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What’s the bet the high-value manufacturing review never sees the light of day?

The March announcement, mid-April expected to be delivered review by Prof John Raine of Auckland Engineering School, Prof Mina Teicher from Israel and BusinessNZ’s Phil O’Reilly was supposed to be a once over quickly taking of the sector’s pulse – with some answers.

But, April, May, June, and July have come and gone; and the Ministry of Science and Innovation recently put out an email saying it would be coming out one day.

We’ll see.

There’s a suspicion floating around that some of the pre-conceptions around Industrial Research Ltd, and its location in Gracefield, Lower Hutt, were mis-construed. (After all, the high value manufacturing review was mostly aimed at that particular CRI).

One of these ideas is that the only manufacturing (as such) that occurs in New Zealand, takes place in Auckland and Christchurch.

That’s simply not the case.

As for the notion that science and technology expertise has to be embedded in the exact same location as the manufacturing – well, Pattrick Smellie’s recent article in Idealog about the irrelevance of distance in a country as small as New Zealand deserves highlighting (see it here).

All in all there’s a feeling around, that from IRL’s point of view, we don’t have to destroy the village to save it.

When asked at this week’s post-cabinet press conference what was happening with the review and IRL, John Key was very, well, diplomatic.

“We’re working through the issue, and very committed to building the capability,” he says. “We’re also very conscious of the role IRL plays in the Hutt, and the high significance the mayor and community put on its presence there.”

“Before the election, we’ll be in a position to expand our vision for IRL and high value manufacturing.”

Now, call me a cynic, but I can’t imagine that Mr Key and his colleagues are going to come out with a swinging axe with regard to IRL, just before the country goes to the polls.

Indeed, given the role that the government wants innovation to play in the country’s economic future, and given that IRL is the most concentrated source of chemistry, physics, mathematics and applied engineering expertise, don’t be surprised to see a cabinet recognition that while also building IRL’s Auckland and Christchurch presence, that the whole institute also gets a boost.

Just don’t expect to see the high value manufacturing review!