Opening the Door to Economic Wealth

Nick Willis, the Auckland inventor who developed the cellphone lock opener, says that if you “make success your dominant thought” that is where you will gravitate towards. His story has captivated the business media and looks like a PR person’s dream come true. Not only has the guy made a lot of money for himself by licensing the technology, but he’s intelligent, articulate and has a highly photogenic family. The fact that he’s on a first name basis with both Sam Morgan and Stephen Hawking is just the icing on the cake.

Willis is very much the poster boy for the government’s economic development strategy right now, illustrating that a little intervention can be a good thing. He benefitted from publicly funded business training and startup programmes and also secured financial backing through the government’s Seed Co-Investment Fund. That’s good news. But we need 100 more companies like this.

Frankly the government needs some good news on the economic front right now! The departure of “iconic” Fisher and Paykel to Thailand came as no surprise, given the current economic settings. However the news that Australia’s GDP per capita is now a huge 38% more than New Zealand is somewhat more alarming. This startling fact received scant coverage or analysis. Where it was reported on, the media got their numbers wrong.

I know F&P have a proud history in New Zealand, but if the global price for an assembly line worker has dropped to $20 a day, do we really need that kind of industry? Wouldn’t it be better to grow some more high value, low density industries such as electronics, optics, biotechnology and software? For that to happen there needs to be a complete remodelling of the culture around research and development. That includes tax treatment, education and incentives on the government side. But it also calls for businesses to underwrite risky ideas and good people like Nick Willis.

Perhaps we need to take Nick’s advice and make success the predominant thought for the national economy.

[tags]globalisation, export, technology, New Zealand, innovators[/tags]

2 thoughts on “Opening the Door to Economic Wealth

  1. You are absolutely right – we need to forget the low wage/low value manufacturing of old and get on the value added band wagon. However this does not mean we should forget traditional industry in the run into IT or Biotech. Rather we should find ways to add value in existing industries. This however does not necessitate a move to offshore manufacturing – there are many examples of smart businesses still manufacturing viably in New Zealand – lets celebrate them rather than bemoaning F&PA or putting Sam Morgan or Jeremy Moon on some artificial pedestal (not that they aren’t great business people – just examples however, not demi gods!)

  2. Its great to have some folk heroes for inspiration.

    Sexy hi-tech industries will probably never entirely replace our bread and butter trade in commodities – as long as the world still needs to eat. In fact there surely must be a huge amount of unrealised opportunity in added value food or pharmaceutical products for example. And we only need to look around at what is happening to the global environment to realise that life is going to change for the worse if we don’t innovate very rapidly. Water shortages, bee colonies being wiped out, demand for biomass based fuels etc.

    NZ’s wet climate and relative isolation might turn out to be a blessing.

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