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Industrial Research Ltd. should be changed to an innovation development agency reckons IPENZ.

The proposal is part of the recently released Institution of Professional Engineers of NZ’s ‘Catalysing economic growth – boosting innovation expertise in the private sector’ document.

IPENZ says there are missing elements in our country’s policy framework. We need to boost our private sector expertise to develop, adapt and adopt new technologies (innovation expertise), and to develop industries that are less likely to migrate offshore and are thus more ‘sticky’.

IRL should receive part of a (to be established) innovation expertise fund as part of its core funding, and as well as delivering important R&D, it should become more focused on innovation expertise development the document says.

Under such a scheme, IRL’s key performance indicators would be the extent of industry co-investment and the personnel transferred to the private sector.

IPENZ bases part of its proposals on a case study of Taiwan’s Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI).

This 38 year old body is focused not so much on research, but the development and the transformation of research capability to assist Taiwan’s economic development according to IPENZ.

More than 60% of ITRI’s 6,000 employees are at Masterate or Doctorate level in communications and optoelectronics, precision machinery and MEMS, materials and chemical engineering, biomedical technology, sustainable development and nanotechnology.

Apparently over 160,000 people have graduated from ITRI, with the majority now being employed in the business community – some in mid to high level management positions.

IPENZ says ITRI is therefore flooding the business economy with graduates who can apply their technical knowledge and in time move into management roles in businesses.

New Zealand can do something similar IPENZ says. “With a greater diversity of business leaders at the helm, companies exploring offshore markets will be better equipped to invest wisely in R&D and market development,” the report says. “This will include building clusters with other visionary companies based in New Zealand.”

IPENZ says that CRI’s other than IRL, with a significant role to develop private sector expertise, could be partly converted to industrial development mode by providing some of their core funding from a innovation expertise fund.

IRL chief executive Shaun Coffey was at IPENZ’s launch of its document, and you can presume he wouldn’t have attended if he was violently anti its proposals.

Now, there’s plenty of daylight between an independent body’s ‘thinking’ and government (and CRI) policy.

But IRL’s been heading down interesting paths in co-funding private sector research initiatives, and being one of the recipients for the Ministry of Science and Innovation’s (via Tech NZ) technology transfer vouchers is in a healthy position to further develop in this area.

As is always, quite rightly, the case, there are sure to be discussions around IPENZ’s suggestions going on behind the scenes.

Watch this space.