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Massey University Business Enterprise Centre - PM

2 March 2001

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister


Massey University
Business Enterprise Centre

Albany Campus

4.30 pm

2 March 2001
Thank you for the invitation to open this Business Enterprise Centre.

I am familiar with what the Enterprise Centre is being set up to achieve, and I am very enthusiastic about it.

I am particularly enthusiastic about the partnership approach to the Centre, between North Shore City, Massey University and the Tindall Foundation. Between the three partners you have a shared vision for what a business incubator here on Auckland's North Shore can achieve and your vision is one which the government shares.

To succeed in the 21st century, New Zealand as a whole must embrace an innovation vision.

We need to embrace innovation and technology in everything we do.

Other western nations have moved well ahead of us in the living standards stakes because they have embraced an innovation vision.

Now we are scrambling to catch up. We don't have an option if we want to maintain first world living standards. We have to lift our sights. We need to set bold goals for the future. Could we be in the top half of the OECD in ten years time if we set our mind to it? I think we could be.

We have the brains, the talent, the education and the research institutions to develop great ideas and we do.

But what we haven't done well is commercialise enough of the output from our scientists and researchers.

That is the challenge before us now, and it's a challenge that this Enterprise Centre incubator and others like it can help our nation meet.

Too often in New Zealand in the past there has been a town : gown divide, which has kept the academic community remote from industry. But increasingly the two will mix, as they have come together in other advanced countries to drive economic and therefore social progress.

The modern economy is knowledge intensive, and there is a diminishing timelag between research and the development of new products or processes.

The concern that much of the research and technology generated by higher education institutions is not fully exploited – or not exploited at all – has not been unique to New Zealand.

In recent years many industrialised countries have implemented policies to enhance innovation and competitiveness through increased and intensified collaboration between universities and private companies.

In the United States, for example, legislation was introduced in the early 1980s to allow universities to patent or copyright results of federally funded research activities and market them in their own name.

In Canada two years ago, an expert panel on the commercialisation of university research recommended that universities adopt policies requiring researchers to disclose all research results with commercial potential to their institution and to make this a condition of eligibility for federal research funding!

Here in New Zealand our universities too have become increasingly conscious of the value of transferring knowledge generated by their researchers into commercial ventures.

University companies are engaged these days in activities ranging from the management of contract research, consultancy services, and business incubation to the full commercialisation of the new knowledge or product.

This new initiative at Massey's Albany Campus sits well in this context. The Enterprise Centre provides a purpose-built environment within which to nurture and support new and fledgling companies through the early stages of growth.

The potential of initiatives like these is enormous. For this incubator, there have been predictions over a ten year period of 140 new companies emerging with total sales of $1500 million.

The hope for the North Shore will be to build strong clusters of such businesses and raise the profile of the North Shore as a centre for high technology industry.

There are of course spin-offs for the university and its students too. The business of the companies based here should offer opportunities for collaboration with university courses and student employment.

The government's interest in these kinds of developments is intense. We seek to bring leadership and direction to the building of a modern, upmarket, first world economy. The impetus for that is going to come from our educators and researchers and those who have the business skills and the vision to realise the commercial potential of our knowledge and discoveries.

This year a number of new initiatives will be supported by government to promote both economic transformation and greater awareness of the need for it by the general public.

We are keen partners with Auckland University in The Knowledge Wave Project, which aims to build a consensus around the policies required to transform our economy and society. The Project will culminate in an international conference here in Auckland at the beginning of August.

Next week a major report from the Tertiary Education Advisory Commission will be released. It will spell out the need for a clear government strategy and direction for tertiary education and how it can contribute to the building of New Zealand.
The government will be wanting new funding mechanisms to drive the development of centres of excellence in our universities.
Late last year the Minister of Research, Science and Technology, Pete Hodgson visited Israel and Silicon Valley to study their success in spinning off new economy businesses. Chris Kirk of this University was with him in Israel.

New policy proposals are now being developed for government support for incubators and for seed capital.

On 13 March the government is inviting the Massey Enterprise Centre and another eighteen potential incubators to Wellington to work on proposed policy for incubator development to ensure that it can meet their needs.

Yesterday Mr Hodgson announced the government's intention to become actively involved as an investor in the venture capital market at the seed capital stage. That end of the venture capital market is underdeveloped in New Zealand. The government's aim is to accelerate its development in partnership with the private sector and then to step aside when momentum has been built.

Our capital contribution, which will be significant, will go into a fund of funds, managed by government-appointed private sector managers. They will over time invest in a series of drop-down funds in which the government anticipates being a minority investor.

This means that in the not too distant future the emerging successes in the incubators can expect better access to capital to develop their products and services.

All this matters because it generates work and prosperity. Plenty of both funds a happier and more harmonious society. A strong economy is not for me an end in itself. It is a means to the end of a shared future of opportunity and security for all.

This Massey Enterprise Centre is a vital cog in the very big wheel. I thank all who have come together to support it. I believe the potential spinoffs for North Shore City are enormous. I do believe that Massey University will benefit. And I know New Zealand as a whole will benefit from the initiatives and the enterprise which are encouraged here.
Finally, my thanks go to the Tindall Foundation. Stephen Tindall has ploughed so much back into the community in so many ways. His modern philanthropy is making a difference to our lives.

I have pleasure in declaring this Massey University Business Enterprise Centre open.


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