We can of course do both. There are times when it is possible to establish the industry in NZ and times when that simply doesn't make sense but you make money from a discovery that someone else can use.
In the plant science field, some of our discoveries are best applied to crops that we just don't grow. In that situation it make perfect sense to license the discovery to someone who can use it. Other projects can create or improve NZ farmers/growers directly.
Both models can work and both models can generate earnings for NZ. It's worth noting that improving rice production or yield by a fraction of a percentage could make NZ more money than producing a new apple that is only grown in NZ.
"Selling out" is simply not a helpful term nor is "benefit to NZ" or "industry alignment".
I don’t think physical scientists in NZ could ever be accused of having preferred status.
I do agree. Look it's great they are getting money. Basically there isn't a science sector in NZ that isn't starved of money.
I just hope they give the money to the good science groups in IRL rather than targeting the money to perceived growth sectors.
Nice link, I particularly liked
Even the wizards of venture capital have a hard job assessing the commercial impact of a discovery.
“To expect a researcher, or a research council committee, to make any worthwhile judgement - and make it before the work has even been done - is surely absurd.”
well below the crtical mass required to support this sector
Yup true of most sectors. No worries about IRL deserving input.
My only issue is still with the idea of predicting winners rather than simply (hah!) supporting those who can do great work regardless of what sector it happens to be in.
I find it interesting that IRL is the current golden boy. They were the golden boys a few years back too, just after they laid off a bunch of their science staff. Then they almost went bankrupt and had to be bailed out and were seriously the tarnished boys. Now they are golden again, and they aren't even doing alchemy.
Underneath all that I hear the folks on the bench do some good stuff.
However, the problem I have with the IRL initiative is the same as any government led science initiative. Rather than being led by successful science groups and responding to areas we are actually good at, it is a direction imposed by bureaucrats. Picking predicted winners rather than funding actual winners. It's like they heard Paul Callahan speak but missed the point entirely.
New Zealand suffered from the New Right insisting that any contribution to industry was a subsidy, subsidies were the work of the devil and we have been the only ones to follow that path.
To be fair the 9 year Labour government had exactly the same attitude.
NBH, you are right. I searched the OECD figures directly, man do they need Keith on their team. These are the figures for 2010 and seem to show OECD average at about 0.75% of GDP and NZ at about 0.55%, and Korea, Taiwan, Finland and the USA all over 1%, it’s a 2 page pdf.
As pointed out in the text interpreting what is and isn’t funding isn’t easy. I seriously doubt that our general university funds in NZ are what most scientists would consider science funding but we kind of have to take the figures at face value.
Ok so how about we just ask for one of the political parties to promise to get up to the OECD average – still close to a 50% increase in funding. Not even asking to be better than average.
Are you sure about that Bart?
Yup. Government funding of R&D is half OECD average. Overall funding for R&D in NZ is even worse but since it is very hard to change business funding for R&D I'm only really interested in what the government can actually do themselves. Since they have the power to directly control that they carry the responsibility.
The chief science advisor to the PM has given the latest numbers in several of his speeches.
As a whole, we spend only 1.2% of GDP on research, about half of that from the public sector and half from the private sector.
but you make it sound like there is no good, important science involved
For which I apologise. We and many other groups are doing really cool science. You don't want to get me started on the stuff we are discovering about branching in plants (besides until we get the paper accepted I can't).
BUT we do less science in NZ now than we did in 1991. And much less in the CRIs. Part of that is crippling underfunding - yes I'm going to point out government funding is less than half OECD average AGAIN. But part of that has stemmed from the CRI structure itself IMO.
The CRIs were meant to allow more and better science to be done and get it to industry. They haven't made the improvement intended. We might argue (discuss politely) whether they are worse than the DSIR but they are demonstrably not better than the DSIR and they have a larger (combined) administrative structure. You could make a strong case for merging them all into one or maybe three institutes arguing for administrative cost savings (maybe not real) but more importantly arguing for scientific synergy (probably real).
It is worth noting that in the entirety of New Zealand, including all CRIs and Universities we have fewer PhD scientists and most US Universities.
However the point of the CRI exercise supercedes these, and requires contibution or engagement with society. CRIs now do this in a manner that is surely far superior than what was happening in the 1990s.
Bearing in mind I joined the DSIR and have been a scientist in a CRI throughout their existence, I respectfully disagree. I don't believe that was the rationale at all for creating the CRIs. At the time we were told that become a state owned business would free us from the obligations of a government department. It would reduce administration. Allow us to manage budgets better. Allow us to form partnerships with businesses. Allow us to create spin off companies. I don't remember ever hearing anyone say it would improve our engagement with society.
Yes we do engage with society more now. But I don't think that had anything to do with being a CRI. It is simply the case that their is a much greater effort by scientists now to interact and engage with interested members of the public (the uninterested one we bore to death - a kind of natural selection process).
Also technology has allowed more interaction. It's possible to hear and see pieces of science all over the web now in a way that simply was not possible in 1991.