Government finally sees things MediaLab’s way — as CEO departs

Government too slow to see the value of its 'research coordination' role, says Gregg

In a parting shot, as he stepped down, Michael Gregg, CEO of MediaLab South Pacific, says he is pleased government is finally coming to appreciate the lab’s “research coordination” business model.

“Government has been far too slow and cumbersome in the way it has supported efforts in IT research,” he says. “It’s invested in various projects without much sign of coordination.”

However, the key government body, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FoRST), has now “clearly identified the function of ‘research coordinator’ and understands its value”, Gregg says.

As Computerworld goes to press, MediaLab and FoRST have announced the formation of a multi-million dollar research programme, called Express.

Express will be organised on the basis that MediaLab has used and encouraged for the past few years — of coordinating the efforts of a number of research teams outside the lab, particularly in universities.

The lab does not undertake its own research but commissions it from outside organisations. Executive chair Richard Bentley has signalled a search for more internal technical expertise, but Gregg says talk of a “restructure” is overstated.

Apart from the identified skills need, the company is set to perform well with its present structure, he says.

MediaLab has built itself up after four-and-a-half years to the point where it has been able to move from being an incorporated society to a limited liability company. It has become profitable and has always been able to meet its payroll, Gregg says.

There were some false steps along the way, such as the move into the Medici consortium for development of new business collaboration and visualisation tools, he says.

“That never really got started,” partly due to lack of support from government and industry, Gregg says. That signal may drive MediaLab into areas of research with more immediate application potential.

While some parts of the research establishment, such as Industrial Research, have moved away from wireless, a particular interest of MediaLab’s, others have picked up this need, he says.

Gregg has the next step in his career firmly planned, but declines to talk about it until next month. The new venture will still be very much involved with ICT, he says, and will take him back to the early stages of evolving a business. “I’m a start-up guy”, he says.

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