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So, the Ministry of Science & Innovation’s conducting a review to see how research and development can provide better support to NZ’s high-value manufacturing and services sector.

One has to suspect this review and report will be the precursor justification for what could be a rapid transmogrification of the roles and actions of parts of our R&D sector.

Now, while there’s always a danger that in looking under the covers the independent review team will find that our high-value manufacturing industries are pretty thinly spread, it’s probably not before time.

In fact, given some recent reports from IPENZ and the New Zealand Institute (see sticK stories here and here) on the need for a much closer mash-up between research and industry – and even a cross-flow of personnel between them, the question is more how much this review is a forerunner to wider change.

As a country we need much greater cross-fertilisation (excitement even) around high value manufacturing’s idea to income flow.

The review team will yarn to biotech, processing, electronics, robotics, sensing and scanning devices, medical devices, drugs, agritechnologies, digital and ICT technologies.

It also includes the application of technology developments to the more traditional manufacturing sector including meat and wool processing and related agritech activities.

If it’s good enough for companies in Finland to be constantly knocking on its researchers’ doors asking “what’s new”, surely we can aspire to something similar?

The challenge will be to take learnings from the Denmarks and Singapores of the world, and suggest policy tweaks (or more likely policy revolution) for New Zealand.

The review will focus on access to and uptake of R&D by the private sector (see Wayne Mapp’s press release here).

Its three members are to deliver a short high-level report with recommendations in April – a pretty quick turnaround in these schemes of things, and further hinting that change is afoot.

Indeed, the indicative timetable under MSI’s terms of reference have interviews with representatives of international organisations during March 14-18, interviews with key NZ stakeholders in the week beginning 21 March, and report writing beginning March 24. (See here for its terms of reference).

There are only three members in the review team:

• Prof John Raine – Head of the School of Engineering and Pro Vice Chancellor Innovation and Enterprise at Auckland University of Technology.

• Prof Mina Teicher – previously director general at the Ministry of Science and Technology with the Israel government, and widely credited for the development of the innovation sector in Israel

• Phil O’Reilly – chief executive of BusinessNZ, chair of the ‘Capitalising on Research & Development Action Group, MSI Innovation board member

“The review will be relatively high level and likely to be directional and not prescriptive,” the Terms of Reference says. “As noted, the study will assist officials in considering the need for further policy and the report will be used to support any policy development.”

Quite – watch this R&D and innovation and commercialisation space, it is likely to be changing rapidly, soon.