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Brislen on Tech

Paul Brislen, Editor. 23 February 2018, 5:57 pm

Real Estate and Disasters

I was at the launch of the University of Auckland's Unleashed Space this week, and the Prime Minister was there to cut the ribbon (although, as this is the 21st century no ribbons were harmed in the opening of this facility).

One of the things she spoke about was the problem with research and development in New Zealand. We are an R&D laggard.

In 2015, the OECD put our spend on research and development at 1.277% of GDP. Israel, the world's leader, spends 4.253% of its GDP. The OECD average is 2.38%.

The PM says this isn't good enough and I wholeheartedly agree. She says she hopes we'll get to 2% in the next ten years and her goal is to drive us towards that.

Two percent of GDP isn't anywhere near enough to justify our self-belief in New Zealand as a centre of innovation, as the home of the Number Eight Fencing Wire myth, as the place where talent wants to live.

We need to be doing a lot more in this area if we're to get ahead. We need to be churning out great ideas and companies based on those ideas. We need more incubators, more Unleashed Spaces, more BizDojos and Ice Houses and we need more kids seeing this as a viable choice for their career. We won't get any of that if we aim for 2% of GDP. All we'll get are slightly fewer angry columns about lost opportunities.

The problem is that currently we only spend on R&D in one way - we have a large pool of money made available through various grant programmes like Callaghan Innovation and the VIFNZ fund.

I don't want to see these programmes ended because, unlike the National Business Review's readership, I don't see these grants as a form of corporate welfare. Far from it - they're a vital component in building up our innovation sector.

I would like to see them become less risk averse - currently in order to secure a grant you have to not only jump backwards through indemnity hoops while juggling chainsaws and puppies but you also have to promise never to fail and that, to me, sends the wrong message. I don't want safe, I want spectacular.

Minor changes like that aside, I think they should continue to operate.  They account for almost all of that 1.277% spend and that's the problem. We don't have any non-public money going into this sector because it's risky (and Kiwis are not good at risk) and because the tax incentives are all weighted towards housing.

If I have equity in my house, I can talk to the bank and get my mortgage topped up to a certain total percentage and spend that money on another house and rent it out. The banks are quite happy to lend in that situation because if I fail to make my payments they can sell the houses out from under me. Winning!

Also, if I make a loss on the investment - say I can't get someone to rent my property at the rate I'd like - then I can write off some of my tax against that loss. So I'm winning either way.

But if I go to my bank and tell them I'd like to do the same thing only instead of buying a house I want to invest in a high-tech start-up, I won't get any further in the conversation because they'll have pressed that secret red button all bank managers keep under their desk and the security shutters will slam down and they'll be whisked backwards in their office chairs to a secure location so fast it'll make the Secret Service look like dullards in comparison.

This has to change. Yes, I know we need rental properties but I'd rather we grow this economy by building new businesses rather than through real estate and earthquakes.

That needs addressing first and foremost and then we can see that 2% is the bare minimum. I'd like to see us hit 3% in the next decade and aim higher than that.

Yes, we can.

OECD - Gross domestic spending on R&D

University of Auckland - Unleash Space

Scoop - University of Auckland opens new innovation hub

Stuff - Market welcomes back R&D tax credits, with calls for a cross-party deal (October 2017)

NZ Herald - Is our new R&D goal realistic? (October 2017)





The D5 nations need better press secretaries.

This is supposed to be the world's leading group of digital nations - the countries at the cutting edge of the technology that will build our futures. The disruptive technology that is going to change everything, do away with jobs, recreate economies and break down barriers.

However, nobody, it seems, cares a jot what's going on with the D5, including sadly New Zealand's mainstream media.

Sure, there was the announcement that it was coming. And then there was the announcement that it would be here. Then there was the announcement about … erm… well, they talked about …


If Estonia, South Korea, Israel and New Zealand (oh yeah, and the UK) want to be digital leaders they're going to have to do quite a bit better. It's like the Commonwealth Games of the tech world.

Nobody wrote about it. Nobody covered it. Nobody cared. (BREAKING NEWS: This morning Stuff has a story about the meeting. This makes two stories covering the entire thing. UPDATE II - I see one on CIO too... BUT MY POINT STANDS)

I get that governments meeting to talk turkey isn't really big news but digital disruption is, so why didn't the D5 get better press? Why didn't the BBC send its Click team down to write about it? Why didn't the New Zealand Herald send a junior reporter along to the Auckland event? Why didn't the Dominion Post bother with the Wellington meeting?

I know the media has been hard done by and that there are fewer journalists working in the tech and business sectors now than there were before we had a tech sector, but surely there was something of value in having these world leaders in town? Surely?



D5 - Digital 5 (D5)

Scoop - The D5 are meeting this week - does anybody know?

Techblog - Social deprivation and the role of the internet (Yay, coverage! Oh wait, it's me)

Stuff - Kiwis could get right akin to 'judicial review' of decisions made by computers

CIO - Towards digital transformation that leaves no-one behind


ITX is coming, ready or not

ITx 2018 is New Zealand's Technology Mega-Conference - a huge collaborative conference with 13 tech conferences under one roof, run by ITP in partnership with 12 other tech groups. Calls for papers/presentations are currently open for the ITP 2018 conference (run by IT Professionals NZ), CITRENZ 2018 and the itSMF 2018 conference - all component conferences of ITx.

The Call for Papers for ITx 2018 closes this Friday 23 February so get your ideas down on paper (digitally speaking) and get them in to the team.

We're looking for interesting, diverse discussion on as many topics as you can think of but if you need some guidance how about Current and Future Tech Trends; Innovation and Research; Technology and Education; Professional practice or indeed anything that might be of interest to an IT professional such as yourself.

Check out the Call for Papers page on the ITx website for more info.

ITX - Call for Papers






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