“…in a knowledge-based economy characterised by uncertainty, risk and speed, binary oppositions between ‘ivory towers’ and ‘real world’ environments appear increasingly outdated. Evidence suggests that the attributes valued by research communities, with their emphasis on problem-formulation and generation of ideas, are equally valued in business and industry…” Visiting UC Scholar, Professor Ray Land (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow) 2009
New Zealanders, with their proud mountaineering traditions and abundance of mountain peaks, expect the view from a summit to be panoramic. The much vaunted national jobs summit and its regional counterparts don’t appear to have got beyond the foothills.
Few big companies have joined the taxpayer subsidised nine-day fortnight scheme, though more may be in the pipeline now that the scope of the scheme has been widened. The proposed public/private capital fund has been bounced by the banks. The national cycleway is either punctured or slow-tracked. Any mention of skills development seems to have dropped out of the equation. (This had been the very positive part of the nine-day fortnight concept, though it was fraught with logistical difficulties if approached in a fragmented fashion).
Perhaps other Summit proposals will see the light of day in this year’s budget but it is hard to detect a coherent vision-not surprising, since Job Summit participants were enjoined to take a short term view to get quick runs on the board. The process seem to have been more driven by the Ministry of Social Development than the Ministry of Economic Development and is more about coping with the immediate effects of the downturn than facilitating the longer term causes of new growth through innovation.
In the meantime, the economic clouds on the horizon have got darker and more threatening. Governments all around the world are busily revising downwards their worst case scenarios.
The $10 million New Zealand’s ICT Innovation Institute (NZi3) opened at the University of Canterbury last Friday, has been launched with a longer view in mind than election cycle palliatives.
With its state-of-the- technology workplace, including live and virtual conference facilities, it symbolises, in the words of its director Darin Graham, the level of desire UC has to connect the academic and business worlds.
The university has had long-standing commercial connections through its Engineering School, its Antarctic initiative and its commercial development wing Canterprise. UC was also a major sponsor of our SmartNet initiative which started in 1997 and which helps to link the tertiary research community, innovative businesses, support professionals and national and local government in order to promote collaboration and innovation in New Zealand to enable us to compete more effectively offshore.
NZi3 takes the academic-business interface to a new level by providing a working platform for the generation of new ideas and new technologies. This is no ivory tower. With the help of IBM’s super economy-sized computer and local players like Tait Electronics, Jade Software and Allied Telesis, NZi3 will combine blue skies research, cloud computing with down to earth commercial research and development. The design of the facilities will accelerate knowledge flows and innovation from the rich mix of university researchers, students and business partners.
Newly appointed UC vice-chancellor Rod Carr, fresh from Jade Software, wants to create a whole ICT industry platform “… an ecosystem, where companies like Jade are the output.”
NZi3 is a significant and exciting development for the knowledge ecology of Canterbury and a big step towards the original SmartNet concept of Canterbury as the Brain Plain. The ICT Innovation Institute is a 21st century collaborative space where the medium is indeed the message. Watch this space!