Massey seeks leader for Taranaki link

By Skye Wishart

Steve Maharey is on the hunt for a leader who can mastermind links between Taranaki businesses and Massey's cutting edge research - to be hired by the end of the year.

The executive business adviser's placement at Taranaki House will kick off the three-year pilot of the partnership between development agency Venture Taranaki and Massey University that is hoped to hurry along local innovative products wrought by science.

This is the first step of a wider partnering scheme that vice-chancellor Maharey says may see Massey duplicating with other development agencies in the Northland, Hawkes Bay, Tauranga and Nelson regions.

The university's research faculties and nearby Crown Research Institutes align closely with some of Taranaki's key industry sectors, such as agrifood, engineering, and oil and gas specialist technologies (the supply chains that feed into those industries), but mainly it's Taranaki's small businesses that will be targeted.

"Engineering, oil and gas are big businesses, and they tend to have their own expertise. We want to link small businesses with research," said Maharey.

He said the adviser needed to be someone who could work between the two communities.

"They must act as a translator - which is an issue for small businesses, because compared to universities they are quite different organisations. Access to research for them is quite difficult: while universities are busy with their teaching and students, businesses have real deadlines."

Venture Taranaki chief executive Stuart Trundle says early signs show there is demand in the business community.

"It's that smart innovation research capability that we're wanting to use to help companies commercialise their ideas - and it's the ability to bring in a new resource to look slightly differently at the challenges that we're having to confront as a region.

"There will be a footprint of Massey University - a human being - literally working closely with the companies but with really strong knowledge of the capabilities of the research that Massey possesses. This is quite a significant investment commitment that Massey will be making into the province."

Graham Wells, deputy chairman of the Engineering Taranaki Consortium, says he believes there's good value for engineering companies in Taranaki with the venture.

"We certainly see it as a positive initiative to support businesses in Taranaki and build up relationships with our closest university."

Last year Venture Taranaki issued over $1 million of grants to research, science and technology applications for local business to work with university students and researchers from universities nationwide.

However, Trundle said that model meant the research was customer-driven by each company, whereas the point of difference with this partnership was that the research will be university-driven.

- NZ Herald

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