I spent a day last week at the Focus on Health – New Zealand Innovation Challenge Wellington launch event. The programme aims to cultivate some innovative healthcare solutions that have commercialisation potential in the vast U.S. marketplace. But after the event I was left wondering how many of the participants actually had sound, commercial propositions that would scale successfully into such a competitive environment.
Remarkably the Innovation Challenge was one of the few economic development initiatives from the previous government to emerge unscathed from the post election cost cutting review. Six months later it has ministerial approval and everyone is working hard to position the project to take full advantage of U.S. economic stimulus spend, of which a large amount is directed at making health delivery more efficient. Better late than never. Perhaps most significant is advice that this programme could be a template for other sectors – if it can be shown to deliver some real wins.
So it is important that we get some companies with high value offerings to step up to the batters plate. It will be up to the Challenge judges to decide who goes forward, but I would imagine there will be a strong focus on health information technology, bioactive foods and medical equipment. So I was a little concerned that when I looked around the room, the majority of participants were not in these fields at all. Maybe that does not matter, part of the deal is to foster collaboration, educate business and open pathways by exposing New Zealand companies to offshore markets and investors. That in itself is a laudable goal.
In fact John Eyles gave an excellent talk on why collaboration is essential in order to take advantage of global opportunties. It was worth attending just to hear this message and I hope those listening took the message on board. We tend to be a nation of small businesses working in silos; which is one reason why our businesses remain small. You certainly don’t enter the American market unless you have robust partnerships and a lot of good advice under your belt.