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It may be drawing too long a bow, but was David Carter hinting he might have the ministerial portfolio role following National’s (expected) election win?

Speaking at a NZ Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science forum in Wellington last week, the current Minister of Agriculture and acting Minister for Economic Development is one of at least half a dozen MPs putting their hand up for the role.

What is fantastic is that following the implementation of many of the CRI Taskforce Review’s recommendations, there is now intense competition among senior cabinet ministers for the role. Carter is known to be one of those putting their had up for what is now a pivotal component of the government’s economic development strategy.

For the record, when four parties different MPs were asked what the appropriate NZ investment in R&D should be, Carter said that given the upcoming election, he wasn’t at liberty to announce anything.

“But I don’t expect anyone to be disappointed,” were his words.

Some of the speculative thinking that’s been going on around the place is that National’s been saving up some science announcements for its election campaign.

This is quite possibly going to be with regards to IRL‘s future.

The fact that IRL was given more time by the Ministry of Science and Innovation than the six other Crown Research Institute’s to create its Statement of Corporate Intent is interesting, as is the fact that the high value manufacturing review which begun in March and was meant to be delivered in April has now been buried somewhere.

Given that innovation, in however it is defined, is one of the few ways to crank up the economy in a better and bigger sense, using the applied physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics that resides in IRL is a clear way to lift performance of our country’s industries, including the biological ones.

Of course, John Key himself might still want to take on the role. The last time a Prime Minister was also responsible for science was Gordon Coates back in 1935, so it wouldn’t be before time!

Even if it isn’t Key, the boss will still want a competent, visionary and active minister who is pragmatic and looks for practical outcomes.

It isn’t the sort of job that a politician can slot into and hope they don’t stuff up by merely coasting.

The government has high expectations for the science and innovation space as a driver of economic prosperity.

David Carter may be the man – though given the CRI Taskforce led reforms, it is a role that other ambitious politicians can see as a means to forward the country and their own ambitions.