We need to get much more fusion and synergy between our scientists and firms according to The Treasury.
There’s enough statistics to show that while our research output is pretty good by OECD standards, and the hours worked in NZ are already high.
Compared to Australia however, an hour worked in New Zealand produces about 30% less value-added than an hour worked across the ditch Treasury deputy secretary Struan Little recently told the NZ Association of Scientists.
Analysis by the OECD shows that between 25 – 45% of productivity gains come from innovation, “so it’s crucial that we deepen our understanding of how innovation happens and get much, much better at is so the economy can deliver the higher living standards we’re aiming for,” Little says.
(Yet) another OECD report shows that we’re not very good at converting research knowledge into commercial opportunities and higher value – technology diffusion and adoption is a weakness for NZ.
“What is key is getting science connected with business, so science can give business a hand-up to solve problems entrepreneurs are grappling with and to realise opportunities they have glimpsed,” Little says.
NZ needs to get the best out of substantial changes occurring in the science system, and the new Ministry of Science and Innovation will need to live up to its name and ensure that innovation is as centre stage as science policy he says.
“It will probably mean some shift of focus and funding from ‘blue skies’ and basic research to applied research of relevance to firms,” Little says. “And to apply energy and drive to getting a step-change in collaboration and knowledge transfer both in the science sector and between the science sector and firms.”
He acknowledges that science contributes important outcomes for NZ, including environmental, health and social; but that being from Treasury, he tends to use an economic lens.
“We must build up a stronger focus, not just on commercialisation and technology push, but knowledge transfer more generally,” says Little. “To capitalise on our innovation potential, we have to ensure that the flow of ideas is genuinely two way – not just from public research organisations to firms, but from firms to scientists, scientists to scientists and, where possible, from firms to firms. Building stronger networks, with highly mobile researchers with strong links to industry will be part of this, as well as accessing and adapting the best ideas from abroad.”