Gluckman: Embed R&D into the heart of Auckland

Chief scientific advisor to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman, has outlined the need for embedding R&D into the heart of Auckland and put paid to the Kiwi No.8 wire myth.

Sir Peter GluckmanAddressing a group in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter on Monday night , he stressed the necessity for Auckland to become an international city of knowledge and innovation in order for it and New Zealand to flourish on the world stage.

The decision to develop the Wynyard Quarter as a technology precinct is seen as a huge development for Auckland in its quest to become a knowledge centre, and Gluckman stressed the importance of the decisions about what it will house.

According to him, innovation ecosystems are the interconnectedness of factors that allow a knowledge centre to function without undue constraints and with the best support, including access to capital, to professional expertise, in IP management, and experts dealing with regulation.

He believes the area must build off the academic precincts in the city.  “Where,” he asked, “is New Zealand’s school of industrial design?”

“[Wynyard Quarter]... is a brilliant place to make a statement about Auckland as a knowledge city and one can expect areas like industrial design, like the digital and media research to have a high presence there.”

He also reiterated calls by Sir Paul Callaghan to debunk the Kiwi No.8 wire myth – that innovation comes from lone tinkerers, working in sheds or in paddocks. Gluckman admitted that solo innovation does happen in the digital world, but he argued that cooperation between disciplines and the private and public sector is the best way to fuel growth and innovation.

The relationship between private and public was another feature in his address. He referred to Israel where incubators are often owned jointly by investors and the local authority and university and called for more of this to happen in New Zealand and in Auckland in particular.

“The only thing that can keep the companies anchored here will be an R&D function so embedded in the city that it cannot move."

The way to do this, he said, was to put more value on knowledge and science, work to intertwine researchers in the private and public sector, build technology parks and a world-class university sector in Auckland,.

“Councils talk about social equity and about matters like transport. Knowledge generation is their business too.

“In Australia, state government takes a major lead in promoting innovation ecosystems. The same is true of local government in many small advanced nations. Increasingly we are seeing the metropolitan areas of New Zealand recognise the need to also be active in promoting the regional economies. Christchurch has a very active innovation ecosystem, Wellington is developing one and Auckland must take a lead.”

Auckland would need local government committed to promoting, encouraging and if necessary, part-financing an innovative city, he said.

"It needs the development of technology parks clustering academia and entrepreneurs along with support services. It needs the institutions hospitals, universities, technical institutes to cooperate rather than compete.”

Gluckman was awarded the Rutherford Medal in 2001 and was the recipient of the 2011 Sir Paul Callaghan Medal for Science Communication. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and was the founding director of the Liggins Insitute.

Idealog has been covering the most interesting people, businesses and issues from the fields of innovation, design, technology and urban development for over 12 years. And we're asking for your support so we can keep telling those stories, inspire more entrepreneurs to start their own businesses and keep pushing New Zealand forward. Give over $5 a month and you will not only be supporting New Zealand innovation, but you’ll also receive a print subscription and a copy of the new book by David Downs and Dr. Michelle Dickinson, No. 8 Recharged (while stocks last).