Richard Bentley recommends science and innovation revamp to boost tech exports

Wellington-based management consultant and company director Richard Bentley is calling for changes to the way New Zealand’s science and innovation system operates

Wellington-based management consultant and company director Richard Bentley is calling for changes to the way New Zealand’s science and innovation system operates, saying there is potential to accelerate growth in technology-based exporters.

Bentley’s views are set out in his just published book Innovate! Transforming New Zealand’s technology - based economy. It is claimed to present “a review of the state of our technology-based exporting sectors, how the science and innovation system supports our exporters, and explores the government’s role in developing an innovative export sector.”

According to Bentley, since the deregulation of the 1980s, New Zealand has adopted a passive approach to developing an innovative economy and to the development of the export sector, in complete contrast to the approach adopted by wealthy OECD countries,

He argues that New Zealand invests heavily in science research but not in technology for business, and says new initiatives by government are required to give manufacturers better access to the science and technology capabilities of New Zealand’s universities.

Writing about the book on his web site, Bentley says it has its origins in Sir Paul Callaghan’s book Wool to Weta “where he proposed that New Zealand needed to develop our technology-based economy to avoid slipping further toward a low wage economy.”

He adds: “Around the same time, the insightful report Powering Innovation, which I was involved in, revealed the numerous deficiencies in the science and innovation system, and proposed a number of improvements including the idea that the innovation system needed more independent governance.”

Wool to Weta, was published in 2009. According to Amazon it evaluated the competitiveness of New Zealand’s economy, and argued the need to switch from agriculture and tourism as the economic backbone of the country, suggesting that the emerging industries of science, technology, and intellectual property would offer more prosperity. 

Bentley formerly worked in the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) where he assisted with the preparations and design for Callaghan Innovation. He was CEO of the Centre for Advanced Engineering from 2013 until its closure in 2015 and says he tried unsuccessfully to get the Government to accept, and act on the views set out in his book.

“During my period in MBIE I tried, without any success, to interest government in a sector-based approach to economic planning and development as a means to at least understand why the growth of the technology-based economy was so stilted, to identify where long-term wealth creation was most likely, and to build arguments that might justify targeted government support.”  

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