Knowledge Wave: NZ needs to generate more wealth says Clark

New Zealand's export profile resembles that of a developing country, according to Prime Minister Helen Clark, who has released a report that has a goal of breathing new life into economy within 12 months.

New Zealand’s export profile resembles that of a developing country, according to Prime Minister Helen Clark, who has released a report that has a goal of breathing new life into economy within 12 months.

Clark spoke at the opening of the dinner session on day one of the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland, noting that New Zealand was not generating enough wealth “to keep us high in the first league”.

The report was the work of the government’s Science and Innovation Advisory Council that proposes an “innovation framework” for the country. SIAC, which was set up last year by Clark to examine education, commitment to science, R&D and IT and communications infrastructure, and offer advice on how best to enable New Zealand to become a “knowledge-driven” society, came up with seven challenges for the country in its Innovation Framework for New Zealand:

  • reward “can-do”, risk-taking and success
  • educate for a knowledge economy
  • become a “magnet” nation for talent
  • generate wealth from ideas and knowledge
  • excel globally
  • “network, collaborate and cluster”
  • take an investment-driven approach to government.

Among speakers at the conference was former Xerox chief scientist John Seely Brown, a former head of Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Centre), birthplace of numerous ground-breaking information technologies.

Brown identified key characteristics of Silicon Valley as a source of innovation.

The first, he says, is the rich interaction between universities and firms. The important part of that is that it is a two-way relationship which benefits both parties, he says.

The second aspect Brown identifies is Silicon Valley's strong risk/reward culture and its positive attitude to success. Brown identifies the third characteristic of the Valley as "quick births and no slow deaths". Companies are helped to easily start up but they are quickly folded if they fail to prove their worth.

Expatriate Jilly Evans, director of pharmacology for US drug company Merck’s research laboratories, urged conference attendees to tap into the talent of the 500,000 offshore New Zealanders.

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