A couple of weeks ago, I published a post about the launch of the VentureCentre initiative in Tauranga. The team at VentureCentre are hosting their first FREE event at the Tauranga Art Gallery on Friday 9th May from 5.00pm – 7.00pm.

Professor Shaun Hendy, winner of the 2012 Prime Minister’s Science Media Communication prize, will discuss the implications of his research for New Zealand’s economy. This attempts to address key issues including why New Zealanders work harder but earn less than most other people in the developed world. He asks the question; why, and what are we doing wrong?

Professor Shaun Hendy - Outreach Fellow at Callaghan Innovation

Professor Shaun Hendy – Outreach Fellow at Callaghan Innovation

In the book, ‘Get off the Grass, jointly written with the late Sir Paul Callaghan, Professor Hendy takes a quantitative look at how innovation works both in New Zealand and around the world. They show that economic geography plays a key role in determining rates of innovation and productivity. If New Zealand is to grow its economy more rapidly it must overcome geography to build nationwide communities of innovators, entrepreneurs and businesses. It must get off the grass and diversify its economy beyond the primary sector. Hendy and Callaghan pose deep challenges to the country: Can New Zealand learn to innovate like a city of four million people? Can New Zealand become a place where talent wants to live? Can we learn to live off knowledge rather than nature? Are we willing to take science seriously?

Professor Hendy argues that the key to changing our return on effort and improving our economic growth is by developing innovative, high-tech niche markets. Not relying on our primary industries. It is going to be a fascinating evening.

I think I understand the key premise. However I think that perhaps the model takes too much of a simplistic view if you simply read the headlines. There is another initiative currently underway in the Bay of Plenty region which is designed to combine the best of primary industry, high-value manufacturing and ICT research into a single hub. This initiative does not take sides. It is intended to build on some of the key primary industry sectors that New Zealand has relied on in the past and then add value to these sectors through the promotion of high tech research, innovation and commercialisation that will develop the niche global markets to which I suspect Professor Hendy refers.

I do not personally the support the notion of it’s either/or. New Zealand does not have a big enough economic base to make this type of choice. Nor does it need to. Connecting the dots is as much about connecting different sectors within the economy as it is about connecting different stakeholders within each sector. The aim of fostering collaboration between different sectors of the economy is to bring out the best of each. This is the end game for many of us working to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem that will help transform the economies of Tauranga, the Bay of Plenty and the wider New Zealand economy.

To attend Professor Hendy’s presentation at VentureCentre’s free launch event on Friday 6th May, you need to register here.

The evening will be a great way to learn more about what the development of an entrepreneurial eco-system is all about and how it can make a significant difference to a city and a region. It will enable you to meet the team behind the VentureCentre initiative and many of the other entrepreneurs seeking to make that difference. It is one event not to miss.