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Line-Up To Focus On Creating New Kiwi Prosperity

Line-Up To Focus On Creating New Kiwi Prosperity

Rt Hon Helen Clark Dr John Hood
Prime Minister Vice-Chancellor
The University of Auckland

30 May 2001


Finding practical new ways to make New Zealand a smarter, more successful country is the challenge of the Catching the Knowledge Wave conference, whose programme and line-up of keynote speakers were unveiled today by Prime Minister Helen Clark and the Vice-Chancellor of The University of Auckland, Dr John Hood.

"The Catching the Knowledge Wave project is an opportunity for New Zealanders to seek a new consensus on creating high value industries that will drive new job opportunities, guarantee a future with strong education and health systems, and foster a fair society," said Helen Clark.

“We have invited speakers who have first-hand, practical experience of how other societies have lifted their economic performance,” said Dr Hood. “This pool of government, academic, and business expertise which will assemble is impressive.

"These experts will be working intensively with the 450 New Zealand participants at the conference on strategies for the future.”

To be run from 1-3 August in Auckland, the conference will seek participation and results centred around five themes: innovation and creativity; people and capability; sustainable economic strategies; entrepreneurship; and social cohesion and the Knowledge Divide.

Individually invited participants chosen from a broad cross-section of New Zealand interests - political parties, the bureaucracy, academia, the business community, trade union movement, and community organisations – will be charged with producing concrete proposals for action.

“New Zealand must plot its own unique solutions to become a prosperous, socially cohesive society,” said Dr Hood. “However, the record shows that those countries doing best have a common national focus on the pursuit and application of knowledge as the most powerful force for economic and social advancement.

“With Catching the Knowledge Wave, we can learn how other countries have achieved high levels of growth and wealth creation by dramatically re-ordering their national priorities, and how quickly the results can flow.

“Look at Ireland, for example, which 10 years ago faced an unemployment crisis, today is hard-pressed to fill 70,000 job vacancies, and is ranked seventh in world competitiveness. Or look at Singapore, which received New Zealand’s foreign aid forty years ago and is today one of this country’s most important foreign investors.

“In coming weeks, we will be giving all New Zealanders, both at home and overseas, a chance to start thinking, talking, and acting on these issues,” said Dr Hood. “Everyone will have an opportunity to contribute, whether they attend the conference as invited participants, take part in public events around it, or contribute ideas to the project.”

The conference organisers were delighted to have attracted such an array of some of the best thinkers and practitioners in their fields.

From Sean Dorgan, chief executive of Ireland’s “jobs machine”, the Industrial Development Agency, to Jilly Evans, the Hawke's Bay-born global director of pharmacology for the medical research and pharmaceutical company, Merck, this rich blend of speakers would be the spark for action at the conference.

Combining his deep understanding of New Zealand’s circumstances and what makes countries competitive, Professor Michael Porter of the Harvard Business School returns to outline the opportunities for New Zealand’s emerging knowledge-intensive industries.

Case studies from Israel, Finland, Ireland, Taiwan, Singapore, Canada, and Australia will presented by key speakers. These include one of the architects of Singapore’s path to a knowledge-based future, Trade and Industry Minister, George Yeo, and the Australian Chief Scientist, Robin Batterham, who drove the recent $A2.9 billion innovation package, “Backing Australia’s Ability”.

Others, such as the Xerox’s chief scientist Dr John Seely Brown are not only at the forefront of business development, but are also internationally recognised for their contribution to theories of radical innovation and how people learn best. As the head of Taiwan’s premier scientific research institution and a revered national statesman, the Nobel Prize-winning chemist Dr Yuan T Lee was a key figure in the transformation of Taiwan’s economy.

Others bring expertise in the scientific and social dimensions of the debate, such as the leading British fertility researcher and presenter of the acclaimed BBC series “The Human Body”, Lord Robert Winston.

Recognising the importance of the conference, the United Nations and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development are sending representatives. The UN Under-Secretary General for Economic and Social Affairs, Nitin Desai, will speak on the social implications of the global economy while the Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD, Sally Shelton-Colby, will review New Zealand’s comparative economic performance.

“Combined with other initiatives, Catching the Knowledge Wave is an essential element in exploring how New Zealand can better capitalise on the know-how we already have, and invest in the new knowledge that will help underpin New Zealand’s future social and economic development,” Helen Clark said.


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