Advanced Technology Institute – Experts respond

The government has released some of the details regarding the planned Advanced Technology Institute, which aims to bring innovative ideas to market faster.

The  Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) was first suggested in the commissioned independent 2011 report Powering Innovation, and was allocated funding in the 2012 budget. Today’s announcement ends the speculation around what the ATI will look like and what responsibilities it will have.

The ATI will be a Crown Agent, absorbing the CRI Industrial Research Limited, and will have centres in Auckland, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch. A soon-to-be-announced Establishment Board will be tasked with having the ATI operation by the 1st December 2012.

Read a full media release with Q&A and links to further documents here.

“The main purpose of the Advanced Technology Institute is to help get our best, most innovative ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace more quickly,” says Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

“The ATI will have operations in Auckland, the Hutt Valley and Christchurch. It will help high-tech firms become more competitive by better connecting them with innovation expertise and facilities that exist both within the ATI and across New Zealand’s Crown Research Institutes, universities, polytechnics, and other research organisations.

“It will encourage greater mobility of researchers, graduates, and academics between institutions and industry by organising co-appointments and secondments.”

The Science Media Centre contacted key individuals in the innovation sector for further comment:

Hans van der Voorn, Executive Chairman, Izon comments:

“The intention of this initiative is good. The conversion of ideas into high margin products that we sell is the ultimate aim of innovation. If the ATI can make that happen more effectively in New Zealand then it would be a good thing. I hope they understand though, that the commercialisation process is very entrepreneurial in nature and therefore much more likely to succeed in the private sector than in the public sector.

“There will need to be a much more entrepreneurial flavour in the ATI than we normally see in public sector institutions. We have to remember to compete in the real world, not the theoretical world.”

Professor John Raine, AUT,  who chaired the 2011 Powering Innovation review panel, comments:

“I am very pleased to see that the Government has followed through on the recommendations in the Powering Innovation report and is launching the ATI. I believe that by providing locations in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, and working closely with businesses and research institutions, the ATI can play a key role in facilitating high tech industry research, development, and technology commercialisation across New Zealand.  This development gives this country the opportunity to develop stronger networks of capability, and enhanced knowledge access for transfer to industry. 

“I also hope the ATI will be a powerful catalyst in building industry sector networks, promoting staff mobility  between research organisations and industry, and a much greater number of industry-linked PhD projects in partnership with the universities. As detailed plans roll out, it will be important to retain and develop relevant existing IRL strengths, and to ensure that ongoing investment enables the ATI to achieve its objectives.”

Further reaction

BusinessNZ was supportive of the planned institute.

“Bringing business and science closer together and supporting business-led growth in new technologies will be crucial for New Zealand’s business competitiveness,” said  Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly

“ATI will bring a new way of operating in the science-business area, with much potential for economic growth, and New Zealand business will have much to gain from partnering with the new institution.

However, concern has been expressed about exactly how staff from the CRI Industrial Research Limited (IRL) will be incorporated into the new ATI.

“Staff are still none the wiser about how they will fit into the new organisation, what their role will be and whether the work they do will be valued in this new environment,” says PSA National Secretary Richard Wagstaff.

“The Advanced Technology Institute has been signalled for quite some time yet Industrial Research Limited appears to have been left out of the loop and still no one seems to be able to give staff any firm answers about their future.”