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We probably shouldn’t be surprised that amongst all the next to ‘do’s’ from the incoming National-led government, the one with the greatest potential to be a game changer, has been ignored by most of the media.

Issues of teapots are much more pressing!

However, the under-the-radar announcement early in the election campaign of the doubling in size of IRL to become a high-tech HQ is exactly the type of initiative needed to support an economic revival in New Zealand.

The same day (Nov. 3) release of a ‘Powering Innovation’ report also had a number of recommendations.

Number 13 could be the most important in the scheme of setting an agenda, theme, direction or strategy (in the absence of one as noted by businesspeople in a survey before the election).

#13 - Form a Science and Innovation Council, led from a very senior ministerial level in Government, with representatives from the university, public and private research
organisations and from industry. Members should represent a wide range of science and technology themes, including the social sciences. The role of the Science and Innovation Council should be to establish a national innovation strategy and advise on science and innovation policy and priorities.

In Denmark, Singapore, Finland (all smaller countries with which New Zealand so often, so unflatteringly compares itself) that “very senior ministerial level” is the Prime Minister.

And so it needs to be in New Zealand. Key is key to cranking up the money-making creativity, and for the nation to give itself permission and capital and build the skills to grow the value of what we produce.

This was noted in the New Zealand Institute’s press release that ‘The Prime Minister should be the prime innovator’ (see here). “An Innovation Council chaired by the Prime Minister would ensure that any policy, business and education impediments would be addressed alongside the inventiveness improvements already commenced.”

Put another way, having Key as the prime innovator means all the ducks are flying in formation – helping to ensure that impediments are removed, tracks are greased.

Of course Key would need to have a pretty good second in command to help achieve all this.

A rumour floating around Wellington is that Stephen Joyce may look to have a super-portfolio that has the Ministry of Science & Innovation, the Ministry of Economic Development and the Tertiary Education Commission all coming under his bailiwick.

Part of the thinking is that though all three ministries produce excellent policy, it is often produced in a silo. At the macro level, the policy can be perverse, even contradictory.

So, Key to pick up #13 of Powering Innovation as prime innovator, and Joyce to pull it all together?

sticK calls it first.

Prime Minister as prime innovator - get going on #13

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