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Universities Committed To Driving Innovation

Media Release 29 July 2009

Universities Committed To Driving Innovation

Universities’ significant commitments to creating and applying knowledge to drive innovation in New Zealand are noted in Ministry of Education monitoring of the current tertiary education strategy.

Driving innovation is one of three overarching goals in the strategy which covers the period from 2007 to 2012. A three-part monitoring report released by the ministry this month says universities have addressed that goal by increasing research revenue and productivity, as well as improving research connections and linkages including some initiatives to enhance capability.

“The report is another illustration of the key role universities are playing in this country’s economic recovery and development,” notes Professor Roger Field who chairs the university representative body, the New Zealand Vice-Chancellors’ Committee.

The tertiary education strategy emphasises the distinctive contributions made by different categories of tertiary education organisations and cites a priority outcome for universities as improving research connections and linkages to create economic opportunities.

The monitoring report says a number of universities have the development of research collaborations as an objective. Such collaborations involve other universities and tertiary education providers, research institutions, government and industry. The analysis also found universities are increasingly citing the commercialisation of research as an objective.

Larger businesses are more likely to engage with universities, according to the report. And businesses in the the manufacturing, property, business services, retail trade and health and community services sectors are most likely to seek information from universities to assist their innovation. Businesses entering into co-operative relationships with universities do so to access management skills, production processes and research and development.

Professor Field says these findings point to further opportunities for universities to engage with the wider commercial sector, including small and medium businesses, to assist with their innovation activity.

The monitoring report identifies universities’ contribution to the strategy’s innovation goal as ensuring that research and scholarship inform teaching and contribute to economic and social development. The expectation of research-led teaching builds on changes to university research funding, particularly the introduction of the Performance-Based Research Fund (PBRF).

National research priorities had been identified in a number of areas covered by PBRF panels. “The proportion of university staff rated ‘A’ and “B’ in the PBRF who are [undertaking research] in these [priority areas] provides an indicator of the extent and quality of research being undertaken. From 2003 to 2006, the number of A and B rated staff in universities increased by 22 per cent,” the report says.

In the context of the global recession, the ministry document notes that the current policy focus is on how to manage the country through a difficult economic period while continuing to make strategic investments for the long term. Based on the report findings, university education and research is an obvious case for such investment, Professor Field says.

ENDS

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