High-value manufacturing R&D review sure to cause some ripples

By Peter Kerr 19/04/2011

The review and report about how R&D can better support NZ’s high-value manufacturing and services sector should be made public pretty soon.

It should be interesting reading – especially given that its authors had less than a month to carry out the interviews and writing. (See original sticK story here)

Therefore, much of the thinking in it must’ve already been pre-determined.

All in all, the report will undoubtedly continue on the more focused, more industry-assistance tone (without calling it picking winners) that recent noises out of Wellington has been heralding. A recent thought piece by MED economist Roger Procter is but one of the changes in thinking (see sticK story here).

Partly too it is a recognition that the competitive research funding model of the past 20 odd years is not a good defacto means of deriving a national research and innovation strategy (in the absence of actually developing one)

Given that similar sized countries as New Zealand have actively kept research and industry in the same room (so to speak), we can expect the report by Prof John Raine, Prof Mina Teicher and Phil O’Reilly to provide high level directions while being non-prescriptive (as its terms of reference said).

The ever-so-slowly merging Ministry of Science and Innovation (from the combined Foundation and Ministry of Research, Science and Technology) officials are more than likely already developing policy based on the report’s findings.

How the report handles the recent flown suggestions that there should be more CRI mergers will be interesting. While much of the pure high-tech manufacturing R&D capability resides with IRL, the review team was also to examine biotech, agritechnologies and meat and wool related agritech activities.

So, while the nation’s not waiting with baited breath for the report – its impact will, without doubt, ripple across the R&D and the innovation ecosystem.

(Uumm, I wonder too if they’ll be brave enough to recommend a national innovation strategy!)