New Zealand

Investors urged to support innovators

Wealthy New Zealanders need to open their cheque books to support innovative ventures, and should not be frightened by the “correction” that wiped $3 trillion off global technology stocks, says one of the country’s top banking executives.

Scott Perkins, chief executive of Deutsche Bank New Zealand, told the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland today that the Nasdaq has merely returned to its historic highs of October 1999 – and the wealth destroyed in the dotcom crash was wealth that had not existed a year before.

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Blow your own trumpet, Israeli business leader tells NZ

Gurion Meltzer readily admits that Israel’s success as a knowledge-based economy will not provide the precise model for New Zealand to copy, but he says the countries have similar weaknesses to overcome.

Mr Meltzer, a senior figure in the Israeli business and academic communities and a former chairman of the country’s main telecommunications company, Bezeq, says New Zealand and Israel must both overcome small populations and small local markets, as well as a brain drain.

At the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland this afternoon, Mr Meltzer said New Zealand has the opportunity to build on its advantages and raise its profile internationally.

“The capability of New Zealand is way above its reputation.”

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Ireland’s burning ambition grew out of crisis

A burning national ambition, recognised and promoted by governments, is the foundation of economic recovery in Ireland.

“The Irish spent so long not being satisfied with their lot that we want to continue to grow, we want to continue to develop, and that comes through in political action,” says Sean Dorgan, chief executive of Ireland’s Industrial Development Agency.

The IDA is an Irish government agency responsible for securing new foreign investment in the country’s manufacturing and international service sectors.

“Irish governments aren’t about running the country – they’re about developing the country,” said Mr Dorgan, who spoke at the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland this morning.

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Tracking ‘chameleons’ to gain business skills

New Zealand needs to track down its “chameleons”, people who have migrated to countries with greater economic opportunities but who have blended in so well they are not highly visible.

Professor David Teece of the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, says tapping into such expatriates is critical in augmenting the skills available within New Zealand.

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Innovation isn’t everything

The United States is 90 per cent more innovative than the other OECD countries due to a rare combination of factors, but countries such as New Zealand can succeed in other ways, says an American economic forecaster.

Dr Horace “Woody” Brock, a mathematician and head of Strategic Economic Decisions, told a group of delegates at the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference this afternoon that the US enjoys an “off the wall” near monopoly on innovation, such as England experienced during the industrial revolution in the 18th century.

He said that, looking at it another way, 75 per cent of the world’s economies together account for only 15 per cent of innovation – but other countries were closing the knowledge-based gap and the American lead would disappear by 2005.

Dr Brock pointed to US innovations such as the personal computer, the internet – and Viagra – and said there were four sufficient but necessary elements to the United States’ remarkable record of innovation.

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Leading scientist wants schools to promote creativity

A knowledge-based economy is not entirely based on science and technology, says Nobel prize-winning chemist Lee Yuan Tseh of Taiwan.

“It has more to do with the human capacity to dream and to make dreams come true,” he told the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland this afternoon.

Dr Lee, who heads the Academia Sinica which runs a network of 25 research institutes in Taiwan, said his country is undergoing a learning transformation that will see greater attention paid to the arts, music, morality and physical education.

He said entrenched Confucian values lead Taiwanese parents, families and the whole society to expect their children to receive the best education at all costs.

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Biotech set to blossom

Biotechnology can flourish anywhere there is the capital to support it – but researchers need to collaborate and address public uneasiness about their work, says the leader of the first team to map the human genome.

Dr Craig Venter, president and chief scientific officer of Celera Genomics Corporation, was speaking to the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference this morning via video link from the United States.

He said that although biotechnology research has been largely limited to the United States and western Europe, the arrival of the internet has made it possible for researchers around the world to participate.

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Failure becomes fertiliser in knowledge ecology

New Zealanders should not fear failure, but capitalise on it, says the head of one of the most famous technology think tanks in the world.

John Seely Brown, chief scientist at Xerox Corporation and a former head of its Palo Alto research centre, says if you work at the edge of innovation, you will fail some of the time.

“But firms that die return their nutrients to the soil,” he said, adding that he regularly recruits people who have learned from their mistakes.

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Passionate teachers made the difference for top scientist

The New Zealand-born director of pharmacology at a giant US pharmaceutical company says we need to encourage “esoteric research” and high quality teaching at universities, while not underestimating the importance of teaching in our secondary schools.

Jilly Evans, speaking at the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference in Auckland this afternoon, described how her interest in science was stimulated by teacher Neil Akehurst, now teaching at Rangitoto College, who painstakingly built a model of the DNA double helix for his students in the 1960s.

Her second great secondary school mentor is someone she only recently met face to face for the first time, Jean Struthers, who taught chemistry by correspondence. Although she was 70-years-old at the time, Mrs Struthers’ passion for her subject inspired Jilly Evans.

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New Zealand radio’s big myth

For years, the New Zealand radio industry has trumpeted that this country has “more radio stations per capita than anywhere else”.

This “fact” has been repeated by countless journalists who apparently can’t be bothered working out the numbers for themselves.

In 1999 I sent the following letter to the editor of Unlimited magazine, and an abridged version subsequently appeared in the magazine.

Dear editor:

On what basis did Mark Story and Russell Brown decide that “New Zealand has more radio stations per capita than anywhere else in the world” (Stayin’ Alive, Unlimited, June 1999)?

A quick glance around our own backyard, the Pacific, turns up at least ten countries or territories with higher ratios than New Zealand.

The Cook Islands, for example, have twice as many stations per capita as New Zealand. Niue has eleven times as many. And Norfolk Island, with 3 radio stations for a population of 2200, has roughly 25 times as many stations per capita as New Zealand.

Isn’t it about time journalists stopped recycling this myth about New Zealand radio and moved on to investigate the real issues: whether deregulation has truly increased competition in the radio industry and whether having more radio stations has given us better radio service?

Neil Sanderson

Background Note:

Population figures are estimates as at July 1998 from CIA World Fact Book:

Population 3,625,388. 200 radio stations (your figure).

Cook Islands
Population 19,989. 2 radio stations: CIBS and KC FM.

Population 1,647. 1 radio station: Radio Sunshine.

Norfolk Island
Population 2197. 3 radio stations: VL2NI-AM, ABC Regional and ABC Fine Music.
Not counted: VL2NI-FM which is mostly simulcast of VL2NI-AM.

Other countries/territories in the Pacific with higher ratios than NZ: French Polynesia, Guam, Marshall Islands, Nauru, Northern Marianas Islands, Palau, Tuvalu. (Several other places have ratios similar to NZ and the ratios are increasing as new stations are built.)

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