Hodgson: China Science to Market Conference
Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister of Research, Science and Technology
Minister for Economic Development
Minister of Tertiary Education
17 April 2008
China Science to Market Conference
Thank you Dr Anderson.
Thank you Liu Yanhua and Ma Linying.
It is my great pleasure to be here in China to participate in this conference.
This is my first visit to China since leading the New Zealand North Asia science and technology mission in 2004.
That visit has since been seen as a turning point in our science and technology relationship.
I hope that this visit can produce similar results, building on our previous success, and finding new ways to work together.
This conference is the first of its kind, aiming to assist in mapping key points of synergy and collaboration between New Zealand’s and China’s national research and innovation systems. And as the “science to market” name suggests, it’s also about finding ways for both sides to reap commercial benefit from their research and innovation.
This is a very timely initiative.
It is one of the first events following the signature of the New Zealand – China Free Trade Agreement a few days ago. As many of you will know, this is China’s first Free Trade Agreement with an OECD economy and its first fully comprehensive trade deal.
When Premier Wen Jiabao met with our Prime Minister in Beijing to witness the signature of this FTA, they agreed this was a major new step in our bilateral relationship. It should open the door for new opportunities and activities, including in the fields of science and innovation.
I encourage all conference participants to try to make the most of the new platform the Free Trade Agreement provides for enhanced cooperation and collaboration for mutual benefit.
Of course, the China-New Zealand relationship is not new.
The earliest records of bilateral commerce date back to the 18th century. Chinese migrants have made a major contribution to New Zealand’s society and economy. Two-way trade has expanded rapidly in recent years, with China becoming our third largest trading partner in December last year.
Our science links are also developing well.
Our Science and Technology Co-operation (STC) agreement with China was first signed more than 20 years ago. President Hu Jintao and our Prime Minister were present at the signing of a renewed agreement in 2003.
Like any relationship, ours has remained strong through continued effort from both sides. May I thank our Chinese friends for their hard work and cooperation over the years, including in the preparations for this conference.
Beyond the Free Trade Agreement, New Zealand is very committed to ensuring our relationship with China in terms of Research, Science and Technology continues to grow stronger and stronger. I am excited about the potential of this conference to further this goal.
Today’s conference will present some outstanding examples of existing collaboration, as well as looking at areas where collaboration could be developed.
In coming here, our New Zealand participants all hope to gain valuable connections and expertise in China, a recognised force in the world economy, with vast opportunities and resources.
Although New Zealand is small, we have a lot to offer.
New Zealand’s small size and unique geography has lent itself to the development of world-leading science in many areas.
We have a special relationship to the land. In recent times we have worked to not only ensure our agriculture is innovative, effective and productive, but also that it is sustainable.
Our expertise in the development of novel, resilient grass cultivars which enhance both milk and animal productivity may be of immense use to China in its efforts to develop its agricultural production in the North China region.
One such example of a current collaborative effort in the are of agricultural science is a joint project involving the Chinese Academy of Science, Lincoln University, Dexcel and AgResearch.
I understand that one of the New Zealand scientists involved, Professor Hong Di, is here today.
With 5.5 million dollars of funding from New Zealand’s Foundation for Research, Science and Technology, the group is working to improve the scientific understanding of soil biology/chemistry in order to reduce nitrate leaching and the associated problems of water contamination and greenhouse gas emissions .
New Zealand’s dairy industry contributes 20 percent of the country’s total export earnings and is targeting a 35 percent increase in milk production by 2015. The industry has also targeted a 50 percent reduction in nitrate leaching from its dairy pastures by the same date.
This research effort is a great step in this direction, and would not happen without valuable collaboration between New Zealand and China.
This collaboration is an excellent example of science that is working for both the New Zealand and Chinese agricultural sectors.
Another successful collaboration between New Zealand and China is the development of the Yunnan red pear. New Zealand Crown research institute HortResearch worked in partnership with the Yunnan Academy of Agricultural Science and local growers to develop the pear from a minor local crop in China to a commercial research success overseas. First commercial trial shipments of the pear were sent to Europe in 2003 and there are now 2000 hectares of the fruit planted in Yunnan.
Allan White, a fruit breeder from HortResearch was awarded the Friendship with Yunnan Award for his role, which is a great recognition of the value of working together.
New Zealand also contributes to world-wide knowledge about climate change through participation in several different programmes, notably the International Polar Year Census of Marine Life (IPY-CAML).
Although we have a small, isolated land mass, New Zealand boasts the world’s largest exclusive economic zone.
Our location means we have a close relationship with Antarctica, being one of the few entry points to the continent.
Our land mass contains an extremely distinctive geothermal landscape. All of these unique geographical features facilitate research which is unable to be done anywhere else in the world.
This is all backed up by strong government support, including our recently introduced Research and Development Tax credit, which came into effect on 1 April.
Looking to the future, there are many possibilities for the commercialisation of high quality natural products from New Zealand in China.
Examples of success in China include Comvita’s manuka honey-based products, where the company has opened 18 Comvita branded stores in China, as well as having its main Chinese office in Beijing. This is a success that provides both commercial benefits and health benefits for New Zealand and China.
Companies such as New Zealand Pharmaceuticals Ltd, one of New Zealand’s largest biotechnology companies, and GMP Pharmaceuticals Ltd, one of New Zealand’s fastest growing biotechnology companies, are both increasingly active in China and are both selling and buying pharmaceutical and biotechnology ingredients via distributors in Chong Qing and Beijing.
These latter two serve as both exemplars of the “two-way street” trading activities that we will see further enhanced by the Free Trade Agreement, as well as the fact that further demand for NZ products will come to light in the Chinese market.
Even with all this great collaboration already underway, we still have a long way to go to fill our potential as science and technology partners.
There are many areas we have yet to explore together. In my opinion this is one of the most exciting opportunities that an event like this conference presents.
The opportunity to get so many great intellectual and entrepreneurial minds from different parts of the world in one room is a rare one, so I hope you all make the most of it.
The next year will be important to the relationship between New Zealand and China.
New Zealand is due to host the second Joint Commission on Science and Technology this year. We are certainly looking forward to his important event and continuing the work begun at the first joint commission and hopefully developed further during this conference.
We also intend to work with China in the future to develop a bilateral funding programme.
Science, technology and innovation are vital to the sustained growth and development of both our economies. Finding new ways to collaborate, to exchange ideas and to share resources is an important way to ensure our relationship continues to go from strength to strength.
We already have many successful collaborative efforts under way, and I hope we continue to build on this foundation.
With the diverse strengths we offer one another, the opportunities are limitless, and I only hope you all take advantage of them.
I wish you all good luck and hope there will be some exciting outcomes from the conference and the networking opportunities it provides.