting ltd R&D strategy with a focus on funding PO Box 2821 Wakatipu Queenstown 9349 +64 21 358 231 jane.shearer@resolutionz.biz http://www.resolutionz.biz


      • sticknz says:

        If you mean should we do some blue-sky research, without knowing the outcome or potential benefits, sure agree we should have some.

        However, my admittedly simplistic argument is, based on the Google search and screenshot, is we, as in NZ Inc, don’t have a plan.

      • Jane Shearer says:

        Isn’t there an error here in thinking that, because the Government isn’t telling a researcher what to do that the research will therefore be unfocused? I don’t see the Marsden projects, our exemplars of ‘blue sky research’, not having a focus. What I am saying is that the nature of all benefits doesn’t have to be preordained and the nature of all outcomes from a project don’t have to be known correctly at the outset. The nature of research, after all, is that the answer is not known! What we certainly have is a system with so many hoops to jump through that a lot of time and energy is spent on the jumping. If that was spent on research and innovation and commercialisation maybe we could afford a few more projects that dead end or have the ‘wrong’ focus. I say this from a perspective of 30 years in the R&D & innovation system having watched the science reforms and all that has ensued.

        NZ Inc doesn’t have a plan, based on a Google search. So the assumption presumably is that it NZ should have an overarching plan for everything in innovation? Where is the evidence that this will return the best results? I would prefer a long term example of where this has been successful as there are many individual country examples NZ has focused on e.g. Ireland, Finland, which have been great at one point in time and then not at all great a point in time reasonably shortly afterwards. My preference is a strategic approach but, over time, I have come to see that strategy has its own costs so its benefits need to be very clear.

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