New Zealanders are being told they need to act like a city of four million people to boost innovation.
Data showed larger rates of patenting were achieved in bigger cities, MacDiarmid Institute deputy director Shaun Hendy said during a panel discussion on innovation organised by the Science Media Centre today.
So while this country's patenting rate per million people was about 40% lower than that for Australia as a whole, Auckland and Adelaide – with similar regional populations – had similar numbers of patents per person, Dr Hendy said.
Data showed high patenting rates were generated in big cities.
"So the reason for the difference between Australia and New Zealand in patenting rates is Melbourne and Sydney."
Probably that was saying something about the size of businesses in cities of certain sizes, he said.
Data showed that larger cities were more collaborative, and the larger the city the more collaboration went on.
People working in innovation and knowledge generation were becoming increasingly specialised.
"When you have these high degrees of specialisation, people really need to collaborate to have an impact," Dr Hendy said.
"It's larger cities enabling these larger collaborations or teams of researchers that can make progress."
So, New Zealand needed to think and act like a city of four million people.
"We need to look at putting together multi-disciplinary, multi-institutional collaborative research networks, whether they're in business or academia," he said.
Ways also needed to be found to encourage business to spend more on research and development.
New Zealand businesses spent little on R&D, which had a big impact on patenting activity.
"It's clear that the amount of money you spend on R&D controls that level of patenting. So finding ways to improve that will lift our rates of patenting," Dr Hendy said.
Data showed New Zealand received good value in terms of patents for the amount of money spent by businesses on R&D.
"We're just as good at turning these small ideas into big ideas, but we're not having enough small ideas."
Also, looking at Finland, its education system had been able to respond quickly to the opportunity to develop mobile phone company Nokia, and this country needed to look at ways its education system and innovation system could respond as quickly.