Another editorial

Firstly, the Icelandic/Old English letter thorn makes for the best smilies:

Secondly, and mainly of interest to the scientists amongst us, here’s this week’s editorial. And next week, I’m writing about agricultural productivity. Well, I think its interesting and important, so there :þ

1. FONTERRA INVESTS IN RESEARCH… ELSEWHERE
Comment by Royal Society Policy Analyst, Dr Jez Weston jez.weston@rsnz.org
The main problem for science in New Zealand is the lack of private money. At 0.49% of our GDP, our spending falls far short of the OECD average of 1.53%. Obviously, it is the big companies that we can look towards to rectify this. So what are they choosing to do?

Well, last year, Fonterra announced a large new investment, $15 million, in diary innovation. Great news, except that the investment is going to Melbourne.

Whoops.

Fonterra aren’t foolish; they undoubtedly hope that they will get a better return on their investment overseas and that’s the basis that they should use to make this decision. But why is Australia more attractive to private research? Is this down to a lack of capacity in NZ? Certainly, Melbourne is a centre for food and nutrition R&D and Fonterra want to be part of that knowledge cluster. This reveals a problem for New Zealand – research benefits from centralisation, as researchers benefit from being around other researchers. Places like Melbourne are also able to offer strong government funding and tax advantages for research. If we want to attract researchers away from the pull of those centres, we will have to do better than those centres. Using that measure, are we doing enough to support science in New Zealand?

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