Hamish Fletcher

Hamish Fletcher is a business reporter for the NZ Herald

Pushing high-value growth

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said the Advanced Technology Institute will focus on those industries which have significant growth potential. Photo / APN
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said the Advanced Technology Institute will focus on those industries which have significant growth potential. Photo / APN

The Government flagship innovation body, the Advanced Technology Institute, will get off to a slow start unless businesses get on board, says the Employers and Manufacturers Association.

The Government announced the structure of the institute yesterday, which will be based in Auckland, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch.

This initiative was announced before the last election and will increase the size and reach of an existing Crown research institute, Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), to build up the sector and create new opportunities for high-value manufacturers.

The ATI has been criticised for not involving the advanced materials research institute, IRL in its final decision-making process.

That 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.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said yesterday IRL will remain part of the ATI but its focus will be broader in scope.

"We expect the ATI to focus on industries with significant growth potential such as food and beverage manufacturing, agri-technologies, digital technologies, health technologies and therapeutics manufacturing, and high-value wood products," Joyce said.

"The ATI will take over some business development functions that currently sit within the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

"That will include the administration of some business research and development grants," he said.

The ATI was allocated $166 million over four years as part of the Government's Budget 2012.

Of this $166 million, $11.9 million is earmarked for the ATI in the 2012-13 Budget.

A number of scientists support the scheme and New Zealand Association of Scientists' president Shaun Hendy said in May it would build stronger links between science and industry.

AUT University's head of engineering, Professor John Raine, said yesterday he hoped the ATI would be a powerful catalyst in building industry networks and would promote staff movement between research organisations and industry.

But Employers and Manufacturers Association chief executive Kim Campbell said science won't deliver wider economic benefits on its own.

"Science, R&D and innovation are the building blocks for our economic future and the ATI could become the leading place for their development," Campbell said.

"Science on its own won't realise its potential for delivering wider economic benefits unless business can integrate tightly with it and want to invest more in it."

Campbell also said that the ATI needed to "act as a magnet for wide business involvement in science" and not just be limited to "high flying" technology companies.

Izon Science chairman Hans van der Voorn, who has previously criticised the ATI, said yesterday the "entrepreneurial flavour" needed in commercialisation is more commonly found in the private sector.

- Additional reporting: BusinessDesk

* A change has been made to this story due to an incorrect spelling of Hans van der Voorn's name in the original version.

- NZ Herald

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