Advanced Technology Institute launch today but IRL role unclear

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce

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.

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This will only work if there is a total change in the type of people running this organisation. If it is staffed by those from MSI, CRIs and business support agencies like NZTE it will fail.

My experience is that a lot of industry cannot be bothered with the processes involved when dealing with these types of agencies. Six months to make decisions in fast moving areas is just too long.

The board needs to have people who are entreprenuers who are hands on and have a record of delivering. Academics and the likes (Buisness NZ, NZTE, MSI) would be a killer.

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Academics are often frustrated if not more frustrated by bureaucracy than people in business. Academics encounter it on a daily basis. It stifles creativity and drives many people crazy. It thwarts our ability to deliver anything at all that is extraordinary. The controls in place do not match the objectives sought. They are often excessive and represent a risk-averse mentality that is not conducive to the discovery and application of new knowledge. They are not the product of academics. Discovery and application of new knowledge is at the heart of what we want to achieve.

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Epic fail on its way. ATI will achieve nothing except to employ some bureaucrats and maybe a few scientists. Does Silicon Valley have a US oct funded and operated ATI? Not a chance. Does the CHinese government directly fund applied R&D for their manufacturing sector? Yep. Is China's manufacturing sector known for its innovations and new products? Hahahaha. The only role for government in manufacturing R&D is to fund "blue sky" R&D, basic R&D if you will, mostly at top-end universities. Taking that work into applied R&D (e.g., inventing new products) is up to industry. This same logic applies to most of the other CRIs. After 20 years, its time to a emit that the CRI model has failed, except for the parts that do basic research. Time for a wholesale change. But this won;'t come from Mr Joyce - he's only good at carrying out somebody else's plan.

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Agree with #3. curently academics get more and more frustrated.At an extreme, if academics here stop "blue sky" research, everyone knows what will happen. At that time, it is time for NZ to merge with Australia.

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New Zealand should just merge with Australia.

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