David Downs, co-author of new book No 8 Re-wired, says the Bay of Plenty business community is a good example of the kind of collaboration that New Zealand needs to adopt to succeed in international markets.
Mr Downs, a general manager with NZ Trade & Enterprise, and co-writer Jon Bridges, the TV presenter and producer of Seven Days, have published an updated version of a book they wrote 15 years ago on Kiwi ingenuity. The expanded edition covers more than 200 inventions.
Although light-hearted in its approach, the book has a serious message: all too often New Zealanders have failed to get either recognition or reward for home-grown innovations by failing to grow them into businesses with global scale.
"David's message was that the Kiwi spirit is very innovative but, when it comes to turning this into global businesses, that is where often the New Zealand mentality gets stuck," said Susanne Irwin of the Ignition co-working space, where Mr Downs recently spoke to an audience of Tauranga businessmen.
In an interview, Mr Downs said New Zealanders needed to work more closely together to maximise the international commercialisation of their ideas.
"We're very good at creating things and building things," he said. "Kiwis have very different mindsets, a lack of deference which means we challenge authority and have a very low respect for the rules."
But while that had been successful in terms of fostering inventions, it did not necessarily help in commercialising them and creating long-term value, he said. New Zealanders needed more investment in research and science commercialisation and to be more savvy about getting value from ideas and registering international patents. In addition, New Zealand companies were often too small to scale up their ideas and needed to think about partnering more.
Tauranga had a collaborative approach to business and was one of only three cities in New Zealand to secure a government-backed technology business incubator slot, he said. That was because the three companies in the winning contender, WNT Ventures, had agreed to collaborate, not compete with each other. "We need to work together as Kiwis instead of competing with each other, which we see all too often."