Is it just me, or is the innovation/commercialisation space looking awfully crowded and confused these days?
Sure, we like to think we’re (NZ Inc) inventive and entrepreneurial. But there seem to be more entities out there offering innovation (and I shudder to use the term) advice, funding and connections than there are companies with good ideas.
Wearing my taxpayer’s hat, I have no problem when private money puts their proverbial on the line and takes a punt on a startup or early stage company being the next big market success. Therefore the angel investor community, private equity companies and even family, friends and fools are to be admired and encouraged. But the plethora of government, university and regionally financed organisations servicing our entrepreneurs is started to look very overlapping, rather uncoordinated; and the lack of transactions by some players needs to be questioned.
A cursory list includes NZVIF, Callaghan Innovation, MBIE (well, parts of it), KiwiNet (and the individual university commercialisation units that are part of it), the Icehouse, Soda, the BCC, CreativeHQ, Powerhouse and Sparkbox. In fact this blog was inspired by the recent announcement that there is to be a merger between Wellington-based Kerasi, and PowerHouse – though Kerasi’s website states it is a powerHouse partner so decide for yourself who the kingpin.
Powerhouse has also recently announced a merger with Dunedin incubator Upstart. All in all, I’m afraid it means that there is quite a bit of overhead costs to be paid for by someone (us) as all and sundry scramble around looking for something to invest in. In other words, there’s lots of pedaling by a lot of people, but without the sense of urgency that having your own money invested brings to the game.
There will be a lot of meetings though, and any number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through to make sure that value is being delivered to the taxpayer. And then, by the time that someone higher up that government food chain ponders the question of whether flinging a whole lot of money at innovation, and seeing what sticks, actually does work, it’ll be time for another change of policy.
But by then minister of everything Steven Joyce will probably have ditched the science and innovation part of his portfolio. Peter Kerr is a commentator and writer for hire, particularly in the science and technology areas.