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Now the idea of a ‘Kiwi Landing Pad’ (KLP) in San Francisco may or may not be a good idea.

The need for relatively small Kiwi companies to have a place to call home in the USA from which to attempt to sell their wares, can perhaps be justified on an economic argument, and most definitely on an emotional one.

What’s harder to fathom is why the Ministry of Science and Innovation has fronted up with US$300,000 to set up a hub in the southern part of San Francisco in what is known as the Market district. Cloud accounting company Xero is one of the first tenants for the KLP, which has been initiated by TradeMe founder Sam Morgan. It has also been supported by Sir Stephen Tindall.

Sure, MSI is (ever so slowly) figuring out its role. Getting the ‘I’ part of its name up to speed seems to be taking forever, and it’s a pity present Minister Wayne Mapp is quitting politics at the coming elections — the caretaker nature of his ministerial overview can’t help drive what is needed from the innovation point of view.

In MSI’s statement of intent, it lists (and puts in a diagram) one of its strategic partners as being NZ Trade & Enterprise.

Which is the point, actually.

Surely it is NZTE’s role to fund/partner this type of initiative?

NZTE has an office an hour or two down the road in Los Angeles, but of even more relevance, San Francisco is the location of one of its key ‘Beachhead’ programmes.

Wouldn’t the KLP be a graphic example of a Beachhead — one located in the famed Silicon Valley? Isn’t this the sort of project that sits much more comfortably in NZTE’s camp?

For New Zealand’s sake, we have to hope this isn’t some kind of turf war that’s going on between MSI and all-comers. The fact that MSI has the biggest budget allocation doesn’t mean it should be carrying out a multitude of roles.

There’s been no mention of such a change in government departmental responsibilities — and there’s certainly nothing indicated in MSI’s statement of intent (under whatever broad way you want to define innovation), that says underwriting relatively wealthy Kiwis’ USA real-estate plays is part of its core mission.

And while we’re in a ‘What are you up to MSI’ mode, the following observations?

The ministry’s invited a dozen or so stakeholders and strategic thinkers to Wellington for a stakeholder engagement exercise on 12/13 Sept.

How many people accept the invitation to the exercise will be interesting, but perhaps MSI needs to ask itself some other questions first.

• How many of these extremely busy people (the great and the good across industry and science) are prepared or able to set aside the two days asked for?
• What is the role of MSI’s Innovation Board?
• What is the role of MSI’s Science Board?
• What is the role of MSI’s senior management team?

The last question’s perhaps a bit unfair, as its senior management team hasn’t long been in their roles. But, wouldn’t heading out to ask some of the questions the engagement exercise would probably do so, be a perfect reason for them to get out around New Zealand and see what’s needed at the coalface?