Sunday, October 7, 2012

Bumble bees and business growth

Bumble BeePoliticians are like bumble bees, going from flower to flower. These were the opening comments from Hon Steven Joyce in his speech at the recent Software Summit 2012 organised by the Canterbury Software Cluster. He was speaking in his roles as Minister for Economic Development and Minister of Science and Innovation. He is also acting Minister of Finance although he joked that there was no money left to play with.

The event was a half day conference and networking event with the theme "from Startup to Global". It promised something for everyone - from innovators and entrepreneurs to managers and developers. It certainly delivered that. There were three concurrent streams of top quality presentations. I didn't have a Time-Turner so could not attend all the sessions. I'll let others comment on the content.

There were no surprises in Joyce's speech. It's a tough world economic environment right now. Europe and the United States are in financial trouble. The Asian market presents a huge opportunity. Having a presence in Silicon Valley is good for marketing, but it is better to do your development here in New Zealand. The EPIC initiative to cluster businesses together in Christchurch is a good one.

Joyce outlined the Government's Business Growth Agenda, focussed on access to markets, capital, innovation, skilled people and infrastructure. He took us through a progress report released in August by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

The report outlines the Government's approach to building innovation. There are seven key areas:
  • encouraging business innovation
  • strengthening research institutions
  • boosting public science investment
  • developing innovation infrastructure
  • improving intellectual property settings
  • growing the innovation workforce
  • building international linkages

The steps to improve intellectual property settings are known to most of us. The report notes that
'[i]ntellectual property rights are essential in incentivising and enabling firms to innovate. Intellectual property rights grant innovators a monopoly on their innovation for a limited period. New Zealand is among the upper tier of OECD countries on the strength of its intellectual property protection and the effectiveness of this, but scores very low on the number of patents registered relative to our population. The Government is committed to further improving how intellectual property is created, managed, and utilised in New Zealand'.
The actions underway and proposed include:
  • completing the passage of the Patents Bill to more closely align New Zealand's patent settings with its trading partners;
  • creating a single trans-Tasman patents examination regime with Australia to simplify patent applications;
  • reviewing trade mark regulations and implementation of the Madrid protocol
  • investigating whether the intellectual property settings of public institutions are optimal for technology transfer; and
  • exploring opportunities for Government to improve the environment for firms' use of intellectual property.

The Minister answered a few questions from the audience. One dissident asked whether the Minister was going to fix the mess his colleague Hon Craig Foss was making of patent law reform. I cover patent law reform in my earlier post Patent party in the House.

Minister Joyce was crystal clear. Minister Foss is not making a mess of patent law reform. The Government's preference is to follow international precedent. Joyce has seen the 'evidence' referred to by the questioner. And no, a possible takeover of New Zealand company Fisher & Paykel Appliances by Chinese company Haier does not affect New Zealand patent policy. I mean really, why should it?

Photo courtesy of author Tobyotter under Creative Commons licence.

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