Collaborate to thrive urges ex-pat

Neil Scott believes in collaboration. Scott, a New Zealander who left the country 15 years ago, is head of Stanford University's Archimedes Project aimed at making it easier for the disabled to use computers.

Neil Scott believes in collaboration.

Scott, a New Zealander who left the country 15 years ago, is head of Stanford University's Archimedes Project aimed at making it easier for the disabled to use computers. Through the work done at Stanford, he has run across technologies which he thinks present opportunities for New Zealand companies.

“I’m investing in my grandkids’ future,” says Scott of his efforts to match exotic technologies with Kiwi developers. His proposed method for locals to exploit the imported ideas is to licence them and build them into original products.

“Collaborating and sharing ownership is the way of making more than having exclusive ownership of a smaller pie,” Scott believes.

He gives the example of creators of systems for the construction industry, who could be working with established building sector businesses to export their products. “I’ve been telling start-ups to talk to consulting engineers; they could be their allies in overseas markets.”

“We need a cross-fertilisation of hardware and software people working with established industries.”

Scott was preaching his message in the three main centres last week. It's an approach which has a firm adherent in Mark Thomas, the founder of Auckland 3D graphics tools developer Right Hemisphere.

"Our strategy from the beginning has been partnering," says Thomas, who rattles off a list of Right Hemisphere collaborators which include Adobe, Macromedia and Intel. "It's important to work out a value proposition not just for consumers but for potential partners."

New Zealand companies on their own typically "don't have the savvy to drive things through to the consumer", Thomas says.

Scott wants to establish a New Zealand node--others are in Japan, Ireland, England and the US--of a network of companies creating products that build devices that arise from the Archimedes Project. Whereas the project's original focus was on the disabled, that's now been extended to the elderly, which Scott believes opens up further opportunities.

Thomas, who met Scott when he was last in the country in August, says he's keen to be involved.

Scott says an advantage New Zealand companies could exploit is the comparative cheapness of building product prototypes here, which he puts at about 10% of the US cost. But he warns that New Zealand companies shouldn’t sell themselves short when US firms show an interest in their products.

Thomas says that's a matter of knowing your value to partners.

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