The founding chair of the government's commercialisation incubator Callaghan Innovation, Sue Suckling, has been replaced by the former Research, Science and Technology Minister in the Helen Clark government, Pete Hodgson.

A creation of the previous National-led government and brain-child of its one-time Economic Development Minister, Steven Joyce, Callaghan has been the butt of sustained criticism by watchdog group the Taxpayers Union as a source of "corporate welfare" for its administration of grants for the commercialisation of innovation and fears that its creation has led to the loss of national capacity in applied industrial sciences.

Suckling's replacement by Hodgson, a respected former Labour Cabinet Minister and one-time party political campaign manager, with a science background and experience in the portfolio, is a clear sign that the new government intends to maintain its commitment to Callaghan while attempting to move past a reputation for developing too slowly since its establishment in 2013 from the infrastructure owned by the Crown Research Institute, Industrial Research Ltd.

Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced the appointment, saying Hodgson would bring strategic direction to the agency, was "well qualified for the role and has the credibility to continue to build the agency's reputation with the wider innovation community".


"This government backs innovation as key part of a growing and stable economy. We know it's the key to a fairer economy with higher wage jobs. In his new role, Pete will play an important role in helping Kiwi businesses to innovate and compete on the world stage."

Hodgson is currently chief executive of Otago Innovation, a commercialisation arm of the University of Otago in Dunedin, the city where he served as a Labour MP between 1990 and 2008. In the Clark administration, he held numerous portfolios, including economic development and energy, as well as the science and research portfolios.

"I want to thank outgoing chair Sue Suckling for her considerable work over the last five years in leading the establishment and growth of the agency," said Woods.

Hodgson will commence his three-year appointment on April 1.

(BusinessDesk receives assistance from Callaghan Innovation to cover the commercialisation of innovation)