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A think tank for the knowledge economy

Media Statement

13 March 2000

A think tank for the knowledge economy

A new council of seven people is being set up to provide top-level strategic advice to the Government on science and innovation, Minister of Research, Science and Technology Pete Hodgson announced today.

Establishing the Science and Innovation Advisory Council (SIAC) was proposed in Labour's pre-election policy and identified by Prime Minister Helen Clark as an item for action in the Government's first 100 days.

The council will report directly to Miss Clark, creating a stream of advice on research, technology and innovation at the highest level of Government.

"I know scientists and innovators are excited about this," Mr Hodgson said. "For years they were sidelined by a disinterested National Government. They watched unhappily as public and private sector support for research languished and many of New Zealand's finest minds drifted overseas. Their ideas for tackling these problems have gone untapped. This Government is inviting Cinderella to the ball."

Mr Hodgson said the Government was not simply looking for senior scientists to fill the council seats.

"I expect the SIAC members to come from diverse areas including the academic and science communities, business, the Maori community and the general public. The main qualifications are vision, energy and ideas for gearing up science and innovation in New Zealand. Science and innovation are vital in the shift to a high-skill, high-wage economy, so we're looking for wisdom and far-sightedness.

"The Council will consult with the community and advise the Prime Minister on issues such as building understanding of science, encouraging businesses to invest in research and development, and creating wealth from innovation. It will ensure Government policy is related directly to stuff that works in the community," Mr Hodgson said.

The Government is now seeking nominations for members of the Council, which should meet for the first time by June. Initial appointments will be for two years. The council will have a modest budget covering remuneration, overheads and funds for commissioning specialist advice. The exact sum is being finalised in the Budget process.

The call for nominations will be advertised in major papers from Wednesday and nominations will close on April 5th. Nomination forms are available on the Internet at or from SIAC, PO Box 2401, Wellington.

Attached: Terms of Reference for the Science and Innovation Advisory Council.



The purpose of the Science and Innovation Advisory Council is to:

 increase the public status and recognition of scientists, science and innovation;

 promote a long-term, strategic direction for research, science and technology;

 build private-sector commitment to new science and technology policy directions; and

 enable co-ordination of Government science and innovation policies and community activities at the highest level.

The Council will be the Prime Minister's Advisory Council. The Prime Minister has delegated responsibility for the day-to-day operations of SIAC to the Minister of Research, Science and Technology.
Mode of operation

Effective research and innovation requires partnership between the Government and the community. This should be a two-way process in which ideas from the community inform Government policies and Government leadership challenges community thinking about its commitment to science and innovation.

The Council will act as an intermediary in this dialogue between the Government and the community. It will have:

 a consultation role in which it discusses science and innovation issues of concern to the Government with interested groups in the community; and

 an advice role in which it synthesises feedback from the community and its own analysis of issues to provide advice on policies and actions for Government.

The Prime Minister, or the Minister of Research, Science and Technology acting on her behalf, will set broad directions for the Council's work, in consultation with the Council.

The Council will not routinely publish the advice it gives to Government. However, the Government and the Council may, from time to time, agree to publish papers produced by the Council.

The Council will develop methods for consulting with the community through regular meetings with individuals and groups, hui with Māori organisations, internet forums, surveys, conferences, or other suitable means.

The Council will be supported by a secretariat provided through the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology. The Council will direct the work of the secretariat through its chairperson or a member deputised to carry out this task

The Official Information Act 1982, the Privacy Act 1993, and the Ombudsmen Act 1975 will apply to the operations of the Council. SIAC is established by the Prime Minister to assist and advise her. Information held by SIAC will therefore be deemed to be information held by the Prime Minister for the purposes of the Official Information Act 1982.


The Council will consist of seven members, including a chairperson selected by the Prime Minister. The Council may chose to elect a deputy chairperson from within its membership.

Members will be appointed by the Prime Minister for a term of two years. This term may be extended by mutual agreement.

Members will receive fees and allowances in accordance with Government guidelines.


The Council will meet quarterly with the Prime Minister. It will provide summaries of its findings and proposals for further work at these meetings.
The Council will also hold working meetings as and when it determines. The Minister of Research, Science and Technology may attend these meetings to brief the Council and discuss work plans.

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