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Anderton - Chch Launch of the Innovation Festival

28 April 2005

Hon Jim Anderton: Christchurch Launch of the Innovation Festival

The only way we can compete in what is now a global market is by thinking smarter, by producing products heavy on ideas and lighter in weight.



Professor Roy Sharp, Vice-Chancellor, University of Canterbury
Dr. Lesley McTurk, Chief Executive, Christchurch City Council
Peter John, Director of Innovation and Commercialisation, Lincoln University
Don Rae, NZTE, Sector Manager ICT
Ian Shaw, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Science & Research Commercialisation, University of Canterbury
Ladies and Gentlemen

A few years ago a survey was carried out which asked New Zealanders how we would like to be known around the world.

A small percentage said they thought New Zealand should be known for our sporting success.

Significantly larger percentages wanted us to be known for our clean green environment and for providing a secure and fair society.

And of course, everyone of us would agree with all of those as important goals for New Zealand.

But the response that impressed me the most was that the majority of New Zealanders want New Zealand to be known throughout the globe for our creativity, talent and uniqueness.

Innovation and entrepreneurship, the focus of this festival, are two of the most vital ingredients for economic growth and they rely upon the qualities of creativity, talent and uniqueness.

Without innovation or entrepreneurship we would be left with one option - a low value economy based on commodities.

In such an economy, our living standards would drop because we couldn't produce the value needed to provide for and utilise, the technology we now depend on.

To ensure New Zealand's economy will continue to grow in the years ahead we must foster smart ideas and develop them into products and services.

We then need strong marketing strategies and global distribution networks.

By showcasing success stories of innovation and entrepreneurship, this festival is playing a role in creating the environment we need to lift our game and accelerate economic growth.

New Zealand has a proud history of innovation to build on.

From Sir Ernest Rutherford to Professor Alan McDiarmid, we have contributed world leaders of innovation and discovery through the years.

People who think outside the square and find solutions to challenging problems, people who dare to dream, make our society dynamic and vibrant.

They also generate new products and services to fuel the economy.

Sadly, New Zealand has a higher dependence on commodities than any other developed country.

While New Zealand has huge strengths as an agricultural producer, we are too heavily reliant on the production of agricultural commodities.

We cannot grow or produce enough commodities to allow New Zealand to move higher up the OECD rankings.

Add to that the fact that we are a small country at the bottom of the world, a long way from many markets and you have seemingly impervious barriers to growth to deal with.

The only way we can compete in what is now a global market is by thinking smarter, by producing products heavy on ideas and lighter in weight.

We need to make better use of our resources - land, capital equipment and technology.

The way forward is to add value to our resources and generate globally competitive products in niche markets.

We also need to lift productivity levels.

With high labour market participation and record low unemployment of 3.6 per cent, innovation is essential in lifting labour productivity.

We can no longer rely on increasing participation in the workforce in order to improve productivity.

We need to create new knowledge, commercialise it, and take full advantage of the huge reservoir of international research and ideas.

It's clear that we can compete on the world stage.

There are already many innovative world class businesses in New Zealand.

Like Navman, a leader in world class marine electronics and Global Positioning System technology.

HITLab is producing leading edge technologies for use in education, medicine, scientific visualisation, telecommunications and entertainment.

And the award winning furniture company Formway Design.

One of our most famous innovators in recent years is Peter Jackson.

From working in the weekends with the most basic of equipment on his cult classic 'Bad Taste' his team has moved on to develop some of the most sought after technology in the film world.

Camperdown studios now houses New Zealand's largest sound stage, two of the largest motion capture stages in the world and one of the largest super-computer facilities in the world.

And with the government's assistance, the facility will assist projects with strong potential for economic benefits and job creation.

Christchurch based Whisper Tech is another success story.

They have developed an external combustion engine that uses natural gas to heat water and generate electricity at the same time.

Last year they signed a deal worth over $300 million to provide home water heating boilers for the United Kingdom.

There is one very important difference about these companies and many others that are equally as innovative.

All of them are linked into global value chains.

They are already working with international companies, utilising research information, market intelligence and distribution networks.

But it is not enough just to be innovative any more.

We need more and more of our companies to step out onto the world stage.

To link into global market networks and develop their entrepreneurial skills and talents.

Navman is a prime example of how a New Zealand company can lift it's game by being both entrepreneurial and innovative.

When I first came across Navman I was quickly informed that they wanted to become a billion dollar company.

At that stage its products - like navigation equipment on boats - were bought as accessories, after you'd bought a boat.

Today they are increasingly being factory fitted - put into every boat before they go to sale.

This is something Navman has been able to achieve by working with a US based global company, Brunswick Corporation which makes boats and sells them world wide.

By being linked to global manufacturers of recreational marine craft - the sorts of boats that use their state of the art equipment - they are fast becoming a multinational electronics firm.

Opportunities like this are too important to ignore.

That is why New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has worked closely with Navman to assist its growth and development.

And will work with other New Zealand businesses with similar potential for growth.

International relationships must be made both by businesses and by governments.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has offices around the world to promote our products, attract investment and gather useful market information.

The government has pursued a range trade initiatives to make it easier for our companies to do business offshore.

We have signed, or are negotiating Closer Economic Partnerships with a number of countries, including Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, China and Chile.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs work to leverage opportunities for New Zealand from these agreements.

At a government-to-government level, we can open doors, but the next step is to encourage businesses to walk through them.

By promoting entrepreneurship, innovation and market development and by offering assistance in these areas we are making some progress.

This festival should stimulate and encourage more progress.

This year a total of 120 events are on the festival calendar - between the 26th April and 15 May.

Many successful and innovative Kiwi entrepreneurs will be showcased.

Some of the fantastic goods and services already produced in New Zealand will be on display.

Many of these products are world leaders and can command a premium price overseas.

This Innovation Festival should inspire us to move further towards high-value growth, to reach out into new markets and to realise our full potential as an innovative, entrepreneurial nation.

I wish you all the best for the festival.


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