Launch Of "Blueprint For Change"

  • Maurice Williamson
Research, Science and Technology

Grand Hall, Parliament Buildings

I am very pleased to be able to welcome you to the launch of Blueprint for Change.

I believe this document represents a very significant step forward for New Zealand and I am delighted that so many of you have found the time to participate in its launch.

The publication of Blueprint for change marks a key milestone in a process that started in 1997. When I became Minister of Research, Science and Technology in early 1997, there were three ideas that seemed to me to be crucial to the portfolio. These were:

- that New Zealand had to equip itself for a future in a rapidly changing globalised world in which all the old certainties were disappearing;
- that research, science and technology had a vital role to play in creating the nation's future; and
- that the Government's priorities for research, science and technology must reflect future needs rather than current or past needs.

These ideas led to the Foresight Project. I know some of you, perhaps many of you, were present next door in the Banquet Hall of the Beehive when the Prime Minister launched the Foresight Project in December 1997. You may therefore recall the challenge that she defined for the Foresight Project:

- to think beyond the narrow boundaries of sector interests about the sort of future we wanted for New Zealand, and - to use this thinking to define the sort of research, science and technology we needed to create that future.

Nearly 18 months later, I think we can celebrate the progress that has been made in response to this challenge.

Many of you have played an active role in the Foresight Project over the past year.

I want to acknowledge the contributions that you, and the sectors and groups you represent, have made to the construction of a new vision for RS&T in New Zealand.

Blueprint for Change represents the Government's response to the submissions that have been received at the various milestone points of the Foresight Project. It sets out a new framework for Government investment in RS&T. I believe this will ensure that public investment in RS&T makes that full contribution to New Zealand's future that I was looking for when I became Minister.

I want to highlight some of the key parts of this framework.

The first point to emphasise is that Blueprint for Change is not a statement about the dollars the Government proposes to spend under various categories of funding.

Blueprint for Change describes a two-year timeline from now until July 2001 in which new outputs for public investment and new funding levels will be set, but that is not its focus.

Before we spend money we have to know what we are trying to achieve. Blueprint for Change outlines what the Government wants to achieve with its RS&T investments.

The foresight strategies you provided highlighted the need to turn New Zealand into a 'knowledge society'.

Future development is based on new knowledge, on new skills and on new synergies between sectors and groups across society. Blueprint for Change applies to all the Government's RS&T investments - to the Public Good Science Fund, as well as to the Technology New Zealand scheme, to health research and to all the other activities that are funded under Vote Research, Science and Technology.

Blueprint for Change also provides a framework for co-ordinating these activities with tertiary research and with the research activities carried out in government departments.

This is an important change - it signals the Government's determination that the total public investment in RS&T, the science envelope, should be coherent and co-ordinated.

A second major change set out in Blueprint for Change lies in the way that directions are set for investment decisions.

There are four primary goals which will contribute to development of our innovative, economic, environmental and social capacities.

Innovative Capacity: Accelerate knowledge creation and the development of human capital, social capital, learning systems and networks in order to enhance New Zealand's capacity to innovate.

Economic Capacity Increase the contribution knowledge makes to the creation and value of new and improved products, processes, systems and services in order to enhance the competitiveness of New Zealand enterprises.

Environmental Capacity Increase knowledge of the environment and of the biological, physical, social, economic and cultural factors that affect it in order to establish and maintain a healthy environment that sustains nature and people.

Social Capacity Increase knowledge of the social, biological, environmental, cultural, economic and physical determinants of well-being in order to build a society in which all New Zealanders enjoy health and independence and have a sense of belonging, identity and partnership.

These are similar to past goals. The difference is that these are statements about the desired future state of New Zealand.

They will form the starting point for construction of publicly funded portfolios of RS&T.

I am aware of concerns that the use of target outcomes as a basis for research portfolios will result in excessive emphasis on direct relevance and on short-term work. These fears are unfounded.

I will expect the Foundation and the Health Research Council to facilitate construction of portfolios that have a balance of short- and long-term work.

I will expect to see suitable mixtures of basic research, applied research and technology transfer within these portfolios.

Different skill sets and new research areas will be needed over time as portfolios develop and I will expect to see elements of training to be built into the portfolios.

Blueprint for Change also contains statements about the expectations about stewardship of the science system by purchase agents such as the Foundation.

You will find that Blueprint for Change contains a list of roles and responsibilities, covering more than just the Vote RS&T purchase agents.

It also sets out roles and responsibilities for the other stakeholders in public research, science and technology - MoRST, science providers and end users.

The common elements across all of these stakeholders are expectations about co-operation in strategy development and in the operation of the New Zealand science and technology system.

I draw your attention to this point because it signals that the Government expects to go forward in the same manner as it has over the past year and a half.

The Foresight Project has demonstrated over that period that we can make a difference by working together. Blueprint for Change lays the foundation for the next steps.

I look forward to your help and your participation as we continue on the path towards the future.

Annex B

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q: How much money is the Government going to inject into this new way of investing in research? A: That is a Budget matter. You will have to wait until the Budget is delivered on May 20.

Q: Is this new approach an admission that Government investment has not been correctly targeted in the past and that the taxpayer has not been receiving value for money? A: What we have released is a 'Blueprint for Change'. This change will occur incrementally, with emphasis on what is expected from our investment. I am positive that over time both the Government sector and the private sector will respond to this change of focus.

Q: Who will drive this initiative? A: The Government has started the ball rolling by releasing this document, and naturally, MoRST has a leadership role to play in future directions of RS&T. However, there is also an important role for industry and other sectors of society in identifying future goals and their response to achieving these.

Q: What are the Government's time line expectations and priorities? A: The changes will be implemented over the next two years as set out in Blueprint for Change. The transition to the new system of government investment in RS&T will be completed by July 2004 when the residue of existing contracts under the present system end.

Q: What other initiatives are we likely to see from the Foresight programme? A: The Foresight Project itself is coming to an end but 'Blueprint for Change' sets out Government expectations about continuing foresight activities. In particular, sectors will be expected to continue to use foresight to update and develop their strategies. If they don't do this they will find it increasingly difficult to take part in the portfolio negotiations with purchase agents and science providers. Foresight will therefore, be an important process underlying all future public investments in research, science and technology.

Q: Does this document or new process address the current debate surrounding genetic engineering? A: No, and it is not intended to. The blueprint is designed to address the future RS&T goals for New Zealand.

Q: What are the main goals of the Blueprint document? A: The Blueprint aims to create a new future orientated framework for research, science and technology investments. We are looking to accelerate and enhance New Zealand's capacity to innovate, to increase knowledge and enhance the competitiveness of New Zealand enterprises, to establish and maintain a healthy environment that sustains nature and people, and to build a society in which all New Zealanders enjoy health and independence and have a sense of belonging, identity and partnership.