June 26, 2009

Some food for thought...

Following on from my post a couple of days ago on the need to develop stronger relationships with multinationals, I was thinking about why this isn't happening more. Not from a scientific point of view, or from an economic point of view, but from a societal point of view. Here are a few of my thoughts, I'd love to hear yours.

We have achieved so much with very little, and my mind boggles with what we could achieve with even more. Attracting the interest of multinationals might not be the complete answer to our future prosperity, but our ideas CAN foot it with the best. We don't always have to win, and to pinch a line from Prof. Paul Callaghan, "imagine if we were the 2nd biggest manufacturer of mobile phones or plasma screens in the world...that would be pretty cool wouldn't it?" I think we are definitely capable, we just have to wake up and realise that we are.

I think it's clear that we are a motivated and innovative country, after all, think of all our amazing achievements, those that make me proud to be a kiwi. Here are a few off the top of my head, I'm sure you can add many more:

  • Sir Ernest Rutherford (one of the most important figures in the history of physics)
  • Burt Munro (and his world-beating Indian motorcycle)
  • Neville Jordan's company MAS Technology (first private NZ company to list on the NASDAQ)
  • Colin Murdoch (inventor of the disposable syringe that has saved millions of lives)
  • Alan MacDiarmid (Nobel prize winner in chemistry)
  • Maurice Wilkins (Nobel prize winner, helped unlock the mystery of DNA)
  • Richard Taylor (WETA Workshops)

We Kiwis pride ourselves on the fact that we can solve any problem - our No. 8 wire mentality. The question I ask you, is this: is our No. 8 wire mentality the thing that's actually hampering us in this respect?

Are we so content with being able to do it ourselves "on the smell of an oily rag" and not needing the rest of the world, that as a result we lack the confidence to take those ideas to the world because we somehow think they are inferior due to their origins? Are we scared of taking risks? Are we scared of coming 2nd? Or do we just have trouble letting our ideas go offshore when its time to expand because we like the idea of kiwi people working in kiwi companies?

What do you guys think?


  1. Interesting comment Aaron. I can't really comment on the NZ situation, but I know here in the UK we also berate ourselves for having great scientists but being poor at taking our science and turning it into technologies and money. From my experience of travelling, I have to say the US folks in silicon valley area are unbelieveably good at taking science, investing in the ideas and making money as a result. Perhaps a US/NZ exchange programme is the way to go?!

  2. NZ has a massive case of tall poppy syndrome... There for in general we down play our ideas and discoveries for fear of being picked out or failing. Being the country we are physically; size and location it has defiantly affected our mentality when it comes to facing the world’s problems. At the end of the day I think it comes down to the individual some people have it and some people don’t. Maybe we just notice it more because we are a smaller country...



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