Technology companies need to skite more

By Peter Kerr 17/11/2011

Perhaps the main ‘problem’ with the majority of the companies that make up the TIN100 is they fly beneath the general public’s radar.

They’re not about fashion, or coffee, or rugby, and 90% of the revenue earned by these clever companies is from easy-to-miss exports. If they were in the USA or Germany or China, they’d be feted.

Even though the ICT software/services, high tech manufacturing and biotechnology companies that make up the ‘Technology Investment Network 100’ had record revenues of $7 billion last year, many New Zealanders would be hard-pressed to name half a dozen of them. (The TIN100 report is here.)

Which is a pity, because in a time of economic tightness, the top 100 (there’s also a second 100) grew revenues by 5%, and lifted employee numbers by 6% to 30,000.

One of the reasons for such strong performance is that R&D spend by these companies is 5% of total sales. At the same time they’re selling stuff, they’re getting the next products ready for the market as well.

And there must be faith in this strategy — R&D employee numbers grew by 6% in these companies.

For TIN100 principal sponsor, IRL (about to become high-tech HQ), the statistic that R&D partnerships with universities and CRIs by these companies grew from 13% from 7% must be heartening. As IRL’s commercialisation manager Gavin Mitchell said at the Wellington launch of the report, there’s also a large opportunity for the company to work with the high value manufacturing and other sectors ‘and help grow on something that’s more than the number eight wire mentality.’

TIN100 managing director Greg Shanahan said one of the features of companies doing well in exports, is how they’re using Australia as a springboard for initial large growth, and leaping to the rest of the world from there.

There’s a heck of a lot of good stuff happening in and by these companies says Shanahan.

‘People just aren’t aware of it,’ he says.

‘If there’s a real plea, talk about your successes locally. That will build the desire of students to study science, to be entrepreneurs. The trouble is, most of these companies are invisible apart from this forum [TIN100].’