It’s that time of year when we fly kites, give voice to possibilities.
So, given we have a new Science and Innovation minister, namely Paul Goldsmith, how about exploring whether now is a good time to put seriously explore forming a Science and Innovation Council.
After all, if it is good enough for countries such as Denmark, Finland and Singapore (economies that we like to rate and rank ourselves against) surely it is good enough for us.
Stick’s blogged about the desirability of such a high-level, well-connected, oversight body in the past - but there’s nothing like resurrecting a good idea!
It was also Recommendation 13 in 'Powering Innovation' - a strategy paper from June 2011.
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 the comparative countries, S&I Councils are often attended by the Prime Minister, but at the very least are way up in the pecking order of how and more importantly why, R&D is carried out.
An auspicious mix of private business people, scientists, academics and government, S&I councils form a vital part of connecting between commerce, technology, applied science and fundamental science.
Align the science and innovation continuum
These S&I Councils help align a country’s business strengths, its expected future requirements, the ‘brains’ being trained up, and the pipelines of new developments needed to stay competitive.
Denmark’s S&I Council for example was a major reason the small Nordic nation went strongly down the ‘design’ (as an element of all innovation) path.
The other advantage an NZ S&I Council would have is to better engage the broader New Zealand public with science. Far too many people (my own children included) see science as a separate ‘thing’ that’s done by geeks, something that’s not relevant to their own lives (this of course while remaining totally oblivious to the huge R&D that is their smart phone).
A S&I Council would help address this disconnect. It would make much more visible and relevant the continuum between science and technology and how our country can and should create greater wealth from clever products and services.
A S&I Council would also help reassure Prime Minister Bill English that the continued investment in R&D is worthwhile and important. He, like all of us, like to know where’s the payback? Well, an S&I Council, preferably with him also on it, would help answer that question.
So, go on Mr Goldsmith, give it some decent thought.