Science the key to economic growth?
Thu, 23 Aug 2012 1:57p.m.
By Tony Field
New Zealanders are being encouraged to embrace science, to help grow the economy to its true potential.
The Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, Sir Peter Gluckman says New Zealand knows what it wants - a prosperous, green and socially cohesive society. But we need to decide how the best way to use science, technology and innovation to help us get there.
Sir Peter's issued a report summarising a wide range of views from among more than 250 people who gathered at a recent forum in Gisborne. The forum was the idea of the late scientist Sir Paul Callaghan, who passed away in March.
Among those who participated were Government agencies, science organisations, academics, business leaders, iwi, successful New Zealand entrepreneurs and young people.
He says there has been a positive shift in New Zealand's thinking about science and technology, compared with a decade ago. Ten years ago a discussion about how science would add value to New Zealand might have been seen as isolated and arrogant.
But Sir Peter says big challenges remain.
He says we have been a "lucky country", able to rely on selling food and tourism. But we've waited until the last five years before policy makers changed their mind set towards science and innovation. It means we are 20 - 30 years behind other smaller countries like Singapore, Finland and Israel.
It’s now recognised that you can't get economic growth without certain trade offs, for example "resource extraction". He says it's important therefore that decisions are made based more on knowledge rather than solely on emotion.
Many of those who attended the forum are concerned that "science is still perceived in many quarters, including within much business, as a luxury rather than an essential underpinning component of innovation and development."
Concerns were expressed at the forum that the science system in New Zealand is too fragmented and it is too isolated from the rest of society.
Sir Peter wonders whether New Zealand as a nation is "too risk averse, afraid to make mistakes, and rapid to condemn entrepreneurial failure."
The combined amount spent by the public and private sector on research and development is about a third of that of countries of comparable size.
Although New Zealand has a good environmental reputation internationally, it was suggested at the forum that New Zealand has lost its international reputation as a test bed of innovation. Sir Peter says one cost of that has been that, "we have lost the interest of multinational corporations."
The innovation potential of the Maori community is also "sadly underestimated."
New Zealand is a small nation and Sir Peter says we can use this to our advantage, as they have in countries like Denmark, Singapore, Korea, Israel and Finland.
He says over recent decades most other small advanced nations have invested significantly more in science.
"This higher public investment in research and development in other countries had been paralleled and then exceeded by increased private sector investment. This has seen dividends coming to these countries in terms of their economic development and international standing.
"We tend to be complacent - selling food and tourism has been relatively easy, but worryingly, exports as a percentage of our economy have stagnated over some years. As a nation we have been relatively satisfied with ourselves and not as ambitious as we need to be in order to thrive despite the inevitable challenges, including those of the rearrangements of the global economy over the coming decades".
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12/10/2012 2:55:46 a.m.
I G wrote:
If you don't innovate, you rely on old methods that keep you in the same place forever. Imagine the depravity if people didn't discover agriculture - we'd still be hunter-gatherers, and no cities would ever be built. That said, science is the frontier of innovation. Everything we take for granted today was discovered within 500 years ago BY SCIENTISTS. If you don't value science, then throw away all your technology and healthcare, and go live up a tree. Asia will not trade with us if we have nothing but sticks and stones to offer them.
24/08/2012 6:43:27 a.m.
@YOU WHAT? - It is the workers that generate the wealth. Perhaps if more of that wealth was left in the hands of the workers to be spent, rather than hoarded by those at the top, the economy would actually start ticking over. Money is not meant to be accumulated but circulated and invested and spent for the common good.
The wealthy elite are getting increasingly wealthier while the poor majority are being ground underfoot.
National haven't got a clue how to fix the economy, it is beyond the neo-liberal imagination. Can the wealthy elite not see that their policies are destroying the very markets upon which their wealth relies?
Raise the minimum wage to $16/hour immediately and over the next three years bring it up to and legislatively lock it in at 2/3's of the average wage. Any business that cannot afford to pay its staff an honest living wage should exit the market. We are not a slave labour nation. Yet.
"Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration." - Abraham Lincoln: State of the Union Address 1861
23/08/2012 9:43:18 p.m.
You what? wrote:
@Greg - do you think you can just put wages up with no effect? It doesn't get magic'd into existence just because you've paid it to someone! It has to be generated somehow, otherwise it just causes money to be printed, which leads to inflation which - guess what?? - means the nett effect is zero. Honestly, this is the sort of ridiculous, short-sighted economic ignorance that has blighted every left wing government ever. For economic growth you need trade or manufacturing or primary industry or value added services - wealth has to be created.
23/08/2012 5:37:37 p.m.
"Science the key to economic growth" - expert with vested interest.
23/08/2012 4:53:03 p.m.
D Quinn wrote:
How can this guy not be aware of the coming energy crisis that, Warren Buffet, Richard Branson, Dr Jeremy Legget, the US military, the German military, the IEA and the IMF are all talking about. Economic growth is about to take an absolute hammering!
23/08/2012 2:18:49 p.m.
Raise workers wages to improve the economy, spending helps businesses not passive savings. Results from innovation take two decades to be of and economic value, thats if pepole have money to buy things. Its not rocket science here. While NNZ is a low waged economy dont expect to have a booming economy. I'm tired of these cliched spin speak reports, they achieve nothing.
23/08/2012 2:13:58 p.m.
Considering that our Prime Minister John Key believes that scientists are like lawyers and that he can just buy one with a different viewpoint, I don't see any fundamental changes in direction happening any time soon. This is, after all, the Government that is opening up our education system to the teaching of creationism.
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