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ATI structure unveiled by Joyce

The structure for the new Advanced Technology Institute has been announced, and it will have operations in Auckland, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch.

The structure for the new Advanced Technology Institute has been announced, and it will have centres in Auckland, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch.

ATI structure revealedThe ATI will help connect tech firms with CRIs, universities, polytechs and other research organisations.

"We expect the ATI to focus on industries with significant growth potential such as food and beverage manufacturing, agri-technologies, digital technologies, health technologies and therapeutics manufacturing, and high-value wood products," science and innovation minister Steven Joyce said in a statement.

The ATI will also take over some business development functions that currently sit within the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, including the administration of some business research and development grants.

In the 2012 budget, the ATI was allocated $166 million over four years.

Industrial Research Ltd (IRL) will remain part of the ATI but its focus will be broader in scope, according to Joyce.

The government will shortly announce an establishment board that will be tasked with having the ATI operational by December 1.

Many of IRL's staff and facilities will transfer to the ATI.

But according to PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff, “Staff are still none the wiser about how they will fit into the new organisation, what their role will be and whether the work they do will be valued in this new environment."

Auckland welcomes announcement

ATEED chief executive Brett O'Riley said the organisation looked forward to working with the ATI.

"Our colleagues at Auckland Council and Waterfront Auckland hosted minister Stephen Joyce on a briefing and tour of the Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct development this morning – we look forward to having some of the ATI's functions based there."

That was echoed by Auckland mayor Len Brown as a significant gain for Auckland.

"With our goal of establishing Auckland as an innovation hub, the ATI is a crucial step in bringing together universities, polytechnics, Crown Research Institutes, other research organisations, and business, alongside Auckland Council's economic growth agency, ATEED," said Brown.

"The Prime Minister signalled in January that the ATI is likely to have a presence at our Wynyard Quarter Innovation Precinct, and across several other ATI sites in Auckland including the FoodBowl – Te Ipu Kai in Mangere."

AUT professor John Raine, who chaired the 2011 Powering Innovation review panel, said he was pleased the government had followed through on its recommendations.

“I believe that by providing locations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and working closely with businesses and research institutions, the ATI can play a key role in facilitating high tech industry research, development, and technology commercialisation across New Zealand.  This development gives this country the opportunity to develop stronger networks of capability, and enhanced knowledge access for transfer to industry. 

ATI must be a 'magnet'

The Employers and Manufacturers Association warned that close collaboration would be needed with the business sector.

"Access to the ATI must not be limited to our high-tech high-flying companies but act as a magnet for wide business involvement in science and R&D," said chief executive Kim Campbell.

"Merely setting up an institution such as the new ATI and instructing it to grow new technology based firms won't of itself do this efficiently.

"So while the announcement of the ATI is very welcome it's really a statement of commitment that must be matched with actions demonstrating how science and business will communicate and integrate at a fundamental level."