Itanz boss says report valuable despite clichés

Despite some very familiar language and proposals in a report by the new Science and Innovation Advisory Council (SIAC) on New Zealand's innovation potential, ITANZ executive director Jim O'Neill says the study may at last be the catalyst to turn the government's focus beyond social objectives towards science- and technology-based innovation.

Despite some very familiar language and proposals in a report by the new Science and Innovation Advisory Council (SIAC) on New Zealand’s innovation potential, ITANZ executive director Jim O’Neill says the study may at last be the catalyst to turn the government’s focus beyond social objectives towards science- and technology-based innovation.

In his view that is a priority. Until the country has achieved better economic performance —and that entails innovation — it will not gain sufficient wealth to see the social objectives through.

The report says as much: “If we want to achieve our vision and enjoy the education, health and other benefits that wealthy nations can afford, we need to be a wealthy nation too … Over the last 50 years, we haven’t kept up with the economic growth achieved by many other nations … We can’t expect to live like a first world nation if we have an economy dominated by low value industries — unless we trade more profitably.”

The content of the document may seem trite, but the council has done a hard and successful job of convincing government of the need for a change in outlook, O’Neill says.

The mere fact that the council — a diverse group of voluntary sector representatives - is still together is an indication that something significant is being achieved, he suggests.

“If they felt they were not making progress, or that what they were saying would not be acted on, they’d have been out of there.”

The report calls for the evolution of a “NZInc” outlook. “We need a NZ Inc investment plan with short-term, medium-term and long-term goals.”

The report calls for “leadership from the top … Create a high-powered team of government and private sector people, led by the prime minister, to co-ordinate and drive the change agenda for innovation and economic transformation.” In this, SIAC seems to be describing itself.

A familiar call is issued to “ensure that our tax, finance and bankruptcy regimes do not punish calculated risk-taking.”

SIAC also says tertiary education must also become more aligned with our economic and social development needs, there is a need to improve the relationship between business and our research institutions and universities, and that all schools will need broadband access (not less than 512Kbit/s) to support ICT-based learning programmes.

The full text of the report is available here.

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