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New Zealand government urged to boost R&D to stay green

The New Zealand government has been urged to increase spending on R&D, in a report published by green-growth campaign group Pure Advantage.

According to the report, ‘Green Growth: opportunities for New Zealand’ published on 15 November, increasing R&D funding is among the highest priorities in the move towards growing the economy in a sustainable way.

New Zealand’s spending on R&D is below average for an OECD country, the report says. In 2010, total R&D expenditure in New Zealand was NZ$2,444m—around 1.3 per cent of GDP.

The report says that the government needs to take advantage of its educated population by increasing its commitment to R&D to at least match the OECD average of around 2.2 per cent of GDP. Green innovation should also become an integral part of government innovation plans.

Other suggestions include developing an innovation and R&D strategy for industries with green growth potential such as geothermal technology and second-generation biofuels. Beyond research, the report urges government and industry action on improving water allocation and transport as well as establishing smart-grid demonstration projects. The report says that this would help New Zealand to tap into the growing global demand for green innovation.

Pure Advantage is a not-for-profit organisation established by businesspeople to lobby for green economic growth. Its trustees include wine entrepreneur George Fistonich and Rob Fyfe, chief executive of Air New Zealand. The report is the result of a two-year research project and will be used as a basis to establish seven industry-specific green growth programmes.

Steven Joyce, the economic development minister, has responded to the report’s recommendations by saying that it underscores the importance of a significant number of existing government initiatives already underway including plans to increase private sector R&D spending.