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Those of us who care about creating more national wealth through better commercialisation, innovation and implementation by leveraging our science capability really want to see the Advanced Technology Institute succeed.

The ATI will be, after all, an important stepping stone between research and the market.

It will have to have an NZ-centricness – simply attempting to copy other exemplar countries such as Taiwan, Singapore, Denmark or Switzerland will be doomed to failure.

Equally, no one who understands the complexity and difficulty of trying to put together what is a completely new piece of the puzzle will be under any illusion of the challenge of the task the ATI establishment board and unit have on their hands.

That is, we all know this isn’t easy.

But, it is even less easy when you don’t really tell us what is going on.

Sure, there’s a newsletter dated 31 Oct which outlines a process.

There is an intent as well:

The Board looks forward to keeping you up to date with the progress of the Establishment Board and Unit. Shortly we will be regularly updating and communicating with you via our own website and will make sure you know when this is available.

If February 1, 2013 is meant to be the up and going day (which it obviously won’t be), given that a fair percentage of December, and all of January are essentially dead days, then there ain’t much time to tell us much.

However, it is the structure, and more importantly the thinking around different possible structures, that is the meat of this particular sandwich.

From a public relations point of view, there’s a heck of a risk in a grand announcement that has failed to (in PR-speak) ‘engage with stakeholders’.

These stakeholders range from individual scientists to the CRIs themselves, universities, private research entities (think HERA, Cawthron) industry, entrepreneurs (or those of that way of thinking), investors and the general public – as well as other government entities.

I’m pretty sure none would mind if you flew some kites, looked for feedback on potential options, kicked a few tires on alternative structures.

Because, as I’ve already said, everyone knows this is not easy. We (and we’re all in on it) are unlikely to get it right first time; whatever shape it takes will almost undoubtedly require some massaging and morphing into an entity that works beyond the science, before the market.

So, just tell us what you’re thinking – please.

P.S. Since penning this, it has been announced that the ATI is to be known as Callaghan Innovation. Out of respect for the late Sir Paul, who, while loving science, was just as keen as making money from the commercial use of clever brains, let’s hope the (now) C.I. concentrates on those route to market difficulties, not rearranging the deck chairs of what we already have.

Come on ATI, tell us what you’re thinking – please!

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