Accelerate - November 2013

Does our independent nature get in the way of better innovation?

I recently read an article by Dr Loren Stangl from Massey University on SMEs in New Zealand. I found her point of view interesting as, being an expat American who has worked in Asia, Europe and the Americas, she could be considered to have an outsider’s view of Kiwi culture.

Dr Stangl views the SMEs in New Zealand as very entrepreneurial and innovative, but notes that few successfully spread their wings to international markets.

“We need to quit being a country of independent operators if we are going to grow this economy,” she says. “To make internationally-appealing innovations, you need to collaborate with a range of different networks; you need the cross-fertilisation of different industries and exposure to diverse people, ideas and cultures.”

She goes on to say that no SME has the resources to do it all themselves – they need to learn to collaborate.

“New businesses, especially, want to protect their IP. Fair enough. But this independent nature can hold them back.

“Here, being a small independent operator is part of our culture. But I think New Zealand SMEs are starting to realise that although you can come up with a good idea on your own, you can’t commercialise it internationally on your own. That’s the difference between invention and innovation.”

I think that Dr Stangl hits the nail on the head. We need more collaboration and networking across industries and disciplines if we truly want to be successful innovators on the world stage.

If you read the Sealegs article on page 19, Michael Fielding states that the Kiwi go-it-alone approach would have seriously hampered their product development and that by working together with Callaghan Innovation they had a chance to work with specialists across various technologies.

In fact, all of the success stories we feature in this edition of Accelerate feature businesses that collaborated with other partners and agencies that could offer them the skills and expertise that helped them to get to their endpoint quicker and more easily.

It can be daunting to find the right research partner, skill or expertise that will best solve your business need. We have over 500 science, engineering and technology companies, laboratories, campuses, workshops, studios and factories, and 50 major institutions including universities, Crown research institutes, polytechnics and private sector companies that operate within the innovation sector.

So where do you start? Callaghan Innovation has a key coordination role in the innovation system and it is here that we can add incredible value to businesses and their constant R&D challenges and needs.

We see ourselves as providing a single front door to the skills, advice, support and technical services that businesses need. Businesses also have a critical role in identifying opportunities for themselves and their sectors, and investing in R&D to deliver on those opportunities

I believe we will be successful in helping businesses to step up beyond their current capabilities and limitations and, in doing so, grow their innovation capabilities and contribute to a flourishing New Zealand economy.

I hope you enjoy this edition of Accelerate. As always, if you have any feedback or an innovation story to share, I would love to hear from you at

Dr Mary Quin, CEO

Updated: 7 September 2015