Archive for November, 2008

“Bureaucrats – dobermans or dream deliverers?” asks Silverhawk

November 12, 2008

Silverhawk, our resident policy analyst has a new slant on the role of the bureaucrat.

 

Nugget’ Coombs was the chief adviser to a string of Prime Ministers a few decades back. And old-timers still sing his praises. He was quoted on occasions as saying that a ‘good bureaucrat makes other people’s dreams come true.’ Nice romantic ring to it.

 

There is an element of truth in what Nugget was saying. But these days we’ve lost the people who can massage ideas, and coax and prod people to a common position. Let me explain. Cockatoo is helping various councils to mount cases for funding of community centres, an agricultural college, an environmental/tourism interpretive centre, an industrial park, water recycling plants and green precincts.

 

The common factor in these projects is that the alignment of the funding is so uncertain – federal programs are patchy and have lengthy, mind-numbing assessment procedures, the state programs are mostly miserly, and local government looks to the others. When we approach federal officials to get past the website information and acronyms, it’s like prising a bone off a Doberman.

 

Why is this? The reason is that the program machinery is now so tight that very few federal officials are willing to assist in delivering dreams. Careers are at risk if there is a taint of picking winners, or getting too close to companies or local stakeholders. The blow-up of the Regional Partnerships Program hasn’t helped. So the end result is a federal bureaucracy that is constrained in shaping ideas, to bring fresh information to the table (and it does have the information!) and to be a player.

 

The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forestry (DAFF) is a good example. Its ‘constituents’ are doing it tough – agricultural industries are crying out for value-adding agendas, food exports are modest, farmers are walking, regional infrastructure and investment need a stimulus. It has a young, smart and ambitious Minister, but his portfolio has so few programs that it doesn’t need Dobermans. We can’t understand why he’s keeping such a low profile. (His name is Tony Burke).

The take home message is to appreciate the constraints facing federal officials, and look after your local champions and economic development managers, because they are the closest thing to a dream deliverer (and the Cockatoo Network of course!).

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Life Sciences network begins in Melbourne (BEST PRACTICE)

November 12, 2008

 

Hi Cockatoo, trust you are well.  I’d be grateful if you could make mention of the new network that has been established in Melbourne recently, the ICT for Life Sciences Forum. http://ict4lifesciences.org.au/

 

Much has been written in recent years about the so called convergence of difference disciplines and the medical and life sciences and how this convergence has the potential to lead to new breakthroughs that could impact health and welfare. In 2006 the Victoria Research Laboratory of NICTA, with funding support from the State Government, undertook to build a new research program which would demonstrate the enabling benefits that ICT could bring to the medical and life sciences. 

 

Computing and engineering can now be increasingly applied to address issues facing medical and life sciences researchers. These range from providing superior productivity – for example, by speeding up the time it takes to analyse masses of data – to taking advantages offered by the microelectronics revolution to enable the emerging field of medical bionics, where implants and prostheses are able to sense the performance of bodily functions and in some cases restore their function.

 

We are recruiting a large pool of engineering and PhD students, approximately 50, to undertake research on how engineering can enable medical research.  This is an exciting development, but it has its challenges, the foremost of which is the communication required in this multidisciplinary collaboration. This has led us to work with research institutions, mostly in Melbourne, involved in multidisciplinary research.  

 

The principal focus of the ICT for Life Sciences Forum is to network local researchers from the different research disciplines. 

 

The prospect of breakthroughs from multidisciplinary research will only remain a prospect unless the doers – the research scientists – can effectively work together and understand each other.  We are hoping that by networking researchers across Melbourne, we might start to see the benefits emerge downstream with novel solutions in the market. 

 

There is a lot of excitement about the initiative among the research community, and we will be holding many events and presentations in the coming year.  We held what will become the Forum’s major annual event, the Graeme Clark Oration, in late October. The Oration honours the work and achievement of Professor Graeme Clark, the inventor of the bionic ear. His perseverance and achievement should serve an inspiration for young researchers. Your support in raising the profile of the Forum would be very much appreciated.

 

Regards, Luan Ismahil, Melbourne – luan.ismahil@nicta.com.au

NSW Bush gets attention

November 12, 2008

 

NSW Premier Rees is under pressure from all sides due to his mini-Budget this month. But largely unnoticed was his announcement a week earlier of a package of new funding programs to strengthen and sustain country communities. It totals $85 million over the next 5 years – and starts 1 January.

 

The Premier’s said “This is money for small projects to kick-start the bush and improve services for our rural families…many country towns are doing it tough…a package of new programs aimed squarely at giving bush communities a hand…country towns need real projects, real money that makes a difference now…these measures, which are just a beginning, are in response to the report of the recent Rural and Regional Taskforce’.

 

Leaving the rhetoric aside, this was a no-brainer – most other States have such programs, and regional NSW really had dropped off the radar under the Iemma/Costa stewardship. So congrats are due! 

 

The new programs are:

• Local Infrastructure Fund, $52 million – projects need to be directly linked to economic development opportunities, creating more jobs and more economic growth for rural communities.

• Community Broadband Development Program, $11.6 million

• Country Libraries Fund, $9 million

• Country Halls Renewal Package, $2.5 million

• Water Adjustment Innovation Fund, $9 million

• Small Communities Awareness Fund, $450,000

• Small Chamber of Commerce Fund $450,000.

Auto Industry Plan announced in Australia

November 12, 2008

 

PM Kevin Rudd announced on 10 November a $6.2 billion plan to make the Australian automotive industry more economically and environmentally sustainable by 2020.

 

It includes an expanded $1.3 billion Green Car Innovation Fund – where the Australian Government matches industry investment in green cars on a $1 dollar to $3 dollar basis over 10 year period from 2009.

 

The Green Car Plan will provide:

• A better-targeted, greener, Automotive Transformation Scheme (ATS), from 2011 to 2020 ($3.4 billion).

• Changes to the Automotive Competitiveness and Investment Scheme in 2010 ($79.6 million).

• Promotion of structural adjustment through consolidation in the components sector ($116.3 million).

• Support for suppliers’ improved integration in complex national and global supply chains ($20 million).

• Enhanced market access program ($6.3 million).

• A new Automotive Industry Innovation Council.

 

Automotive tariffs will be cut to 5 per cent, giving Australia the third-lowest tariff regime among economies with a well-developed automotive industry. Australia will continue to pursue a free trade agenda because the future of the industry lies in innovation and global integration. PM Rudd said only 15 countries in the world can design, engineer and build a car from scratch, and Australia is determined to maintain that capacity.

 

(Laura Tingle, political editor for the Australian Financial Review, says the Plan is “sloppy, badly constructed, fiscally negligent, irresponsible, protectionist, irrational appeasement of rent seekers, which is now being camouflaged not only as a response to climate change but the global financial crisis.”  Whew – where’s the blood pressure tablets for Laura? We are taking an optimistic view of the Plan, and integrating our companies into global supply chains is the only option – Editor)

 

Irish-China linkages (BEST PRACTICE)

November 12, 2008

 

The Irish Times reports that Galway-based design and manufacturing company CF Tooling opened a new production facility in the southern Chinese production hub of Dongguan. The €7 million factory will build server racks for the China market for IBM.

 

CF Tooling’s managing director John Flaherty said “In December last year we picked a greenfield site here and now it’s ready to run…I came here five times in all. This was a building site three weeks ago. We’re planning to make 500 to 600 server racks a week here. We have capacity for 900 and we’re also going to offer the facility to our other customers.”

 

CF Tooling already has operations in Athenry, Co Galway; the UK, the Czech Republic and the Philippines, and employs 1,000 people. Turnover in 2007 was €63 million and is forecast to rise to €77 million. Its customers include IBM, American Power Conversion, Ingersoll Rand, Linde Carrier, Toshiba, Hitachi and Glen Dimplex. CF makes the same racks in Ireland and the Czech Republic, with the Irish operation supplying Dublin and the Czech plant supplying Hungary. Flaherty said: “IBM asked us to come to China. We made a commitment in December last year to be ready in China – in fact we made a bet, IBM said they’d buy us a dinner if we managed to do it…big companies want global solutions. We couldn’t be a global supplier to IBM if we just had Galway. We wouldn’t be doing any business.”

 

The factory is in the town of Qingxi, part of the huge manufacturing city of Dongguan. Exports from Qingxi were worth €3.7 billion last year and the town is home to 800 companies. “It was no problem to set up here. People think you can get lost in China, and you can, but if you follow rules and regulations you’ve no problem,” Mr Flaherty added. “It’s like anywhere else, similar to the Philippines in fact for us.”We will be successful here like we are anywhere else – we bring the knowledge of the Irish manufacturing process to the world, and the efficiencies that we’ve built in over the years.”

 

Contributed by Professor Roy Green.

EC calls for cooperation on research

November 12, 2008

 

The EC has called on EU member states to develop strategic research partnerships in science and technology, with countries outside the EU.

 

A strategic framework, outlined by European Commissioner for Science and Research, Janez Potocnik, identifies strengthening the international dimension of European research, and improving infrastructure to allow for the development of large-scale co-operative research projects, as key developments.

 

He said: “The aim of our strategic framework is to engage with our member states to transform Europe’s research labyrinth into a European Research Area open to the world, attracting the best brains and contributing to address global challenges”.

 

http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/08/1395&format=HTML&aged=0&language=EN&guiLanguage=fr

Dutch work on knowledge channels

November 12, 2008

Dear Rod, thanks again for your newsletter. Please find enclosed a paper based on a serious piece of research of one of my colleagues Rudi Bekkers. You might be interested to refer to this article for your next cockatoo newsletter. In case you want to know more about the actual research, please contact Rudi Bekkers.

 

Best regards, Pim den Hertog (Netherlands)

 

The Abstract – There is a wide variety of channels through which knowledge and technology is being transferred between universities and industry. This paper aims to explain the relative importance of these different channels in different contexts. For this purpose, responses from two questionnaires were analysed, addressing Dutch industrial and university researchers, respectively. A reassuring result is that the perceived importance of the 23 distinct transfer channels we distinguished hardly differs between industry and university – we did not observe a major mismatch.

 

Overall, our results suggest that the industrial activities of firms do not significantly explain differences in importance of a wide variety of channels through which knowledge between university and industry might be transferred. Instead, this variety is better explained by the disciplinary origin, the characteristics of the underlying knowledge, the characteristics of researchers involved in producing and using this knowledge (individual characteristics), and the environment in which knowledge is produced and used i.e. institutional characteristics.

 

Contact us for the PDF of go direct to Dr. R.N.A. Bekkers  Dialogic, Innovatie & Interactie
Hooghiemstraplein 33-36, 3514 AX Utrecht, The Netherlands bekkers@dialogic.nl http://www.dialogic.nl/bekkers

 

China is the new Germany

November 12, 2008

 

Mark Peterson Arkansas USA (vworks@uaex.edu) has sent us this quaint little story.

At the end of the Second World War, Germany was an “emerging market”. It was industrializing rapidly and producing brisk economic growth. Today, Germany is a mature “developed market” that grows slowly if it grows at all. Today, China is the new Germany. The industrial dynamism that produced Germany’s post-war success is moving to the East… piece by piece.

One of the largest steel mills in Germany was the ThyssenKrupp mill in the Ruhr Valley, the heart of Germany’s industrial area. At the turn of the millennium (2000), mills and factories in Germany began to close, unable to compete with lower wages in the developing world. A Chinese company bought the ThyssenKrupp mill, and soon 1,000 Chinese workers arrived to take it apart – they worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and dismantled the plant in less than a year, two years faster than the Germans anticipated.  The Germans complained, so the Chinese took a day off. Over 5,000 miles away, the Chinese then put together the 275,000 tons of equipment and material, and the plant now produces as much steel as the entire production of China in 1975.

When the Chinese departed, they left the makeshift dormitories and kitchens they occupied for a year neat and clean. There was, however, a single pair of black boots left in one of the dormitories. It carried the brand name of Phoenix, which was also the name of the plant the Chinese just took apart. The boots also carried the label “Made in China”.

Source:  Chris Mayer, Whiskey and Gunpowder, 6/3/08

Map the economic geography, says World Bank (BEST PRACTICE)

November 12, 2008

 

The “World Development Report 2009: Reshaping Economic Geography” argues that the most effective policies for promoting long-term growth are those that facilitate geographic concentration and economic integration, both within and across countries.

 

The WDR report challenges the assumption that economic activities must be spread geographically to benefit the world’s most poor and vulnerable.

 

Trying to spread out economic activity can hinder growth and does little to fight poverty. For rapid, shared growth, governments must promote economic integration which is about the mobility of people, products, and ideas – integration should be the pivotal concept, and the debates on urbanization, regional development, and globalization should focus on the location of production and people.

 

(Very significant position for the World Bank to adopt – it flags a move to the strategic lay-out of hubs etc. – Editor)

 

http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/NEWS/0,,contentMDK:21966677~pagePK:34370~piPK:34424~theSitePK:4607,00.html?cid=ISG_E_WBWeeklyUpdate_NL

The Case for ‘American Innovation Zones’

November 12, 2008

 

America needs a national strategy that nurtures competitive and innovative regions, says a White Paper from the Association of University Research Parks (AURP).

 

It makes the case for a national strategy for federally-designated American Innovation Zones.

 

They would receive special incentives, and other support, based on their capacity to nurture cutting-edge research, promote technology commercialization and stimulate entrepreneurial activity – targeted R&D tax credits, preferences for programs like the Small Business Innovation Research effort, encouragement for federal research facilities in these zones. (Thanks to NDOE).

Go to The Power of Place: A National Strategy for Building America’s Communities of Innovation.