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From an engagement and getting innovation out into wider business point of view, Industrial Research has been fronting footing it quite a bit in the past 18 months.

The Crown Research Institute has continued its play of getting its ‘brains’ out into the business sector with yesterday’s launch of ‘Scientist for a Day’.

This initiative, where businesses who might have a process, product or a general problem/challenge, can have a scientist (or engineer for that matter) pop along to their premises – free – for a day (though that can actually be split up across two or three days if required).

Given that IRL is New Zealand’s major concentration of applied chemistry, physics, mathematics and process engineering R&D, it strikes sticK as being an excellent offer.

Often businesses are so involved with busy-ness, they don’t have the opportunity to explore options.

And sure, the objective for IRL is to increase its own commercial business beyond that obtained from government science funding.

But isn’t that what the ‘I’ part of the new Ministry of Science and Innovation is all about – that is, cranking up the production of new, novel, price-making rather than price-taking goods and services?

The SFAD idea came out of a group of scientists taking part in a leadership programme that IRL’s had in place for the past two or so years.

It could almost be regarded as a sibling to the What’s Your Problem New Zealand? competition won by Resene last year, where the paint company won $1 million of research into producing a non-oil (in fact carbohydrate-based) paint base.

Organic chemist Ralf Schwoerer was one of the presenters at the launch – in part reflecting that about half of IRL’s scientists are originally from outside New Zealand.

In the leadership programme, “we asked ourselves, why not get our technical people to go out and talk with industry,” Schwoerer says.

And so it is, and businesses of any size are being invited to register their interest via IRL’s website (register here).

As BusinessNZ chief executive Phil O’Reilly commended (though as one of the SFAD’s sponsors you wouldn’t expect any less), “this is an original, fresh idea.”

O’Reilly also made the comment that with regards to innovation and business, “something is in the air.”

“Businesses are seeing innovation as a method of competitive advantage for them. Businesses realise they can’t cost-cut their way to success, and in looking for a more effective way of competing are looking to add to their income line.”

For a country with thin capital markets, a long way away from many of its markets, new and novel products are a key way to achieve enhanced income. IRL clearly sees part of its role as helping the country – working for its greater good even.

Applications to have a SFAD come and visit a business are open till June 30.

A measure of its success will be over-subscription.

Now, wouldn’t that be a good problem, no challenge, for IRL to have!