Give us something simple Steven, and also create an S&I council

By Peter Kerr 13/03/2012 2

As one who cut his business teeth in commercial radio, super-minister Steven Joyce will know better than most about the importance of appealing to peoples’ hearts and minds.

Now, Mr Joyce may be formulating a super science and innovation plan as we speak — however, there’s a suspicion he’s stuck in the middle at the moment.

But the middle’s no place to inspire the masses or ignite the innovation and income generating potential that (hopefully) is lurking in us.

So, for what its worth then Mr Joyce, sticK’s two cents worth.

Whatever you reckon we’re going to do, be able to state it in a sentence.

That is, ‘we’re going to concentrate on this, this and this, back it up with that, and help drive promising Kiwi ideas to global scale’.

One sentence, otherwise you lose all of us.

One sentence, and you can build all the other developments required from a logical place, a consistent reference point.

Second, the Powering Innovation review on how to crank up high value manufacturing came up with a number of well-thought out recommendations (many of them more generic and beyond the HVM brief).

Undoubtedly you’re chewing your way through how to, practically, bring some of these into being.

Getting the many ducks in the mix to fly in formation will be quite a challenge.

They range from ‘encouraging’ universities to deliver more of the STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graduates that the country needs more than hairdressers, through to allowing IRL to transform itself into an Advanced Technology Institute.

(On that note though, if rumours that a stocktake of IRL’s capabilities includes minutiae detail such as its lease arrangements are true, the big picture’s certainly being missed here).

Powering Innovation made recommendation #13 one of the long term strategic priorities.

    Recommendation 13
    Form a Science and Innovation Council, led from a very senior ministerial level in Government, with representatives from the university, public and private research organisations and from industry. Members should represent a wide range of science and technology themes, including the social sciences. The role of the Science and Innovation Council should be to establish a national innovation strategy and advise on science and innovation policy and priorities.

However, if we’re thinking hearts and minds Minister, do this now, do it first.

There would be no greater indication that we’re serious about creating prosperity than having such a council.

It is exactly what the exemplar countries such as Denmark, Finland and Singapore hove done.

And the moment you did if for New Zealand is the instant you’d indicate to the country that you’re serious about driving growth by using our brains.

Given that perception is reality, the formation of such a S&I council would be the best way to get the ducks flying in formation.

It would also get you out of that middle muddle.

Currently there’s a feeling that we’re trying to build a train (engines and carriages), but haven’t laid the track. That’s the wrong way round.

But the two simple ideas suggested fix that.

Sort out a single sentence Steven that simply states what we’re going to do.

Create a science and innovation council.

Then, you’ll gather our hearts and minds and provide the most powerful indication possible that we’re on an exciting journey – together.

2 Responses to “Give us something simple Steven, and also create an S&I council”

  • Hear, hear!

    And when you nominate the councilors make sure there is a seat for someone with a strong knowledge of managing intellectual property.

  • Almost all countries have a “science and innovation ” policy entity
    ( Australia has Science, engineering, and innovation, Canada has science, technology and innovation, etc etc.).

    Existence of councils may not even correlate with innovation or strategy or competiveness.

    New Zealand still has plenty of innovators, especially in software and financial markets, but we lack allied industrial vision to partner industry with researchers that can produce innovation that is relevant to local enterprises and requirements.

    Research remains a distress purchase for most companies, so govt funds should focus on clear national priorities. Until recently commercial development was precluded from most funding. The current model (MSI) still offers vague guidelines and broad spectrum approaches, rather than clearly focused objectives, so the funding body still has no imperative for success.

    The new model suggests that creating a technology institute will somehow create partnerships that produce innovation. Very
    unlikely, as the same corporate management will be in place that only used IRL when absolutely necessary even when it was virtually free.

    Rather than another council, why not make MSI responsible for achieving specific 5 year objectives, as China does. MSI would move from funder to manager, so wholesale staff changes would be required, but then senior scientists’ ideas would be cross fertilized, and the silos wouldn’t be so remote, allowing multiple inputs from many fields of science to solve problems.

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