Boost for Maori science and innovation

By Ben Chapman-Smith

Ngai Tahu is an example of an Iwi managing a diversified portfolio of investments, including its Ngai Tahu Seafood. Photo / Northern Advocate
Ngai Tahu is an example of an Iwi managing a diversified portfolio of investments, including its Ngai Tahu Seafood. Photo / Northern Advocate

Science and innovation within the Maori business sector is set for a boost following the formation of a partnership between a major Maori body and a Crown research institute.

The Federation of Maori Authorities (FoMA) has accepted an offer of support from the Industrial Research Institute (IRL) in an effort to grow what is estimated to be a $36 billion Maori economy.

FoMA is the industry body of the Maori economic sector and represents over 150 authorities.

Chief executive Te Horipo Karaitiana said combining Maori industry with IRL science knowledge and expertise would help grow Maori business and the Maori economy.

"Our members have a collective asset base worth $8 billion and we know it can be worth more.

"I have just returned from China with Minister Sharples' Maori business delegation and can see how we can get better value for our products using science and innovation."

Many Maori Authorities, iwi entities, trusts and incorporations see the opportunity to get greater value from their assets, develop their own scientists and get more for their export products, Karaitiana said.

The IRL will hold a series of workshops where innovation and commercialisation experts will work with FoMA members to help them structure their innovation planning 30 years or more into the future.

A number of secondments will also take place, the first of which has seen the IRL's Maori industry development manager Reece Moors join the FoMA last month.

Moors will link Maori enterprises with science and innovation experts around the country to help them look at ways of growing their businesses.

The Federation and IRL will also look to grow young Maori scientists and engineers by developing a Maori science and business internship programme. Young Maori will work in Maori businesses and across industry sectors.

Gavin Mitchell, IRL general manage of industry engagement, said the goal was to see Maori businesses use science to help grow the roughly $36 billion Maori economy.

"Growing that figure is going to make a significant impact on the New Zealand economy," he said.

"Increasingly, Maori are looking to diversify their investment portfolio away from just resource-based investments."

FoMA was formed in 1984 and its members own enterprises in industries including seafood, forestry, dairy, horticulture and property in New Zealand and overseas.

It is governed by an executive committee comprising members representing each of the 11 rohe, or electoral districts.

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