Business leader backs Greens’ $1 billion innovation and sustainability plan

BusinessNZ Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce
Russel Norman

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Support for the Green's enhanced innovation and sustainability policies has come from the business sector. 

BusinessNZ chief executive Phill O’Reilly says he strongly supports increased funding for science and technology.

He says innovation and sustainability is needed in every sector of the economy and business favours policies that support  these goals if fiscally prudent.

The Greens’ policy, costed at $1 billion, includes the funding of an additional 1000 places at tertiary institutions for students studying engineering, maths, computer science and physical sciences.

Mr O’Reilly says the move goes to the heart of business’ need for more technically skilled employees.

“Businesses say their top issue is getting enough appropriately skilled staff," he says. "Businesses that are competing through innovation have a critical need for people with technical skills.”

The Greens’ continued support for direct R&D grants will also be welcomed, he says.

“The value of such grants is that they can be directed toward companies with high growth prospects where their industry is aligned strategically with New Zealand’s exporting strengths. 

“They can also be timed to be of most strategic value, for example late-stage development where a firm has already invested significantly in the early stages of innovative products.”

However, other policies such as firms receiving grants agreeing to the government taking an equity stake could pose risks, Mr O’Reilly says.

Green Party co-leader Dr Russel Norman says innovation lies at the heart of a smart, green economy.

“Economies that innovate do better over the long term, creating good jobs that pay well," he says. “Our economy is on the wrong track. We invest roughly only half what most other developed countries do on research and development.”

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says the Green Party needs to learn what’s already happening with innovation.

"The Greens, like Labour, have shown no interest in what's been happening with New Zealand's innovative businesses since Labour left government in 2008.

“That shows in their policy release today which is full of embarrassing 2008-style rhetoric which has long since been overtaken by time,” he says. The state's support for R&D in 2015/16 will be 70% higher than in 2008, he adds.

Jason Walls is an AUT journalism student

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