Innovation - Mission Critical to New Zealand
“Innovation is the way we grow wealth,” says Phil O’Reilly, Chief Executive of Business New Zealand. Phil addressed 60 business leaders at a breakfast hosted by WelTec Connect (the Wellington Institute of Technology’s commercial and business arm) on Thursday 3 May at its main trades and technology campus in Petone.
Phil commented on the small size of the New Zealand economy and how business and polytechnics can work better to maximise innovation thereby creating capital. “We need to do everything well – it’s not all about ‘high value jobs’. In New Zealand we have a long history of successful business. We’re good at finding solutions and when we solve a problem we tend to solve it for the benefit of everyone. The key is not to replicate what others are doing, but to apply our own unique approach and make the most of our intellectual property.”
Phil outlined his views on the Innovation Ecosystem which has three key elements - it’s business centred, its New Zealand-wide, and it makes the most of the establishment of Industrial Research Limited as an Advanced Technology Institute (a recommendation from the Powering Innovation Report). “It’s about technology and where every idea gets the best opportunity to go to market. Our economy is too small. Why waste time getting scientists to compete for funding when there are only one or two world-class teams in New Zealand? Give them the money and let them get on with science and innovating.”
Speaking on New Zealand’s approach to business, Phil challenged the audience to think about New Zealand’s strengths – our incredibly diverse population (which means we think differently about everyday problems), our small population which means the ‘knowledge elites’ can get together easily and New Zealand being the easiest place in the world to start a business. On the negative side he noted our distance away from markets, our attitude that we should be able to create everything here rather than maximising international connections, our lack of scale, and lack of capital.
On the role of polytechnics in the Innovation Ecosystem, Phil congratulated WelTec on the things that it is doing in Wellington and the Hutt Valley. He noted that WelTec is very adept at playing in the real world. “Polytechnics are a safe place for business. Polytechnics are local and can take science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM subjects) to a more practical place. They can help business get strategic and lead innovation.”
Phil commented that there was a lot more work to do to encourage young people to be innovative. “School to tertiary pathways, particularly into polytechnics are not well understood. I support the announcements this week on the government reprioritising funding for STEM subjects. The line between schools and tertiary education should be blurred so that young people can focus on learning, not on what type of institution they are attending.”
Media Release - 3 May 2012