Advanced Technology Institute launch today but IRL role unclear
BUSINESSDESK: Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce today launches the government's flagship innovation engine, the new Advanced Technology Institute, but the Crown Research Institute at the heart of the proposal appears not to have been involved in the final decisions.
Inquiries by BusinessDesk to numerous government agencies and Beehive offices elicited a string of "no comments" on the question of whether Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), the Crown-owned advanced materials research institute, is actively involved in today's announcement, or has simply been informed.
IRL chief executive Shaun Coffey did not return calls.
The ATI and the role of IRL in its formation has seen a long-running battle waged between the Ministry of Science and Innovation, which became part of the new Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment this month, and IRL management.
IRL held an open day with domestic industry partners and international experts in science, innovation and high value manufacturing at its campus at Gracefield, in Wellington, on Tuesday this week.
That was intended to display its capabilities and the depth of its relationships with high-value New Zealand manufacturers of the kind the government is keen to promote.
However, suggestions are that it may come under the wing of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, as the government seeks a structure that will be highly focused on the swift creation of new high value products for export.
Mr Coffey saw off an attempt last year under then Science Minister Wayne Mapp to place IRL under the wings of the Auckland and Canterbury university engineering schools, advocating instead a collaborative approach that would see IRL represented across campuses in the country's three main centres.
However, funds voted in the May Budget to assist creation of the ATI came as news to IRL, and it appears while the government will seek to leverage its specialist skills and business relationships, it will seek leadership for the new entity elsewhere.