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There’s so much valuable ‘stuff’ (read factual data, analysis, and most importantly ways forward) in ‘Plugging the gap‘, its hard to know where to start.

The New Zealand Institute’s latest discussion paper, written by Rick Boven, Catherine Harland and Lillian Grace should be mandatory reading for……well everyone who is concerned about our country’s slow backward drift into despair and (comparative) poverty.

Part of the challenge of the document, subtitled ‘An internationalisation strategy’ is it is so comprehensive, any attempt to summarise it, is in itself an understatement.

However, (and in full knowledge it will be further mined for its gems), highlights, or bits of the document that hit sticK between the eyes were, in no particular order.

• While NZ puts a huge amount of effort into training and recruiting doctors, nurses, teachers and others whose skills are essential to economic and societal success, it is less systematic about supporting training in the areas that have the most potential to lift prosperity. There are established supply strategies for many important occupations but not yet for internationalising businesses.
• There has been no body responsible for providing oversight of the entire [innovation] ecosystem, identifying gaps and opportunities, prioritizing efforts and allocating resources. Partly as a result, statistics and other systematic data on the performance of exporters of differentiated goods and services and on resource supply and demand are very limited. That is not the case for other important export sectors in NZ. Systematic effort is required to identify information needs and ensure that data is collected and disseminated.
• The opportunities for [internationalisation] improvement are available because innovation has not been managed as an ecosystem and because there has been an assumption that strong institutions and market forces would be enough to ensure economic success.
• If NZ can increase prosperity by developing an innovation driven economy with growing high value differentiated exports, then it will attract more talent and capital, establishing a virtuous cycle. The goal should be to make NZ a country people want to live and work in.
• If the focus of Government, policy advisors, influencers and commentators is on the obstacles to change, or on the fiscal costs of the [internationalisation] strategy, then it is likely that a few of the proposals will be cherry-picked or adopted in a weak form and not much change will result.
• If the focus is instead on the goal of lifting prosperity, and on investing to ensure that our innovation ecosystem gives our internationalising businesses the best possible opportunities for success, then the obstacles will be overcome. Successful small countries intervene aggressively in ways that are not dissimilar to what is proposed here. They do not intervene in exactly the same way because each country has different obstacles and opportunities.

The report also (refreshingly) comments that there might be better proposals to overcome the obstacles than the ones offered here. “But if any proposal offered here is not adopted, then either a better proposal should be submitted or a compelling argument should be mounted that the diagnosis is incorrect. Innovation ecosystem performance is only as strong as the weakest link.”

There are 14 proposed policy directions. Some of these will be discussed in later sticK’s