The New Zealand Prime Minister’s chief science advisor, Professor Peter Gluckman, recently released his report into the challenges facing the nation’s science innovation system. Addressing technology transfer is one of the most important tasks that lies ahead, he says.
For many years we’ve been hearing about the intellectual property that remains “locked up” within the Crown Research Institues (CRI) and universities. But precious little work has been done to actually identify and illuminate such material. Gluckman alludes to a dysfunctional national research environment in his report that pits researchers against one another and discourages collaboration.
But the pathway to real transformation will most likely arise from creating better business models early in the innovation process. That requires change agents with the skills to identify and extract marketable technologies and build sufficient value that will attract investment. It also requires strong linkages into the capital and consumer markets of the Northern Hemisphere, without which we cannot rapidly scale new technologies.
Intuitively these seem like very sensible ideas, so why do we appear to struggle to enact them? Until we recognise that building social capital is a critical part of the technology innovation and commercialisation process, it is likely that we will continue to fall short. Teens and online game junkies have highly resourced virtual spaces to connect and collaborate, surely we can do the same for scientists, entrepreneurs and investors.