The reliance of the New Zealand economy on the primary sector has been brought into stark view by the recent severe decline in dairy prices. While high commodity prices had a large part to play in cushioning the impact of the recession on New Zealand’s economy, such industries are inevitably cyclical. As mature industries, they also tend to lose jobs through enhanced technological efficiency. Over the last 20 years, New Zealand has experienced a net loss of 29,000 jobs in agriculture and a further 92,000 jobs in the manufacturing sector. What we need for future generations are high-value firms that are net creators of new jobs and that remain, with those jobs, based in this country.
International research indicates that a few rapidly growing firms generate a disproportionately large share of all new jobs. And firms that remain close to their point of origin are typically those based not on incremental modification of existing technologies but rather on new, game-changing or ‘radical’ technologies. In the US, 80 percent of university spin-offs operate in the same state as the university they originated from.
The University of Auckland could have a key role in creating the kind of robust economy New Zealand needs. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology identified it as one of the world’s top entrepreneurial universities under challenging conditions. Generating patents at about six times the rate of other public institutions, it is creating technologies that allow, for example, the transfer of electricity across air gaps, artificial muscles, new medical devices, robotics for aged care and enhanced efficiency in airlines and industrial smelters.
The University’s knowledge transfer company, Auckland UniServices, delivers these ideas to the market and has recently launched the Auckland Inventors Fund to support new intellectual property to the point where it is commercially viable for outside investors.
The Auckland Business School is home to one of the world’s top university-based entrepreneurial ecosystems. Its student-led programme, Velocity (formerly Spark), has already become a springboard for more than 100 ventures, raising more than $200 million in funding and creating over 400 jobs. It was through this process that Spark finalist Fady Mishriki met his future business partner and in 2007 founded the cutting-edge wireless power technology company, PowerbyProxi. The School’s Entrepreneurs’ Challenge supports local companies to go global.
Building on its outstanding track record, the Auckland Business School in partnership with the Faculty of Engineering is now creating a PotentiaLab, a flagship for innovation and entrepreneurship at the University. The Lab and its programmes will develop ‘business savvy’ scientists, engineers, technologists and creative professionals.
The world’s leading entrepreneurial universities have created huge economic and employment benefits for their regions by actively hiring the researchers who create radical innovation, investing in those new technologies and creating generations of entrepreneurial graduates.
At Auckland, we have the potential to do the same for New Zealand.
“The world was wireless in everything except power, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to eliminate the power plug.” Fady Mishriki, BCom/BE, Spark finalist and co-founder, Powerbyproxi
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