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Double R&D spend, New Zealand businesses told

New Zealand’s businesses must double their expenditure on research and development to 1 per cent of GDP, according to a report released by the government on 21 August.

Figures published in the ‘Building Innovation’ progress report show that the country’s businesses spent the equivalent of 0.54 per cent of GDP on R&D in 2010. The OECD average for the same year was 1.62 per cent.

Part of the problem, according to the report, is that the number of innovative businesses in New Zealand has stagnated at 46 per cent over the last five years. Other issues cited are the “low share of R&D intensive industries (e.g. pharmaceuticals)” in the country, and the risk to investors from New Zealand’s position “a long way from the markets”.

The government wants to support businesses that seek to become more innovative, said science and innovation minister Steven Joyce.

“We are investing $115 million a year in TechNZ co-funding programmes with companies and so far nearly $300 million alongside business in the Primary Growth Partnership,” he said.

The Partnership aims to boost the economic productivity, growth and sustainability of New Zealand’s primary, forestry and food sectors.

Another government initiative to lift business R&D spending and grow the economy is the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI), announced in July. The hi-tech hub aims to help get New Zealand’s most innovative ideas out of the lab and into the marketplace more quickly, the government said at the time.

The government has allocated AU$166m over four years for the ATI, which should be operational by December.