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We're no closer to a national SETD plan, strategy, attack - call it what you will


Taking a further opportunity to look at Callaghan Innovation’s Statement of Intent, it begs further questions relating to our country’s overall Research, Science and Technology spend. (Or, to further broaden it, our Science, Engineering, Technology and Design [SETD led innovation]).

  1. What are we actually trying to do?
  2. Who’s doing what?
  3. How efficient (or what’s the efficacy of) our total spend? (In fact, this is a blog on its own – if anyone has any data on how much of the allocated science spend ends up in science rather than government bureaucracy and science organisation/university administration costs, I’d love to know)

Now, CI is meant to be more at the end of converting good science and engineering oriented ideas into commercial reality and money-makers.

And, as it says itself, while CI isn’t going to be bidding for any of the funding areas in R, S & T, it is certainly still in the overall mix.

However, what is still totally unclear, in fact non-existent, is an overall national SETD plan. There is no STRATEGY.

The only mention in the CI SoI is in passing on page 19 which talks about setting up National Technology Networks.

“These Networks could become a framework for a national science and innovation strategy which can help define a more strategic approach to funding rather than making one-off decisions on individual proposals.”

If that’s the case, yet again we’re going to have a national plan as an after-thought.

It’s a bit like retrospectively figuring what we’re doing after we’ve assembled all the pieces, rather than figuring out WHAT we want to do, and THEN assembling the pieces.

Sure, having industry input into what the future might hold is important; but they’re more interested in the here and now, meaning say a two year future-view.

It is an underwhelming way to approach things – a middling method that the likes of Taiwan, Singapore, Finland et al abandoned long ago. It is, yet again, putting the cart in front of the horse.

It also flies in the face of Recommendation #13 from the ‘Powering Innovation’ document of June 2011, which, presumably, formed much of the basis for Callaghan Innovation.

Oversight and Leadership

Recommendation 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.

Now, perhaps there’s a cunning plan to set up such a council.

On page 10 of CI’s SoI, under the third bullet point sits the sentence.

“The [Callaghan Innovation Act 2012] Act provides for the Responsible Minister to appoint a stakeholder advisory group to support Callaghan Innovation’s work.”

Might I suggest, strongly, Mr Joyce, that this be set up post haste.

Our country desperately needs a simple and clear view of what we’re going to concentrate on for high-value and other value-added manufacturing (especially around some of our biological resources).

I appreciate it is a brave political statement to say; ‘right, we’re heading here, by doing this’, but it is what is lacking at our highest level.

Shuffling such a responsibility down to where it won’t see the light of day within Callaghan Innovation will simply mean more deck-chair arranging for our SETD.

All of the exemplar countries that our bureaucracy and ministers are fond of saying we should be like, lead from the top, based on a Science and Innovation Council.

Even if such a council gets it wrong, at least it is a direction….and you can change direction.

At the moment we have nothing.

To focus our own SETD efforts, we need to do the same as other countries have done and lay our cards on the table for all to see and understand.

The original blog post is on the sticK website.



sticK is run by Peter Kerr. As a writer for hire, especially in the science and tech area, and in making the complicated more simple, I’m happy to yarn – if you’ve got a challenge you’d like a conversation about, it costs nothing.


You can contact him at:

Bat phone: +64 21 0696 040

Landline: +64 4 473 0960

Twitter: @sticknz


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