World-leading Kiwi exporters need to champion New Zealand more ardently in foreign markets as the country is still perceived by some as being slow to innovate, says the lead author of a new report.

While some firms who took part in a Government-sanctioned study found that we had a good reputation overseas for innovation, others said this was not the case.

According to a report on the study, by the Centre for Small and Medium Enterprise Research at Massey University, some firms who were interviewed argued this country's "smallness and remoteness was often associated with a lack of innovative capacity".

"Some participants, particularly in the manufacturing and services and less so in the agricultural sector, felt that New Zealand is perceived as a laggard when it comes to innovation," the report said.


The qualitative study - released publicly today - interviewed 98 small, medium and large businesses last year on topics such as investing overseas and exporting.

See an executive summary here.

One company, which designs and makes food display units, was active in five countries and said an association with New Zealand did not help when it was trying to enter large markets. Another firm, described as a young software development company, said: "They just have this perception that we might be backward or behind the times and this is just comments I get when we are overseas."

The report on the study contrasted that response with a producer of plastics for the marine industry which said New Zealand was seen "as a quality and innovative brand".

"We have been able to piggyback a little bit off that," the plastics firm said.

The report's lead author, Massey University Professor David Deakins, said while New Zealand was sometimes seen as a little bit behind the times he did not think this perception matched reality.

Deakins said this country had some world-leading companies that didn't necessary promote themselves as being from here.

If they did so, it could help change some of the negative perceptions about New Zealand and innovation mentioned in the report.

"We do have world leading companies, we don't have enough of them, but sometimes they don't promote themselves as being leading companies from New Zealand perhaps as much as they might do," Deakins said.

"It's been seen, in the past, perhaps [as] being in a company's interest not to promote [being from New Zealand] strongly, when they could fly the flag a bit more."