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Posts Tagged Callaghan Innovation

The Kiwi innovation space is starting to look awfully crowded Peter Kerr Apr 16

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Is it just me, or is the innovation/commercialisation space looking awfully crowded and confused these days?

Sure, we like to think we’re (NZ Inc) inventive and entrepreneurial.

But there seem to be more entities out there offering innovation (and I shudder to use the term) advice, funding and connections than there are companies with good ideas.

Wearing my taxpayer’s hat, I have no problem when private money puts their proverbial on the line and takes a punt on a startup or early stage company being the next big market success.

Therefore the angel investor community, private equity companies and even family, friends and fools are to be admired and encouraged.

But the plethora of government, university and regionally financed organisations servicing our entrepreneurs is started to look very overlapping, rather uncoordinated; and the lack of transactions by some players needs to be questioned.

A cursory list includes (I’m not sure if I should apologise for accidentally missing some!):

NZVIF

Callaghan Innovation

MBIE (well, parts of it)

KiwiNet (and the individual university commercialisation units that are part of it)

Icehouse

SODA

BBC

CreativeHQ

powerHouse

Sparkbox

In fact this blog was inspired by the recent announcement that there is to be a merger between Wellington-based Kerasi Ltd, and powerHouse – though Kerasi’s website states it is a powerHouse partner so decide for yourself who the kingpin.

powerHouse has also recently announced a merger with Dunedin incubator Upstart.

Then there’s a new body I’d never heard of – Innovation Council NZ.

Again, one of its main sponsors is government via Callaghan Innovation.

All in all, I’m afraid it means that there is quite a bit of overhead costs to be paid for by someone (us) as all and sundry scramble around looking for something to invest in.

In other words, there’s lots of pedaling by a lot of people, but without the sense of urgency that having your own money invested brings to the game.

There will be a lot of meetings though, and any number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through to make sure that ‘value’ is being delivered to the taxpayer.

And then, by the time that someone higher up that government food chain ponders the question of whether flinging a whole lot of money at innovation, and seeing what sticks, actually does work, it’ll be time for another change of policy.

But by then minister of everything Steven Joyce will probably have ditched the science and innovation part of his portfolio!


A hidden gem in Callaghan Innovation’s business case? Peter Kerr Jan 21

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Callaghan Innovation’s business case came out a week before Christmas among a flurry of keep it under the radar government documents released about the same time.

(Ironically, the business case appeared a couple of hours after sticK commented that it hadn’t turned up…though I’m not claiming any credit!).

As a some people commented, it wasn’t much different from CI’s Statement of Intent delivered in late July.

But, delving among the entrails is the first new, rather than inherited, scheme put up by the Crown Agency.

A repayable grants programme. (As described in their own words on page nine of the document it is):

Repayable Grants Programme: provides grants to technology-focused incubators in order to create and nurture new businesses based on promising areas of technology. This new programme will ramp up to providing 24 grants annually of $450,000. These grants must be repaid once the new businesses begin generating revenues.

Now there’s not much flesh or other information around this RPG, but what it essentially is, is a repayable loan if and when a fledgling company starts making money.

Israel (among a number of exemplar countries) has had this model for a number of years, as mentioned in the fourth paragraph of a guest blog by Daniel Saunders in VCCafe.

From what I gather, the main advantage of such a repayable loan is it recognises that many technology focused ventures are risky; a punt.

That being the fact, if they succeed, the money’s paid back. If not, ‘deems da breaks’.

It is also relatively simple to administer – and much less influenced by a bureaucrat’s whim (apparently).

So, a bit of a thumbs up for Callaghan Innovation…some innovation of its own.

We’ll look forward to seeing how the RGP is going to work in actuality, as Callaghan Innovation works towards its stated ideal of being a small R and big D in New Zealand’s R&D (research and development) landscape.


Callaghan Innovation’s evolution gets curiouser and curiouser Peter Kerr Dec 17

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The analogy of Alice in Wonderland, and curiouser and curiouser comes to mind with Callaghan Innovation.

That and a type of ennui as the 14-months-in-existence Crown Agent struggles to come into life.

Firstly, rumour has it (from a number of well-informed people) that minister of everything Steven Joyce is sitting on CI’s business plan.

Such a business plan was meant to be delivered not long after (but never really defined) CI’s Statement of Intent which came out in early July.

So six months later all we still have is a generic SOI of what Callaghan Innovation will do.

How, (the hard part) is still to be revealed through this business plan. Which, by inference means Steven’s just a bit wary (and one suspects weary) of it.

But wait, there’s more.

In the meantime, there’s been an announcement of a new stakeholder advisory board for CI.

As the press release says:

“This panel of experts will support the Callaghan Innovation Governance Board to deliver fresh thinking, and offer a diversity of perspective and experience that will help grow New Zealand’s economy through science and innovation.”

Intriguing.

The Callaghan Innovation board was announced in January.

Just what has it, and more particularly its chair Sue Suckling been up to since then?

And, with the advisory board on-board as well, who is going to be responsible for what?

sticK always argued that the cart was in front of the horse in effectively scrapping the old IRL without defining what the new entity would do, or how it would do it.

While building the plane while you fly it may be OK for bootstrapping startups, doing the same with 400 or so scientists and engineers already employed is a much less validated process.

You have to suspect that Steven Joyce wishes he’d backed the well-planned potential morphing of IRL into an Advanced Technology Institute model, similar to say Taiwan’s ITRI.

The other exemplar that has been touted is the Danish Technology Institute. Callaghan representatives (and dozens of other NZ science people have visited this over the past decade).

Both ITRI and DTI are applied science/engineering-heavy entities that work hand-in-glove with industry and academia to turn prototypes and concepts into sellable commercial products.

Both have a well-defined mandate; they know their role.

Which, for all the commercialisation-speak of the embryonic Callaghan Innovation; it is still a long way off defining.

Quite where and how the new CI stakeholder advisory board will ‘advise’ Callaghan Innovation will be fascinating.

But, if the advisory board chairman Andrew Coy (magnetic resonance equipment-maker Magritek chief executive) wanted to help the country and his own company’s growth, he could do much worse than suggest dusting off the ATI model.

It could be just the thing to bring to a Mad Tea Party.


Callaghan Innovation’s own goal? Peter Kerr Aug 30

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Let’s call it an own goal eh.

How else can we describe Callaghan Innovation Research Ltd’s (CIRL), effectively the old Industrial Research as subsumed into the new-ish entity, failure to obtain millions of dollars’ worth of research funding from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment?

Now, CI announced in its high level Statement of Intent in early July (not a business plan note) as a key feature of its operational framework, that it will

“no longer participate in the government’s contestable funding process after the current round”.

(note, emphasis is by me)

But, prior to this announcement, in the early New Year its various science teams put the usual huge efforts into attempting to secure some of the $297 million for up to seven years research. Proposals are asked for across the biological industries, high-value manufacturing and services, energy and minerals, environmental, and health and society sectors. The successful bidders were announced on August 28.

In the end, only CIRL’s High Temperature Superconducting team were successful – $7.46 million over four years. (Given this dowry of sorts, that’ll make them reasonably attractive for a university to bring under its arm).

But it means that many of the other teams – the internationally regarded carbohydrate chemistry and energy and power services for example – missed out completely on being one of the 51 successful research programmes out of 229 proposals.

Apparently CI will ensure funding for these teams by taking money from its Accelerator Services budget and keep them ticking over.

Perhaps it is indicative of a disjoint between MBIE and Callaghan Innovation.

Perhaps it is MBIE and its Science Board feeling that CI has plenty of its own money to splash around.

Perhaps it is The Treasury indicating a degree of discomfort with what is being created (and destroyed).

Perhaps it is their joint minister Steven Joyce failing to make sure that the carry over to whatever CI becomes is tidy and seamless and politically non-headlining.

But, it is not a good look, and hence the own goal comparison.

At the same time, you have to feel sorry for the scientists and engineers at CIRL who missed out on research funding. They must be in an uncomfortable place, twiddling their thumbs while waiting for the supposed deluge of interest and co-investment from New Zealand industry.

Remember, this is what predicated the creation of Callaghan Innovation instead of the Advanced Technology Institute model as proposed by the former IRL. The ATI model was intended to be more of a problem-solver for industry, while CI’s statutory objective is:

“to support science and technology-based innovation and its commercialisation by businesses.”

Now, we’re still to see how CI intends to do this.

Apparently a scientist at the Wednesday 28 August Gracefield announcement that CIRL had missed out on considerable chunks of research funding, asked when the business plan could be expected – to which the reply was “it is being worked on”.

Having not appointed the interim Chief Financial Officer (James Corrigan) nor the interim GM, People and Capability (Peter Stipkovitz) to the actual roles, while their replacements get their feet under their seats, there will be another disruption which will no doubt further delay the plan.

Continuing the sporting theme, we’ll just call that an injury break, and bring on the untrained reserves eh.


We’re no closer to a national SETD plan, strategy, attack – call it what you will Peter Kerr Jul 30

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Taking a further opportunity to look at Callaghan Innovation’s Statement of Intent, it begs further questions relating to our country’s overall Research, Science and Technology spend. (Or, to further broaden it, our Science, Engineering, Technology and Design [SETD led innovation]).

  1. What are we actually trying to do?
  2. Who’s doing what?
  3. How efficient (or what’s the efficacy of) our total spend? (In fact, this is a blog on its own – if anyone has any data on how much of the allocated science spend ends up in science rather than government bureaucracy and science organisation/university administration costs, I’d love to know)

Now, CI is meant to be more at the end of converting good science and engineering oriented ideas into commercial reality and money-makers.

And, as it says itself, while CI isn’t going to be bidding for any of the funding areas in R, S & T, it is certainly still in the overall mix.

However, what is still totally unclear, in fact non-existent, is an overall national SETD plan. There is no STRATEGY.

The only mention in the CI SoI is in passing on page 19 which talks about setting up National Technology Networks.

“These Networks could become a framework for a national science and innovation strategy which can help define a more strategic approach to funding rather than making one-off decisions on individual proposals.”

If that’s the case, yet again we’re going to have a national plan as an after-thought.

It’s a bit like retrospectively figuring what we’re doing after we’ve assembled all the pieces, rather than figuring out WHAT we want to do, and THEN assembling the pieces.

Sure, having industry input into what the future might hold is important; but they’re more interested in the here and now, meaning say a two year future-view.

It is an underwhelming way to approach things – a middling method that the likes of Taiwan, Singapore, Finland et al abandoned long ago. It is, yet again, putting the cart in front of the horse.

It also flies in the face of Recommendation #13 from the ‘Powering Innovation’ document of June 2011, which, presumably, formed much of the basis for Callaghan Innovation.

Oversight and Leadership

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.

Now, perhaps there’s a cunning plan to set up such a council.

On page 10 of CI’s SoI, under the third bullet point sits the sentence.

“The [Callaghan Innovation Act 2012] Act provides for the Responsible Minister to appoint a stakeholder advisory group to support Callaghan Innovation’s work.”

Might I suggest, strongly, Mr Joyce, that this be set up post haste.

Our country desperately needs a simple and clear view of what we’re going to concentrate on for high-value and other value-added manufacturing (especially around some of our biological resources).

I appreciate it is a brave political statement to say; ‘right, we’re heading here, by doing this’, but it is what is lacking at our highest level.

Shuffling such a responsibility down to where it won’t see the light of day within Callaghan Innovation will simply mean more deck-chair arranging for our SETD.

All of the exemplar countries that our bureaucracy and ministers are fond of saying we should be like, lead from the top, based on a Science and Innovation Council.

Even if such a council gets it wrong, at least it is a direction….and you can change direction.

At the moment we have nothing.

To focus our own SETD efforts, we need to do the same as other countries have done and lay our cards on the table for all to see and understand.


Callaghan Innovation taxis to the start(up) of the commercialisation runway Peter Kerr Jul 11

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At last we have something concrete on what Callaghan Innovation may look like.

Here it is folks, CI’s Statement of Intent.

It’s been a long time coming, but, moving forward, what’s the vehicle to be created?

CI has a mission that’s clear, if generic, in its intent (which I much prefer to see described as a purpose as this article describes, but that’s nit-picking).

“To accelerate the commercialisation of innovation by firms in New Zealand”

CI paints a picture of what it wants to look like by the end of 2016 (the vision thing), through providing a list of Top Ten outcomes. (Having attempted to write such forward-looking documents in the past, and discovered the trickiness of mixing past, present and future tenses, I commend this approach).

Under these CI sees its primary roles to be to: Motivate, Connect and Deliver.

‘Motivate’ is a ra, ra to promote an innovation culture, ‘Deliver’ is mostly a realignment of the old IRL to provide research and technical services to support near-to-market innovation by firms.

‘Connect’ is where CI is putting its money on the table – literally and figuratively – designing and implementing a portfolio of tools and programmes under the umbrella of Accelerator Services.

There are four main components (the new stuff) to these Accelerator Services.

  • National Technology Networks – with seven ‘initial thinking’ groups. Part of NTN’s role is to pull together the SETD (science, engineering, technology, design) capability across the NZ Inc system. These initial networks are:
  1. Applied chemistry and biotechnology
  2. Advanced materials
  3. Robotics and automation
  4. Imaging and sensing
  5. Photonics
  6. Digital technologies and software
  7. Data processing and modelling
  • Innovation Agents
  • “Avatar” project – a big new initiative and IT project incorporating social media and cloud-based search techniques , which ‘will enable a dynamic virtual community of firms and service providers to connect with each other and share information and ideas’
  • “Big Projects” – CI “will build, support or adopt strategic consortia of New Zealand firms to pursue these opportunity-driven, mission-focused “Big Projects”

CI recognises its new focus has implications. The more fundamental science and research programmes (of the old IRL) will transit over the next year or so to universities and other CRIs. In turn, CI will not pursue contestable funding which is primarily intended for scientific research.

The old IRL Gracefield site is to become an ‘innovation precinct’, with others in Auckland and Christchurch, though this requires a detailed business case and (more) consultation.

There are 14 HVMS (high value manufacturing sector) businesses that already have tenancies on the Gracefield site, and CI will seek out one to three well-regarded successful high value firms who may be willing to relocate parts of their business there as anchor tenants.

An interesting aside of this innovation precinct initiative is that some of what will become CI’s Research and Technical Services specialists are expected to hold joint appointments between CI and their new employer (which also includes universities and CRIs). It already happens a bit nowadays, but making the American model (academia-government-industry), with its ability to swap and change roles and locales as an explicit desire is a good idea.

Earlier on in the 57 page Statement of Intent CI states that it

‘will have to establish itself as a well-informed “honest broker” in the eyes of both firms and SETD providers nationwide’.

That honest broker role, in a nutshell, is the crux.

To state the obvious, time will tell whether it achieves this objective. CI has been almost a year in gestation and undermined some of the goodwill in however you define innovation, so probably has a bit of ground to make up on this front.

The quality of what CI calls Innovation Agents will also be crucial. These are the go-between/hand-holders for innovating firms, R,S & T providers and funding.

Finding the hard and soft mix in a person with the gravitas, been-there-done-that experience, technical knowledge, willingness to go into bat for an innovating company and non-bureaucraticness (nope, not a word) will be extremely challenging.

CI will also have to live up to one guiding principle (page 9):

  • Do more of what works and “call failure fast” on what doesn’t work

and two particular sentences (on page 24):

“Whenever a marketing initiative is tried, but fails to get much response it will quickly be discontinued, consistent with our “call failure fast” principle. It will be important to analyse why a particular approach did not work so that learning can be applied to alternative strategies.”

Now, government departments in general, and the people within them in particular don’t like to admit failure. Who does?

Whether, because it is a Crown Agent, this fail fast feature of startups can be inculcated in CI, and is publicly revealed,  will be extremely interesting.

But, at least the intention’s there!

P.S.

This Statement of Intent document screams for a diagram or two.

Understanding the relationships between National Technology Networks, Innovation Agents, CI’s Research and Technology Services, Avatar, Big Projects and the rest of its fingers in many pies would be wonderful, and help form a picture of what Callaghan Innovation intends to become.

I look forward to it.


Callaghan Innovation to reveal its scientists’ fate today? Peter Kerr Jul 09

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Well, only about a year after a whole process started, the chemists, physicists, mathematicians and engineers of Callaghan Innovation, the old IRL, find out more about their fate today.

Whether, or how, they fit under CI’s as yet undisclosed form and function may hopefully be revealed.

But given the protracted creation of a commercialisation agency that the science minister has more control over than the other Crown Research Institutes under his portfolio, don’t expect too much.

Today apparently it is more of a statement of intent that these scientists learn about, though none of them are allowed to speak to media.

It may not be that science and scientists fit under what CI is to be.

However, given that cabinet’s yet to sign off the business case that senior ministers insisted be drawn up before the end of June, Joe Public’s going to be just as much in the dark as the collective expertise of the former IRL.

Heck, we can just add it to the rest of the collateral damage created when the CI cart was put in front of the horse, and New Zealand witnessed a publicly funded startup, startup, with little idea beyond the word ‘commercialisation’ of what and how it was or is to operate.

Now, it could be that the science resource currently sitting within CI, could fit better under other structures such as universities, or even a new technology institute model.

But the last thing that we need is the old IRL’s science resource withering on the vine as it has over the past year as nothing really happens.

So, today, with luck, a bit of direction from and by CI whose job its website tells us is ‘to accelerate commercialisation of innovation by firms in New Zealand’.


Where’s Callaghan Innovation’s business plan……because while we wait nothing happens? Peter Kerr Jun 11

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Now that Steven Joyce has fixed (or not) the Novopay teachers’ pay debacle, perhaps he’d like to turn his attention back to Callaghan Innovation.

Remember that minister – the commercialisation entity (however loosely you want to define it) created as something new (but based on the bones of the old IRL) where its establishment chair Sue Suckling reported only to you.

The CI establishment also by-passed the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment too you might recall, even though that was the relatively recently formed super-ministry charged with most of the science investment in New Zealand.

The former IRL had a well thought out plan to morph into a three-major-city Advanced Technology Institute model, which, while I’m sure would’ve had teething troubles had the virtue of working on the basis that industry would come to it with actual problems to solve. I bet now you wish you’d let them get on with this.

Just to refresh your memory too Steven, CI kicked off in February this year and was supposed to come up with a business case by the end of June. Which in itself is the cart before the horse in the normal scheme of things (usually businesses have a business plan first) – and something I’m sure you would have never have contemplated in the private sector.

But I guess things are a bit different when it’s taxpayer money and the buck never really stops anywhere.

However, you might like to check out what’s happening at CI.

Rumour has it that there’s an ongoing unresolved debate on whether CI’s focus should be on helping small companies grow through developing their good ideas, or whether helping larger companies expand further by backing research, development and commercialisation of their efforts should be where efforts are directed.

Personally, I can’t see that it is an either/or argument ….. a good idea, no matter where it comes from, that can be scaled quickly is the main objective from our country’s point of view.

That’s how we create wealth.

Because the thing is, while CI fiddles nothing much else happens, just a whole lot of wheelspinning.

I realise too that the 0800 Innovation telephone number was meant to address the huge number of companies and entrepreneurs supposedly frustrated at not being able to talk to the right people at the right time to take their ideas through to a more marketable prototype or product.

But, the reality is, anyone with even half a brain could get hold of the technical smarts required – so that premise, among many, was totally faulty.

All of which is a pity. Firstly, for wrecking something that wasn’t broke, and secondly for not yet replacing it with something, anything.

This is at a time when we, as in NZ Inc, really need to crank up the extent of our innovation, fill its funnel with good ideas and be prepared to fail fast with no-goers and back ones shown to be promising.

So Mr Joyce – if you could just get CI to come up with a business plan, we can then get on with getting on.

It doesn’t need to be complicated; a one-pager is fine, in fact ideal.

All it has to state is what CI is going to do, how it is going to do it, and how we’ll measure the success of its commercialisation efforts.

Quite simple really.

P.S. As I write this, the rumour is that CI isn’t going to present a business plan after all, but instead a statement of intent by the end of June. As we all know, such documents are hardly worth the paper they’re written on.

In the scheme of things, the actual cost and the opportunity cost to our country of such waffle and non-action is a much bigger scandal than Novopay.


National Science Challenge winners underwhelm Peter Kerr May 14

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There’s only one word really to describe the winners of the National Science Challenge – ‘wow’ writ small.

Or, perhaps it is just me that is completely underwhelmed by the announcement of 10 research areas that can comfortably be binned as business as usual.

Though, pity the team tasked with coming up with an overview of the NSC considering there were only 200 entries from greater New Zealand on where and what we should research.

Right from the get-go the challenge lacked direction, had a sort of what is it all about non-rationale.

As chairman of the NSC, the prime minister’s chief science adviser Sir Peter Gluckman is obliged to put a positive spin on the challenge.

As he commented recently:

“The intent is to invigorate the science system, allowing it to become more collaborative and strategic in its approach.”

As the Tui billboards say,

‘Yeh, right’

But firstly, a reminder of the challenges selected.

  • Aging well – harnessing science to sustain health and wellbeing into the later years of life
  • A better start – improving the potential of young New Zealanders to have a healthy and successful life
  • Healthier lives – research to reduce the burden of major New Zealand health problems
  • High value nutrition – developing high value foods with validated health benefits
  • New Zealand’s biological heritage – protecting and managing our biodiversity, improving our biosecurity, and enhancing our resilience to harmful organisms
  • Our land and water – Research to enhance primary sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving our land and water quality for future generations
  • Life in a changing ocean – understanding how we can exploit our marine resources within environmental and biological constraints
  • The deep south – understanding the role of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean in determining our climate and our future environment
  • Science for technological innovation – enhancing the capacity of New Zealand to use physical and engineering sciences for economic growth
  • Resilience to nature’s challenges – research into enhancing our resilience to natural disasters

They’re all worthy, but.

The trouble is, they’re just another ad-hoc add-on to a science and innovation system that has no clear idea of what we, NZ Inc, are trying to do, or of what particular piece(s) of a very large pie we should/could concentrate on.

At the same time (and I appreciate this is dirty-type talk) – these challenges don’t address where and how are we going to make more money for our country by clever use of R&D, and taking such new products and services to market?

There’s no connectedness between science and the economic health of our country. It means there a lack of relationships and countrywide partnering linking everything.

The NSC will achieve nothing. The public will have no more engagement with science, business is none the wiser, scientists will simply keep on keeping on.

Amongst comment, from my point of view, the best came from Prof Shaun Hendy – who was courageous enough to call a whole lot of nothing exactly that. Shaun’s a professor at Victoria University’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, as well as deputy director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. He also a regular answer-provider on National Radio’s evening show. Original story is here.

“Of the 10 science challenges selected, only one really addresses one of the key economic challenges our country faces: namely the over-dependence of our economy on the primary sector,” he said.

“Our government invests far less in physical sciences and engineering than those of other small advanced economies, leaving our economy perilously exposed to volatile commodity markets.”

Having one of the challenges “simply aimed at making better use of physical science and engineering research is disappointing, given that we have just created a new organisation, Callaghan Innovation, to do exactly this”, Prof Hendy said.

Exactly.

We have MBIE, Callaghan Innovation, the Marsden Fund, these challenges – but no clear idea of what we’re doing.

Certainly is business as usual.


Callaghan Innovation – building the plane while they fly it Peter Kerr Mar 26

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There’s a term that’s particularly loved by IT-oriented start-ups, ‘building the plane while you’re flying it’.

The business case put forward for and by Callaghan Innovation doesn’t use the term.

However, that’s what I interpret from the ‘Purpose of this document’ comment on its fourth page. (It follows an earlier sentence – Callaghan Innovation’s role does not currently exist in the New Zealand innovation system, and it is in effect a “start-up” organisation. [CI’s quotation marks]).

A bit of a pre-amble later, the document goes on to state:

Recognising these uncertainties, the draft business case submitted to Ministers on 13 December 2012 provided a development path with high levels of optionality and choices in the short to medium term, Callaghan Innovation’s investment in new tools and instruments being made in line with progress in this discovery process, and demonstrated results from pilot and service testing.

Now, perhaps unfairly, this can be interpreted as ‘we’re making it up as we go along’.

But, given:

1. The stealth-like, non-consultative manner an originally proposed Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) morphed into an all-singing, all-dancing CI
2. The fact that the CI establishment board chair (Sue Suckling) reported only and directly to minister-of-everything Steven Joyce, and
3. The lack of any (even loose) overseas model on which CI might be seen to be based,

Then there’s very little other conclusion that can be drawn.

I’m sure too that in his private-sector dealings, Steven Joyce would’ve never okayed the setting up of a new business venture before a business plan/case had been developed, but that’s what’s happening with the allocation of $166 million to be spent by CI over the next four years.

For all that, no one is going to be anti CI’s strapline ‘we accelerate commercialisation of New Zealand’s innovation’.

It is just that for all its 65 pages of business case proposal, we’re not that much wiser.

In fact, you have to wonder if recently announced chief executive Dr Mary Quin quite knows what she’s letting herself in for in taking up the new role.

In the absence of an actual nationally integrated science and innovation plan, the danger is that there’s no coherent sense of direction for our country.

At least (with a background as an engineer in materials science), Mary Quin isn’t an academic or professional manager.

Her recent experience in managing the 2,800 person USA support services company NANA Management Services, jointly owned by Alaska’s indigenous Inupiat people will no doubt serve her well in her new role.

From NZ Inc’s point of view, how and to what, she moulds an extremely amorphous Callaghan Innovation will be crucial for our country’s future.

Equally, managing relationships between CI’s chair, minister, stakeholders, researchers and the industry it is supposed to be serving will be no insignificant feat.

So, in welcoming you to the new role Dr Quin, you could do much worse that reviewing the ATI blueprints put forward by the now extinct Industrial Research Ltd.

At least those blueprints provide some idea of how to keep the CI plane in the air.

P.S. As a number of readers pointed out, Dr Michael J Kelly (ex-pat Kiwi now at Cambridge University, and former undergraduate colleague of the late Prof Sir Paul Callaghan) was interviewed by National Radio’s Kathryn Ryan on Nine to Noon on March 13. (CI chair Sue Suckling was also interviewed at the same time). One of Kelly’s main points is that there’s been no debate about how to structure the new organisation……and an inherent danger it becomes a mere broker of technical knowledge. The podcast can be found here.


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