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Cullen: Scientific collaboration with Korea

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Deputy Prime Minister, Attorney-General, Minister of Finance, Minister for Tertiary Education, Leader of the House

13 February 2007 Speech Notes

Embargoed until: 5.30pm
Celebrating scientific collaboration with Korea

Speech notes for a reception at Government House for the Korea-NZ joint symposium at the MacDiarmid Institute AMN-3 conference.

Your Excellency, The Governor General

MacDiarmid Centre director Professor Callaghan

It's my pleasure to acknowledge the presence of world-leading scientists with us today, including:

- Nobel laureates Sir Harry Kroto and Professor Stephen Chu

- Professor Sir John Pendry of Imperial College

- Professors Yung Woo Park and Young June Park from Seoul National University

- Korean Ambassador Joon-Jyu Lee (or deputy Hee-Yoon Kang).

It's a poignant time to be gathering for a seminar associated with the MacDiarmid Institute, with the passing of Alan MacDiarmid last week.

As has been widely noted, Alan was proud of his roots in New Zealand and strongly supported the institute named after him, and its work.

And in his support he was a strong advocate for the use of science and technology to improve the well-being of society.

He combined those views with a strong sense of social justice - he believed science should be used to ensure we can all enjoy a better quality of life for all.

Our economic and social well-being depends - in part - on the quality and development of our science.

On this note, I was interested to hear of a speech by the institute's director, Professor Callaghan, to the Treasury, one of the departments I am responsible for.

He started out by expressing his interest in economic history, and in what makes nations wealthy or poor.

The topic is especially interesting to me, as it's my academic specialty.

There is a wide consensus in developed market economies these days about the main ingredients that determine a country's wealth.

Yet it still comes as a surprise to most that a country's level of natural resources doesn’t decide the issue.

There are many countries rich in natural wealth where the people are desperately poor.

There is roughly the same amount of resources in the world as there was fifty or a hundred years ago.

We have depleted some of our fossil fuels and other resources, but we have also discovered some new reserves.

There is no more land in the world than there was then, and no more rain or sunshine or minerals.

Yet the world's total wealth has grown massively in that time.

What made the difference in that time was ideas.

It's not that we have more resources, but that we do much more with the resources we have.

There are many ingredients in the mix of good ideas.

Good governance, property rights and trade, robust legal systems and sophisticated capital markets all make a contribution. There is a New Zealand expression that says the waka - or canoe - takes many paddles.

And just as essential to improving living standards, are skills and knowledge.

Insight through science and research allows us to do more with the resources we have.

As globalisation connects the international economy more and more, rewards will increasingly flow to countries with skills and knowledge.

So research, science and technology are crucial to transforming New Zealand's economy into a high-skill, high-value, globally-connected economy.

In recognition, the government invests $630 million a year through the Research, Science and Technology budget.

Nanotechnology is an emerging area with significant potential for industries like manufacturing, agriculture and health.

Some of the radical possibilities far in the future read like science fiction to the uninitiated.

So the Roadmap launched by my colleague Hon Steve Maharey today focuses on increasing our capability around nanoscience and nanotechnology.

The objective is to better absorb the science, develop it here and apply it for our benefit.

We are fortunate to have both research exellence and a growing partnership with Korea as we look to develop our capabilities.

The MacDiarmid Institute was set up as one of seven centres of Research Excellence in 2002-03.

The aim of the centres is to develop world-class research in New Zealand by bringing together universities, Crown Research Institutes and private research.

Collaboration is fundamental to expanding the horizons of knowledge.

It’s even more important in a globalised world, where we need to specialise in the things we do well. We can't expect to be the best at everything.

So we are fortunate to have a mutually beneficial partnership with Korea.

Our strength lies in the excellence of our basic science.

Korea has a strength in commercialising science.

The enormous potential we have together was recognised when my colleague - the then minister of RS&T Pete Hodgson - went to Korea in 2004, and talks soon began over the development of a formal science relationship between our two countries.

Since January 2005, four full scientific delegations have been hosted in each country.

And as our scientists develop links, the partnerships are deepening.

In December 2005 Foundation of Research, Science and Technology funded its first Korea-NZ research collbaoration, developing fibre optic strain gauges to monitor the structural integrity of oil tankers.

I hope and confidently expect we will see many more fruitful partnerships.

Korea is one of New Zealand’s most important partners.

Our trading relationship is growing quickly in both directions.

We value the migrants and the visitors who come to New Zealand from Korea.

We have shared regional and international interests, too, that we work on closely through a variety of international organisations including APEC and the East Asia Summit.

We have sister city links and our education ties are deepening.

Last year I met Korean Deputy Prime Minister and Education Minister Kim Shin-il in Seoul to discuss how to broaden the international education relationship. I value the number of Korean students who come here every year to further their studies and equally New Zealand students studying further in Korea.

In 2005, New Zealand hosted 13,275 number of Korean students in our schools and universities. Expanding our education horizons is a win-win for both our countries. As I have said, higher education drives greater opportunities for our economies.

We underlined our commitment to the relationship by last year agreeing to base a New Zealand education counsellor in Seoul. This year the counsellor will begin to work with your universities and government agencies to ensure we can provide access for your students to the very best opportunities our universities can offer, and to build strong relationships.

This week we're deepening further the exciting science, research and technology ties between us.

It's my pleasure to wish you all the very best for the success of the conference.

And even more importantly, for the continued strength and success of the science relationship between us and a warm and expanding relationship between our countries.

Thank you.


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