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Govt launches Innovation Partnership programme to lure international innovators

Wednesday 14th March 2018

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Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods launched an Innovative Partnership programme to attract future-focused international innovators and firms such as Kitty Hawk Corp to undertake R&D and develop their products in New Zealand.

“This government is committed to developing New Zealand as a hub for high-value, knowledge intensive businesses that create value through innovation and R&D,” Woods said in a statement.

Under Labour's coalition agreement with New Zealand First, the government is targeting an increase in total spending on R&D to reach 2 percent of GDP in 10 years and Woods is currently carrying out work to overhaul New Zealand’s R&D regime. Total R&D spending is currently around 1.3  percent of GDP, according to the latest data from Statistics New Zealand. 

A recent working paper from the International Monetary Fund found that "firms with stronger investor presence in technology frontier countries benefit disproportionately more from their R&D."  While technology frontier countries include Japan, Germany and the US, the IMF paper notes that "by setting up R&D labs abroad — especially in technology frontier countries —firms can source technology from foreign countries more effectively and improve their productivity." 

While New Zealand isn't included in the group of frontier countries, different technology firms have long opted to test products here due to the relative isolation - making it easier to keep under wraps - and the fact that people speak English and have similar levels of affluence and taste to other larger markets. New Zealand's regulatory regime and business-friendly environment are also attractive. 

The latest example was Kitty Hawk, which is operating in New Zealand as Zephyr Airworks and has been testing its self-driving flying car in New Zealand since late 2017. Led by Sebastian Thrun, the founder of X (previously Google X), where he led the development of the self-driving car, Google Glass, and other projects, the company has created Cora - an electric air taxi that combines self-piloting software and vertical take-off capability. 

So far, it has an experimental airworthiness certificate from both the New Zealand Civil Aviation Authority and the US Federal Aviation Administration and is "working with the CAA on further certification goals to bring an air taxi service to the commercial market," it said on its website. 

"Zephyr Airworks’ presence in New Zealand will build capability in our own science system - partially in areas like software engineering, Artificial Intelligence, robotics, composite material, and aviation design," said Woods. 

The Innovative Partnership Programme is run by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, multiple agencies across local and central governments work together to support and facilitate the elements that influence a decision to undertake R&D in New Zealand, said Woods. 

“International innovators are finding our unique expertise, resources and talent, together with our size and location, offer surprising advantages when it comes to turning ideas into reality."

BusinessDesk receives assistance from Callaghan Innovation to cover the commercialisation of innovation.

(BusinessDesk)

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