Massey University is running a research programme to help small- to medium-size manufacturing companies in New Zealand identify and adopt new technologies.
Professor Peter Robertson, head of the university's department of consumer technology, has won a $428,000 research grant for the work from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.
"The project aims to use a multidisciplinary group approach to define, develop and implement appropriate technology audit techniques and strategic planning methods to help small and medium sized businesses adopt new technologies," he says.
In its initial phase, the programme will identify technological deficiencies and opportunities within small businesses. A pilot group of 20 businesses across New Zealand in the sectors of furniture, food, electronics and process engineering will be diagnosed. Based on this initial study and detailed technology audit, the research group will investigate how to improve the technological capabilities of the selected businesses, by sourcing appropriate technologies and expertise, and implementing a co-operative technology adoption project programme.
"The idea of the project is to identify ways that small companies can improve their product design and manufacturing. One of the key problems is that it is difficult to get overseas information on things such as new technology, technology trends, consumer trends, and market developments.
Part of the aim is to demystify IT and technology. These companies rarely use IT in a precise way. They might pick up the latest magazine but they won't do any directed research on the Internet and they don't often realise that there are sites giving this information."
Robertson says sites such as the European Union's Commission on Research and Development Information Services provide databases on technological trends and developments at a low cost.
"Universities provide a lot of information that would be of interest and which doesn't cost a lot. For example the University of Monash, has a new type of prototyping facility called stereo lithography which can be down loaded."