Did you know that the world’s first powered flight was made not by the Wright Brothers but by a New Zealander, Richard Pearce; or that the global pharmaceutical empire Glaxo Smith Kline had its origins in Bunnythorpe?
They are just two of a host of New Zealand ‘firsts’ included in a new edition of the Government’s Investor Guide to the New Zealand Technology Sector to demonstrate that “New Zealand’s technology sector has a long tradition of combining intellectual smarts with deep practical skills.”
The Glaxo claim is certainly true. Glaxo was founded in the 1850s as a general trading company in Bunnythorpe by Joseph Nathan. Glaxo was the name of his dried-milk baby food and, according to Wikipedia, the Glaxo Laboratories sign is still visible on what is now a car repair shop on the main street of Bunnythorpe.
Pearce’s achievement is questionable. According to Wikipedia, documentary evidence to support claims that Pearse flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine on 31 March 1903, nine months before the Wright brothers, “remains open to interpretation.”
It explains: “Pearse did not develop his aircraft to the same degree as the Wright brothers, who achieved sustained controlled flight and Pearse himself never made such claims.”
Leaving such trivia aside, the guide, launched by economic development minister Simon Bridges and science and innovation minister Paul Goldsmith, has been published to support the Government’s strategy to attract high-quality foreign direct investment in areas of competitiveness for New Zealand.
It lists its objectives as: overseas investment in research and development, especially encouraging multinational corporations to locate their R&D activity in New Zealand; and to attract individual investors and entrepreneurs to expand New Zealand's pool of smart capital.
The report has has been prepared by Technology Investment Network (TIN) on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. Announcing the new edition, Bridges said the tech sector was New Zealand’s third largest exporting sector, contributing $16 billion to GDP and growing fast.
“It presents multiple opportunities for New Zealand and international investors,” he said. “New Zealand technology is gaining recognition internationally along with our innovative and can-do culture, and the fact that we are ranked first in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank Group is a huge drawcard for investors.”
Goldsmith said one of the top priorities of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda was to ensure that “a growing number of early stage companies like Soul Machines and 8i [that] are attracting significant international attention for their cutting edge technologies in artificial intelligence and virtual reality,” were supported and enabled to grow and compete with the world’s leading technology innovators.
He added: “The Government is working hard to develop New Zealand as a hub for high-value, research and development intensive businesses. The recent 29 percent increase in businesses’ investment in research and development reported by Statistics New Zealand is largely driven by technology businesses, and shows that our efforts are delivering result.”