Archive for the ‘NZ’ Category

Smart Specialisation and Precincts

December 16, 2012

The European Commission is much involved in urban and regional development thinking, and it has been promoting the Smart Specialisation concept. It basically involves EC regions specialising in activities that align with their competitive advantages. And the Commission offers financial inducements to this end.

Now the churlish might argue that this policy shift has come a bit late to help Greece, Spain and Portugal. But the truth is that ‘regions’ hold a lot of sway in Europe – they are a fundamental part of its social and industrial fabric.

What about north America, Asia, Australia and elsewhere?

Well they’ve just scraped the surface to date. Various federal and state governments have established loose policy frameworks for things ‘spatial’, and they provide a springboard for Smart Specialisation policies. Indeed, there are three reasons why a Smart Specialisation agenda would be timely.

First, Smart Specialisation themes will appeal to Treasury/Finance economists, and thereby help get support for better regional funding programs.

Secondly, smart specialisation concepts can provide a vehicle for federal/state departments dealing with regional development to swing other departments into collaborating on projects.

Thirdly, advancing a locality’s competitive advantage wins respect from cynical voters. Politicians are forever being accused of using regional grants to pork barrel – but by concentrating on specialised areas, the scope to politicise grant making is reduced.

Precincts – a vehicle for specialisation

Precincts and hubs are a means of capturing locational synergies and nurturing regional specialisation.

Alfred Marshall (Principles of Economics, 1890) was espousing this stuff more than a century ago. He talked about particular locations having types of specialisation. Indeed he anticipated later discussion of the role of place as a point of information exchanges, and of innovation developing through that “something in the air” that arises when people mingle and exchange ideas.

Marshall identified four particular features of precincts – knowledge spillovers as a result of informal networking; access to a common pool of factors of production such as labour or R&D facilities; specialisation of production within supply chains; and the facilitation of ‘comparison shopping’ for buyers.

Precincts are, by the way, virtually synonymous with clusters, and my colleagues and I are quick to highlight this to government officials who still think clusters are about picking winners and that companies are so ‘wired to competition’ that they cannot collaborate. Rubbish of course.

Five tips for facilitating specialisations and precincts

Anyway, getting back to the subject, it makes good sense for councils and regional champions to use local specialisation and precinct concepts in their lobbying efforts to federal and state agencies. Below are some suggested initiatives that could complement your lobbying effort.

1. Map your specialised assets and the linkages between them. This is a natural start point, and a great marketing tool. Examples – The Napa Valley (US) and Food Barossa (Australia) have done a good job of identifying and explaining its specialty food producers.

2. Get international agencies to study or talk about your area of specialisation. Depending on where you are, you might use the OECD, UN agencies or the World Bank to raise international awareness, and the agendas then filtered back to your state. We can connect you to these agencies.

3. Commission university research studies on national issues at your local level. These can be good copy for the daily newspapers, which in turn educate external audiences about your local specialisation.
4. Leverage your champions. Example – Americans are great at this. Now Wellington and NZ is on the global film and technology map thanks to Peter Jackson and his insistence on filming the Hobbit trilogy and Lord of the Rings. Prime Minister Keys supported him. And Hobart is more than Errol Flynn’s birthplace – it has reinvented itself thanks to the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) created by eccentric gaming mogul David Walsh.
5. Do something bold and innovative. Towns, cities and suburbs often have specialisations, but they’re hidden to the outside world. A bold project can lift the specialisation profile.
The Cockatoo Network, based in Canberra, wants regions anywhere to share their ideas on Smart Specialisation. We are also linking clusters across international borders to facilitate trade and investment. Please contact us at or visit our blog at investmentinnovation.wordpress.


NZ strikes back

November 22, 2009

AUSTRALIANS might treat satirist John Clarke, actor Russell Crowe and South Australian Premier Mike Rann as their own, but New Zealand would like them back. They would also like Commonwealth Bank and Telstra bosses Sir Ralph Norris and David Thodey to think about their roots.

The NZ Government is so serious about luring Kiwis home from Australia – professionals and skilled workers, in particular – it has set up a taskforce headed by NZ’s former Reserve Bank governor and Opposition leader, Don Brash – to close the wage and productivity gap between the two countries by 2025.

Last year more than 35,000 New Zealanders moved to Australia permanently, attracted by incomes on average 30.5 per cent higher than in their homeland – 500,000 New Zealanders now live in Australia – 12% of the NZ population. It has the dubious honour of having the highest exodus of skilled people in the OECD.

If the taskforce fails – the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act 1900 has a clause that can add New Zealand as another state of Australia. (That should get a rise from our cousins – Editor)

New Zealand Paint-a-Thon (BEST PRACTICE)

April 15, 2009


A wonderful story from Joanna van Walraven, the retail coordinator from Hutt City Council.


Frustrated at the shabby run down appearance of the Naenae Shopping Centre, Joanna focused on the resources and assets of the local community. 


She organised a ‘Paint-a-thon’ with the aim of painting 20 (roughly half of the shops) using community volunteers and donated paint and resources. The result was an incredible turnout from the community, who achieved a quality job. The shopping centre now looks fantastic.


Click here to download an article and photos from the local newspaper.


Contributed by Peter Kenyon at Bank of IDEAS


W2W channels Kiwi tech innovation (BEST PRACTICE)

February 10, 2009

Paul Spence (Cockatoo member) is a Wellington based technology blogger (, management consultant and CEO of ideegeo Group Limited a web software developer.


Unlimited Potential is a Wellington-based volunteer managed networking community for ICT professionals and entrepreneurs.


UP puts on monthly events supported by local sponsors and invites anyone interested in IT to turn up for after work beer and pizza plus a themed presentation. The group is co-sponsored by Grow Wellington, the regional economic development agency.


In November 2008 I managed an event called “Wellington to the World” (W2W) – a half day program of talks on emerging technology plus presentations from technology entrepreneurs with recently launched ventures.


In the evening we hosted a networking session for all attendees. Members of a local angel investors group participated and mingled with guests and presenters. The idea for the event sprung from a realisation that, despite a wealth of ideas and talent, New Zealand’s isolation from the major consumer and financial markets makes it difficult for small or start-up tech businesses to compete offshore. 

Smart companies from NZ (and Australia) need to find networks and bridge-builders to help pave the way for access overseas. Consequently W2W partnered with the KEA Global Mentors program to match the young tech firms with people offshore who could help. KEA is a global network of over 25,000 New Zealanders living abroad.


Presenters at W2W were selected through an intense interview process to ensure quality pitches and a variety of products. After the live event we deployed the entrepreneur presentations on Youtube.


NZ Trade and Enterprise then shared the video content around its global trade missions. It was a natural progression to use a video site given that many businesses are enthusiastically adopting social media to share their sales message. Because of time zone differences and local bandwidth constraints we decided on an asynchronous rebroadcast and avoided the cost of live video content streaming.


Around 80 guests attended the event and hundreds visited the video channel and viewed content.


We later heard that one tech entrepreneur received an approach from a U.S. venture capital firm within 24 hours of posting the video content online. Angel investors were excited by the emerging technologies and approached the local university for further talks.  Subject to securing sponsorship, the event will be repeated in 2009. We hope to extend the scope by inviting participation from across NZ.





NZ shows the way re Pacific Island guestworkers

August 26, 2008

Australian PM Kevin Rudd is reportedly aiming to use the Pacific Island Forum in Niue in August to announce a trial plan to bring Pacific Islanders to Australia for seasonal work – to meet labour shortages in regions. The trial, to begin in 2009, will provide several thousand Pacific Islanders with special visas for 6-12 months. Accommodation, travel and housing will also be provided.

The National Farmers Federation supports the scheme, but the Construction Forestry Mining and Energy Union et al have warned about the ‘Mexicanisation’ of the labour market. The Rudd Government is reportedly to guarantee the same wages as those received by Australian workers.

The NZ Government has introduced a seasonal employment program using Pacific Islanders – 5000 guest workers enter NZ annually. A hurdle for most recruits is the cold weather.

One worker, Joel-Eddie Kalmatak, who left his wife in Vanuatu to work on a vineyard owned by Pernod Ricard, has struggled with the temperature, which plummeted to minus 6 degrees recently. Some mornings he wears two pairs of socks, two pairs of trousers, and he wraps plastic around his fingers before pulling on his gloves. He is counting the days until his return to Mele, on the island of Efate, in October. But he earns upwards of $NZ12.10 ($A9.50) an hour, 10 times as much as back in Mele. However, he pays $NZ125 for rent, and his employers make deductions from his pay for his return air-fare and other expenses.

Getting the islanders to New Zealand involves expense and considerable bureaucracy. The employer must pay half the travel costs, guarantee at least 240 hours of work, and take responsibility for pastoral care. (With thanks to Melbourne Age)

(Kevin Rudd did subsequently announce this initiative – and the Liberal Opposition is now arguing against the initiative which is dangerous given the volatility of regional electorates facing major labour shortages)


Hawkes Bay signature dish (BEST PRACTICE)

July 24, 2008

The Kiwis are inventive. Here is a great initiative that should be copied, plagiarised or duplicated!

The hunt is on to find Hawke’s Bay’s Signature Dish for 2008. Food Hawke’s Bay GM Jane Libby says the Signature Dish event, launched last year, is a regional bonanza showcasing the best local food and beverages. There is now a dedicated awards night at the Hawke’s Bay Opera House in October along with a special presentation at the Hawke’s Bay Chamber of Commerce Business Awards gala dinner in November.


“Interest among restaurants is mounting and we are expecting an even greater event this year because we have been able to take on people’s feedback and grow the competition,” Mrs. Libby said. The event creates fantastic exposure for participating restaurants and is a real draw card for food lovers.  During the six weeks that the competition ran last year over 45,000 diners ate out at the 17 participating restaurants.


Registrations close 11 August – phone 06- 974-8932 or email



‘Design’ now all-important

July 24, 2008

Dr John Howard (Canberra-based consultant/policy analyst) says design and creative practice are major components of industry and innovation policy. John has done excellent work in this field, and this month he launched Between a hard rock and a soft space: design, creative practice and innovation.” The international overview is worth sharing:

§          UK leads the world in its recognition of the creative industries. The Cox Review of Creativity in Business examined how to exploit creative skills more effectively (UK Treasury 2005). The Design Council is important – now runs a program ‘Designs of the Time’ (DOTT) and a new program, ‘Designing Demand’ helps SMEs become more competitive – offers flexible, structured processes, using expert Design Associates with business experience.

§ New Zealand has launched a design strategy and is looking to breed a cohort of design-led firms — brand builders based on ideas grown in New Zealand.

§ The German Design Council (Rat für Formgebung) is a world leader in competence centres for communication and know-how transfer in the design field. Runs competitions, exhibitions, conferences, consulting, research and publications.

§ The Swedish Industrial Design Foundation (SVID) improves awareness of the importance of design as a competitive tool, and encourages the integration of design methodology.

§ The Indian Government released a national design policy in 2006. It includes a ‘Mark of Good Design’ – only well-designed products can carry the mark. The aim is to ensure that the words ‘Designed in India’ come to mean good value. India is seeking to become a global design hub. Currently a roll-out of design-led business and academic centres.

§ Taiwan has a robust design policy, supported by a growing number of design schools.

§ South Korean students outnumber all other nationalities in most graduate design programs in the United States, and Samsung is an upcoming innovator.

§ China is shifting its manufacturing base from OEM to original design manufacture and brand-manufacturing operations. In 20 years, China has opened 400 specialist design schools to train designers and build design capabilities.

§ Singapore is creating centres to bring business and design and creativity together.

Thanks to Hari Argiro (Adelaide CC) for pointing us to John Howard’s article.


Asia Pacific Technology Exchange wins global attention (BEST PRACTICE)

April 13, 2008


The unstinting efforts of Cockatoo member, Geoff Mullins, were rewarded on 28 March with the launch of the Asia Pacific Technology Exchange by local federal member Maxine McKew MP. She said that ‘this is the innovation economy at work.’


The Exchange is designed to help establish a Silicon Valley-style business cluster in northern Sydney.


The launch also attracted global attention – excerpt of the article in the International Herald Tribune follows.


SYDNEY — A new Australian exchange, aiming to emulate the U.S. Nasdaq index with a focus on technology and innovation stocks, was established Wednesday with plans to become fully operational by the second half of 2008.


The Asia Pacific Technology Exchange, or Aptex, is a joint venture of the National Stock Exchange of Australia and Enterprise Pacific, a not-for-profit company. Based in Sydney, the venture plans to start with a minimum of 20 listed companies. The chairman of Enterprise Pacific, Geoff Mullins, said the new exchange expected to have 200 to 300 companies listed within its first 2-3 years. Mullins said he was not concerned about liquidity on the new exchange, which had been a problem in earlier attempts to establish exchanges in Australia, because of support from brokers and from connections being forged in the Asia-Pacific region. ”We are absolutely certain that this is under way. We have stakeholders signing up, we have companies signing up and we are ready to go.”


NSX had held discussions with stock exchanges in Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, PNG and Fiji on their possible participation. Inquiries had also been received from companies in Taiwan and Korea, and it was possible that 5 of the first 20 companies on the exchange could be Asian. Mullins estimated the total market capitalization of companies listed on the exchange to initially be between $350-650 million.

Contact Geoff at


Grid network to support trans-Tasman research collaboration

April 13, 2008


With digital storage needs and computational demands by research institutions growing exponentially, it makes sense to get together on sharing resources. So the New Zealand Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) banged some heads together and offered to fund a $2.5 million project to set up BeSTGRID a grid computing “ecosystem” that includes additional storage resources hosted by a third party.

Three New Zealand universities are already hooked up, with the new arrangements which reduce duplication on software expenditure whilst encouraging collaboration and knowledge sharing through use of online tools such as video-conferencing, blogs and wikis. Other institutions are expected to join in the future. Research projects currently making use of BestGrid include linguistics, bio-informatics and earthquake engineering – possibilities are endless. .

It’s part of KAREN the government-owned high speed broadband network providing interconnectivity between NZ research and educational institutions (up to 10 gigabytes of data per second).

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the venture is that there will be established a shared identity management protocol based on the Australian Access Federation standard. The Federation is not some inter-galactic peace force, but a technical standard that operates across Australian tertiary and research institutions and allows universal access via a single user identification. That opens up the possibility of including Aussie universities and research institutions in the NZ grid by linking to Australia’s own high speed research network AARNET at some point in the near future. AARNET already operates connections to the United States, Singapore and Europe. So the implications for NZ research institutions are obvious considering the constraints of the existing commercial service.

NZ will be hosting the 2008 APAN event 4-8 August, regarded as the leading Asia-Pacific symposium on advanced broadband networking and applications for research and education. The conference is to be hosted in beautiful Queenstown – themes include sustainability, earth science, medical & agricultural applications, high definition TV and seminars on network security. The event will be preceded by the High Performance Research Symposium looking at e-research projects and tool sets, being sponsored by Bluefern, the University of Canterbury supercomputing centre.

Contributed by our NZ correspondent at


Collaborator Profile – Paul Frater (NZ)

April 13, 2008


Who and where are you?

Paul Frater, Director, Enterprise & Innovation, NZ Trade & Enterprise, Wellington. 


What’s your job

Responsible for the identification of mature NZ R&D (private & public resourced), triaging it for its possibility to be built into a technology platform for NZ industry under a Technology Innovation Partnership Programme (TIPP).  For priority projects, TIPP will undertake a range of initiatives including assistance with enterprise formation, feasibility and scoping studies, Technology Road Maps and market-catalysing demonstration projects.  The aim is to build innovation systems around the technology and help the core NZ firms become members of the innovation leadership group of key global value chains.  


What’s exciting you at present?


3 key projects are in an advanced stage of partnership engagement, and entering full scale production activities over the course of 2008:


1. High Temperature Superconductivity (HTS). A series of technologies are being built upon this NZ-developed IP, which is now integrated with technology developed under research programs resourced by the US Dept of Energy: equipment using high strength magnetic fields (e.g. NMR); HTS cables; cryo-cooling; specialist components incl. current leads & stable power supply systems.  

2. JAIN SLEE Industry Forum (JSIF). JAIN SLEE is a telco middleware that integrates the management of telecom network traffic from different technologies (e.g. mobile, internet, fibre, copper etc) and executes the inter-company call administration, billing and reconciliation. The core company is Open Cloud (Cambridge UK, Madrid & Wellington bases).  JSIF has been assisting other NZ ICT firms to exploit this market leadership to build their own international applications businesses. The software handles high volumes of simultaneous activity on a fault tolerant/high reliability basis. Open Cloud has activities in Europe, North & Latin America, Asia and Oceania.  

3. Titanium Alloy (Titap) Powder Metals. This is a new, low cost, environmentally friendly powder metal technology, which avoids the difficulties of handling the pure metal form of Titanium (explosive in certain situations). The alloy powder process is able to produce the strongest form of Titap alloys, the gamma phase. This technology opens many new market segments for a wide range of engineering firms, including bio-medical, coatings and specialist product forming. The opportunity is being taken by NZ firms to introduce a range of new powder metal consolidation technologies into their businesses, expanding their production capabilities & capacities. 



Three new technologies have entered into the process, but as yet are not at the same level of maturity: 

§ 2nd &  3rd generation bio fuels, including algae-based & industrial gas exhaust streams.

§ integrated sensor technology systems, including environmental sensing. 

§ nano-pore technology, with in-service aperture adjustment.  



What collaborative projects do you have to interest Cockatoo readers


The TIPP program is based on the establishment of trust relationships and the building of partnerships.  International partnerships are a key element to the program, and strong links have been established with technology partners in Europe, the US & Asia.  The 3 key projects are now in a position to explore a new level of international collaboration, and are well placed to make a significant innovation contribution to a number of international industries.