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Research That Works

23 September 2004

Research That Works

Address to The Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics of New Zealand (ITPNZ) Sector Research Conference, Waikato Institute of Technology, Hamilton

INTRODUCTION

Thank you for the opportunity to speak to you today.

There are a number of issues I would like to talk about but before I begin I would like to acknowledge the recent celebration of ITP research and innovation successes held in Parliament in July. I was unable to attend, however, my colleague Margaret Wilson, who attended the function on my behalf, informed me that the evening was a great success.

I understand that a number of exciting innovation and growth success stories were showcased at the event including WELTEC’s rapid prototyper that produced a fantastic beehive-shaped cake mould. This rapid prototyping methodology makes high-tech yet comparatively low-cost 3D design prototyping capability available to small industry. A wonderful example of a close linkage between a tertiary education institution and its local industry.

Furthermore, I am aware that a number of other tertiary institutions, including our host WINTEC, participated in the NZ Innovation Festival celebrations.

I would therefore like to applaud, albeit belatedly, everyone who participated in the innovation festival. Not only have you demonstrated your enthusiasm for enhancing the capabilities of the tertiary sector but also, and perhaps more importantly, that innovation is alive and well within our tertiary institutions.

Today I am here to celebrate the opening of this “Research That Works” ITP sector research conference and tell you more about the new ITP Business Links Fund that government announced in this year’s Budget.

RECOGNISING YOUR SIGNIFICANT CONTRIBUTION

Before I do that, I would like to reiterate that this government values the significant contribution Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics make to the New Zealand economy and our society as a whole. We recognise the vital role you play in many communities throughout New Zealand and we acknowledge that ITPs undertake a range of activities, including the vast array of vocational courses and a significant amount of applied research.

The diversity of programmes you offer is important in terms of relevance to external stakeholder needs, and in terms of providing access for a diverse group of learners. By this I mean that the range of courses being taught prepare people directly for jobs that address this country’s skill needs and provide a more basic preparation for first time tertiary learners who can then progress to more vocationally aligned courses.

Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics should strive to support businesses to meet their skills and knowledge needs, through advice, consultancy, research, product development and focused training.

This can only be achieved by working in partnership with business to reach a common understanding of the roles of business and ITPs in ensuring that education and training meets both learner and employer needs. A closer alignment to the economic direction of the local community means Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics will be even better able to meet their community needs and contribute significantly to regional development.

All tertiary education organisations, but particularly ITPs, need to be more focussed on the needs of their communities and local economies. In order to know what businesses want now, and anticipate what businesses will need in the future, ITPs need to be effectively connected to the community within which they operate. This will only be achieved through increasing the number of collaborative partnerships between government organisations, tertiary education organisations and New Zealand industry, businesses and the community.

INTRODUCING THE ITP BUSINESS LINKS FUND

A key way this government will support the Institutes of Technology and Polytechnics to achieve closer connectedness with business is through the ITP Business Links Fund, which was announced in this year’s Budget.

Government will invest $21.5 million over the next four years into Polytechnic and Institutes of Technology projects that support growth and development in businesses. In particular the fund aims to:

enhance the capability of Polytechnics to transfer knowledge and technical expertise into industry and provide high quality relevant education and training to students

promote better and more productive collaborative working by business and the ITP sector

promote improvement in performance and better strategic alignment within the ITP sub-sector

better support capability development in ITPs while appropriately reflecting differences in ITP’s missions, size and stakeholders and not creating excessive transaction and compliance costs for ITPs or business.

HOW THE FUND WILL WORK

We recognise that Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology play an important part in meeting the skills and knowledge requirements of businesses, particularly in the regions.

The Polytechnic Business Links Fund will encourage this role, allowing institutions to tailor solutions to the needs of local businesses and industries.

The Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) will manage the fund and ensure that compliance costs and bureaucracy will be kept to a minimum.

Polytechnics and Institutes of Technology will be able to submit an industry engagement plan for negotiation with the TEC, outlining how the institution intends to support the growth and development of their business stakeholders.

The amount of funding each ITP will receive will be based on the content of its engagement plan, not the size of the institution. Each ITP will be able to apply for up to a maximum of $300,000 per academic year. However, at $5 million next year (rising to $7 million in 2007), the fund will only be able to support a grant of $250,000 on average – so there’ll be some competition as to who can do the best job!

I’d also like to be clear that I do not see the fund supporting one-off projects that are otherwise peripheral to the core business of your institutions. I want to see this money helping to support better links with industry across the piece. That way the benefits of the initial investment should be far more than just one-off incremental gains – the fund should be transformational.

I want to see the ITPs become excellent at responding to the needs of the business community and to be renowned for doing this.

LINKING TO BUSINESS AND OTHER KEY STAKEHOLDERS

I also want to emphasise that the aim of the fund is to develop this capability across the whole ITP sector because links to business needs should be one of the core roles for every ITP.

And I can confirm that the TEC is aiming to approve the business engagement plans for funding by early next year.

The Polytechnic Business Links Fund supports the goals of the Tertiary Education Strategy by aiming to build a tertiary education sector that is differentiated and specialised, and is well-connected to business and other stakeholders. Although this fund is not explicitly aimed at developing applied research, it could be one of the positive outcomes that results from this funding.

I encourage you to consider how you could use this fund to support large-scale projects that are closely linked with your core business. It’s all about being better connected and enhancing your responsiveness to the needs of your local businesses. And while the main focus of this fund is on working more with business, government recognises the importance of greater collaboration between ITPs and other key stakeholders such as Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).

I would also encourage you to work together as a sector in developing your approach to this fund. As I have said, this is about supporting all ITPs in a core role, and sharing good practice in a collaborative environment should be part of this.

I also hope you will use this new fund to broaden and strengthen these links.

CONCLUSION

On that positive note I will conclude by encouraging you to maintain the momentum in implementing the government’s tertiary reforms, as this is vital to improving tertiary education outcomes for New Zealanders. Your commitment and drive can and does make a real difference.

I wish you well for your conference and thank you again for this opportunity to speak with you.

ENDS


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