News and events

Callaghan Innovation Board Chair's launch speech

This article was published on 1 February 2013

The following speech was delivered by Callaghan Innovation Board Chair Sue Suckling upon the launch of the new Crown entity charged with accelerating commercialisation of innovation in New Zealand firms.

Thank you Minister. This launch comes at a favourable time. Two weeks ago New Zealand was named the country in the world with the most human freedoms. This follows being named in 2012 as the world’s least corrupt country. The Association of American Colleges ranks New Zealand first in the world in quality of education and human capital. Forbes’ Best Countries for Business ranks New Zealand #1. Mercer rates Auckland as the third best city in the world for quality of living. In November Wellington won best small city at the International Awards for Liveable Communities. And this week the Christchurch rebuild investment topped the $1billion mark, with the “cardboard cathedral” gaining worldwide attention for its innovative response to this catastrophic event.

We love being world champions, and being the world’s most innovative country is a goal within our reach. The people, firms and institutions here today are leading players in New Zealand innovation, export, and economic development – you have the scar tissue to prove it, and I want to first and foremost acknowledge you for your achievements, your grit, and for your caring about the future prosperity of New Zealand. Thank you for being here.

Callaghan Innovation is the new kid on the block and respect has to be earned based on results and with the spirit in which we collaborate. Callaghan Innovation has been set ambitious goals by the government and the Minister has asked for these goals to be achieved in a positive and uplifting way. Achieving change in a harmonious way can be a paradox but this is what we have all been charged to achieve.

Today feels like when Fonterra was launched. There had been reports, analysis, planning, many opinions – all with an eye to how could a New Zealand company be created with true global scale and reach that would make a measureable difference to the New Zealand economy.

I was on the New Zealand Dairy Board and one of the team which designed the new organization, and it worked because there was a united group of people who said “let’s take on the world and win!” I think Fonterra has been an unqualified success, and before this decade is out I would love to stand before you and say the same about Callaghan Innovation. To say that Callaghan Innovation:

  • HAS motivated New Zealand firms to lift their R&D investments and delivered improved performance as a result
  • HAS enabled firms to readily find the right scientists, technologists, and engineers to support their innovation needs
  • HAS encouraged greater private capital investment in commercial innovation 
  • HAS facilitated demonstrable collaboration among researchers, scientists, engineers, technologists and designers 
  • AND HAS helped accelerate the commercial success of firms domestically and globally as a result of increased application of science engineering technology and design. Our starting point is the belief that New Zealand already is an innovative country. Our achievements bear this out, from Maori pa fortification to the ship The Dunedin and Joseph Nathan’s GLAXO onwards.

I have found universal agreement with the goal of increasing export income from 30% to 40% of GDP – but the truth is our past rate of progress will not get us there. The innovation sector in New Zealand has been fragmented, collaboration has been inconsistent, and venture capital and patent activity has been weak. There are many examples of excellent science and no shortage of ideas, but also many missed opportunities for commercialisation and building scale.

The Minister’s brief to Callaghan Innovation is simple: better; faster; stronger; smarter; leaner. Our country needs to design and produce products and services that generate bigger global demand at higher prices.

The high value manufacturing and services sector is the area of most potential. We need to be better at marketing – hence the close association that has been formed between Callaghan Innovation and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise. And we need to do all this at speed because we have competition and the tides of technology can see you “wired” one day and “tired” the next. The Finns, the Danes and the Swedes have out-competed New Zealand in the number of brands and operations that have gone global. You know and care about this, which is why you came to this launch at 7.15 in the morning.

Callaghan Innovation launches today with three areas of focus: To Motivate; To Connect; and To Deliver.

Callaghan Innovation will have critical mass to make things happen through an absolute commitment to ensuring access to first class science, engineering, technology and design.

The day one “To Deliver” capability in Callaghan Innovation currently undertakes highly specialised projects for 200 New Zealand commercial clients, some with multi-year assignments. This Science, Engineering and Technology Delivery Group of Callaghan Innovation was formerly the Crown Research Institute IRL.  

Shortly the FoodBowl here in Auckland becomes part of Callaghan Innovation – this is a high tech experimentation facility in the Airport campus for a sector that is vital to New Zealand’s future, food innovation.

From day one Callaghan Innovation will also deliver the government’s business R&D funding programmes. 

However, what Callaghan Innovation delivers will evolve significantly.

The second stream is To Connect. This is largely new.  Callaghan Innovation’s point of difference is that we will work with firms to help them to easily navigate and connect with expertise and facilities from across the whole science, engineering technology and design sector.

The business case has identified over 6000 potential firms which might use the services of Callaghan Innovation – wanting information and advice, and wishing to be connected to sources of innovation that will drive their performance. Callaghan Innovation will have a range of navigation and connection services including a frontline team of agents who are experienced in the fields of development and commercialisation. These people will be available in person, online and through a new 0800 service, which government knows from several programmes to be a highly favoured channel for firms.

The Callaghan Innovation Connect service will also be pro-active and identify opportunities and initiatives to be taken, bring people together, and instigate and support multi-year projects that can add significant value and grow new globally competitive industries.

New Zealand’s top 100 high tech companies alone already export in excess of $5B annually. What role can Callaghan Innovation play in the goal of increasing the nation’s total exports by $20B by 2025?

And finally To Motivate. Many people have told me what Paul Callaghan would and would not have approved of. One thing we can all agree on is that Sir Paul was a brilliant motivator, communicator, and instigator.

He played an unrivalled role in raising the profile and importance of innovation. Just as we take his name, so too do we take the responsibility to promote the critical role innovation has to play. Over time you will see the creation of new networks, events, internships and scholarships and more, to continue to build the appetite and appreciation for innovation.

Today is an important day for Callaghan Innovation.  It marks our start, and in many respects we are a start-up.  Priority #1 is continuing to deliver the “business-as-usual” functions that have transferred from IRL, and business R&D grants that form our core. In the next five months a major focus will be refining the new services and support we will provide longer term, and defining the modus operandi of our new organisation that will result in something tangibly different from what we had before. This activity must be done in concert with others; these new areas must resonate with industry as well as science, engineering, technology and design providers.

The image we chose for the invitation to today’s launch was quite deliberate; it is on the one hand a literal illustration of Cape Reinga, but metaphorically it points north. Outwards. To markets.

I said earlier there is no shortage of ideas in New Zealand, but an idea is not an innovation until it wins in the market, until it touches the lives of consumers and improves the performance of industry.

This is our challenge, not just for Callaghan Innovation but for all New Zealand firms. The effort to convert ideas into innovation is significant, which is why this step-change has been given such a priority by the Government. We can become world champions at innovation if we work together; not by sitting in the stands and watching on with interest, but by a full-blooded commitment to collaboration, acceleration – and the exhilaration that comes from winning.

Thank you. And now the Minister and I will be pleased to take your questions.