New Zealand should follow Singapore’s example and use increased investment in science and technology to generate stronger economic growth, Prof Keith Hunter, the University of Otago pro-chancellor sciences, says.
Prof Hunter, an award-winning former head of the Otago chemistry department, said scientists and engineers often played significant roles as company leaders or board members in Singapore and other rapidly growing Asian economies.
Accountants and lawyers were more strongly represented on New Zealand company boards and in company leadership, and New Zealand would benefit from having more people with science backgrounds in such posts.
Scientists and engineers could help develop lucrative and innovative products and services and seize new opportunities.
Singapore had few of New Zealand’s natural advantages, such as large areas of fertile farmland which could be used to generate Fonterra-scale dairy production, he said in an interview.
He had visited Singapore many times and it was notable that the Singaporean dollar was once significantly weaker than its New Zealand counterpart but was now of similar value.
Singapore’s main asset was its people, and the Singapore Government had made a stronger investment in science and technology, and was thinking 15 years ahead, he said.
New Zealand would benefit significantly from the Government doubling its investment in science and technology, including more funding at university level, he said.
Many New Zealand scientists spent much time applying for relatively short-term funding contracts that did not offer a stable long-term future, he said.
Successive New Zealand governments had long talked about a “knowledge economy”, but unless more steps were taken the country risked being left behind.