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Hands up those who know we have a new Innovation Board?

The New Year, newly announced team (as well as a Science Board) under the Ministry of Science and Innovation probably flew under the radar of the vast majority of media.

But, given ‘innovation’s’ role as one of the few economic-advancement levers available to government, the board well and truly has it work cut out.

Chaired by South Canterbury’s Dr William Rolleston (chief executive of South Pacific Sera among other roles), the Innovation Board already has some pre-MSI initiatives in place – namely technology development grants, technology transfer vouchers, and capability.

Rolleston says the board will work up to overseeing $150m/year of investment, “though I can see the allocation becoming much harder.”

He says the number and ratio of good applications has been growing over recent years. (Rolleston was a member of the former FoRST board)

“When there’s not many applications, and you have more money than is asked for, it doesn’t make decision-making too hard,” he says.

“But, as people have upped their game, and more people are applying, it is good for us as a board and good for the country. It makes our decisions much harder.”

Rolleston says the job of the MSI’s Innovation Board will be to be more firm/business oriented, compared to the Science Board’s research institute focus.

As the government works towards a more coherent innovation ecosystem, “we’ll have a fair bit of plasticity on where we head,” Rolleston says. “The challenge is not to be disruptive, work out where our influence lies, the parameters we should work in, and how we can make a difference.”

The board’s still to have its first meeting Rolleston says.

His fellow board members are:

Prof Harlene Hayne – Dunedin, deputy vice-chancellor research and enterprise at Otago Uni, deputy chair of Otago Innovation Ltd

Sarah Kennedy – Auckland, previous CEO of Vitaco Health.

Dr Alastair MacCormick – Auckland, foundation chair of Connect New Zealand, chair of the Technology Park Advisory Board for the Auckland University of Technology.

Stuart McKenze – Christchurch, general partner of Endeavour Capital

Phil O’Reilly – Wellington, CEO BusinessNZ. Chair of Capitalising on Research and Development Action Group

Grant Ryan – Canterbury, inventor and entrepreneur. Founded YikeBike, (among others) and on the board of the Canterbury Development Corporation

Peter Townsend – Christchurch, ECO of Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce, member of NZTE board

sticK has occasionally commented on the actual definition of innovation.

Here is Rolleston’s answer; one that’s at least as good as any heard lately.

“What we’re talking about is taking ideas, inventions and principles, and assembling them, or reassembling them within a design framework.”

Given ‘design’s’ desire to be a tool to guide the development and marketing of a product across its entire lifecycle, sticK reckons it’s not too bad.