Funding for innovation and training top of wishlist for companies

By Ben Chapman-Smith

David Deakins said the Government could well offer more incentives to encourage the take-up of training vouchers. Photo / Supplied
David Deakins said the Government could well offer more incentives to encourage the take-up of training vouchers. Photo / Supplied

New Zealand's small and medium sized enterprises are hoping today's Budget will deliver a boost for innovation and place more emphasis on developing the workforce.

According to the latest MYOB survey of 1047 SME operators, 71 per cent wanted to see the government increase funding for skills and training.

Also a high priority was the reintroduction of research and development (R&D) credits, supported by half of business owners and managers.

Scott Gardiner, executive director of MYOB New Zealand, said SMEs wanted the government to focus on areas that would underpin increased productivity. "The Government has the potential to make a real difference to the growth and development of New Zealand businesses in this Budget by focusing on the areas SMEs have identified as crucial for growth." Gardiner said.

"The SME community wants to see the Government devote more funding to innovation and the development of the workforce - both of which have the potential to transform the economy," Gardiner said.

Conducted by Colmar Brunton, the MYOB survey asked owners which initiatives or policies would most likely earn their vote.

While half of business owners and managers supported the reintroduction of R&D credits, 6 per cent voted against and 44 per cent said it would not affect their vote. Only 3 per cent did not want to see an increase in funding for skills training, while 26 per cent were indifferent.

David Deakins, director of Massey University's New Zealand Centre for SME Research, said he would not be surprised to see today's Budget deliver increased spending for R&D.

"It's always difficult to predict what will be in the Budget but I think R&D is an area which is recognised as an issue nationally," Deakins said.

"Having said that, there has been an increase in spending in the last few years through things like Callaghan Innovation. That might be seen as a measure in place already."

Deakins said the Government could well offer more incentives to encourage the take-up of training vouchers, which had been fairly low up until now.

The survey, which ran through January and February, also found 55 per cent of SMEs would support further cuts to government expenditure in the Budget.

"Overall, the SME community favours the Government's focus on taking steps to return to surplus and bring down debt, so they will welcome the prudent approach National has signalled in the lead-up to this week's Budget," Gardiner said.

Reducing government expenditure in the Budget was particularly popular among business owners with more than 20 employees, attracting 76 per cent support. Wellington business owners were most strongly opposed to cuts.

The proposal to increase paid parental leave from 14 to 26 weeks was opposed by 45 per cent of SME owners and supported by 22 per cent.

"The SME community really favours a balanced approach from the Government for Budget 2013," Gardiner said.

"They would welcome further investment in the skills and technology that will help support economic growth, while at the same time preferring the Government take a close look at any policies that will not only increase their costs but also potentially those of the business community."

- NZ Herald