Role of research institute in new structure unclear

By Pattrick Smellie

Science and Innovation minister Steven Joyce. Photo / APN
Science and Innovation minister Steven Joyce. Photo / APN

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce is to launch the Government's flagship innovation engine, the new Advanced Technology Institute, today 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 super-ministry for business, innovation and employment this month, and IRL management.

IRL held an open day at its campus at Gracefield, in Wellington, on Tuesday. That was intended to display the depth of its relationships with high-value New Zealand manufacturers.

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.

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.

- BusinessDesk

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