In a recent publication, the New Zealand government has expressed a clear description of what it expects of its growing science and innovation system. ‘Excellence’ and ‘Impact’ will be the main criteria for public investment. All science should have a strong line-of-sight of the eventual benefits to businesses and society. The government aims to increase public investment in R&D from its current level of 0.67% to reach 0.8% of GDP with the intention that the private sector increases its investment to at least 1% of GDP by 2025.

The government’s commitment to growing the science system is already showing positive results: in the recently released Global Innovation Index 2015, New Zealand ranked 15th overall of 141 countries, an improvement from 18th in 2014. Its global ranking for residents filing at the national patent office has also improved from 8th in 2014 to 6th in 2015. New Zealand was again ranked first in the world for ease of starting a business and protecting investors.

In a more detailed analysis, 50.6% of New Zealand’s publications have international co-authors – strong evidence that researchers are well connected internationally. On the other hand, only 3.2% of publications have academic and corporate affiliations and government strategies are clearly focused on increasing academic-industry collaboration. The investment emphasis is on mission-led programmes with 42% share of public funding, industry-led programmes (26%), and investigator-led programmes (32%). This funding structure creates a strong incentive for more academic-industry collaboration.

The commitment to grow the science and innovation system goes in parallel to new government initiatives to attract multinational companies to New Zealand as an R&D destination. Life sciences related sectors – the innovation areas covered by BioPacific Partners – constitute 56% of total R&D expenditure across primary industries, health and environment. BioPacific Partners is therefore well placed to connect its multinational corporate partners with the newest innovations from New Zealand while at the same time supporting the government’s strategies to grow New Zealand’s reputation as a major global innovation hub.

By Joerg Kistler, BioPacific Partners Venture Partner and Director of BIO INC

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