THE C WORD

WHY COL­LAB­O­RA­TION IS OVERUSED, UN­DER DONE AND VI­TAL FOR THE NZ ECON­OMY

Idealog - - FRONT PAGE -

(*But why just write about it? Idea­log de­cided to try a bit of col­lab­o­rat­ing our­selves, so we asked for help to il­lus­trate this fea­ture. Most of the photos on these pages – and on the cover – were sourced from our read­ers, friends, fol­low­ers, and the peo­ple we've writ­ten about re­cently. (The rest were us.) We're all in this to­gether.)

COL­LAB­O­RA­TION IS a pretty overused word these days. Mulling over your idea with a col­league over cof­fee? Col­lab­o­ra­tion. Rent­ing out your house through Airbnb? Col­lab­o­ra­tion. Some­times it’s for profit. Of­ten it’s about shar­ing ideas, con­nec­tions, or knowl­edge. Or just help­ing out. Sounds good, right? Sit around a long ta­ble, drink cof­fee and draw on white­boards. There might even be pizza. Re­mem­ber, there are no bad ideas.

But what does it re­ally mean to col­lab­o­rate? Are New Zealand com­pa­nies col­lab­o­ra­tive enough? And how are some of New Zealand’s most suc­cess­ful and in­no­va­tive busi­nesses us­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion to help one another suc­ceed?

As a na­tion and a cul­ture, New Zealand prides it­self on be­ing in­ven­tive and re­source­ful. The myth of the tin­kerer in the shed with some No 8 Wire is per­va­sive. But do these cul­tural touch­stones be­come a hin­drance in a tech­no­log­i­cally ad­vanced world?

OUT OF THE SHED

Shaun Hendy thinks they do. Hendy is a physics pro­fes­sor work­ing at Auck­land Univer­sity’s Cen­tre for In­no­va­tion and Entrepreneurship. He’s also the found­ing di­rec­tor of Te Pū­naha Mata­tini, a Cen­tre of Re­search Ex­cel­lence fo­cused on the study of com­plex sys­tems and net­works, and he co-au­thored Get off the Grass: Kick­start­ing New Zealand’s In­no­va­tion Econ­omy with the late Sir Paul Cal­laghan.

He reck­ons to move be­yond an agri­cul­tural econ­omy, New Zealan­ders have to leave the shed men­tal­ity be­hind.

“We must start think­ing like a city of four mil­lion peo­ple and build scale and di­ver­sity in our col­lab­o­ra­tion net­works,” he says.

“We’ve got used to work­ing on our own,” he says. “It’s part of our na­tional myth that we can be self-suf­fi­cient and we all have a garage in which to tinker. The re­al­ity is, that’s not where great ideas come from any­more. A hun­dred years ago, New Zealand was very suc­cess­ful with that model. We were patent­ing more things than any­one else in the world. But the com­plex­ity of to­day’s tech­nolo­gies has caught up with us and in­di­vid­ual peo­ple can no longer master ev­ery­thing you need to master to make some­thing world-beat­ing.”

FISH­ING TO­GETHER

One re­cent ex­am­ple of col­lab­o­ra­tion lead­ing to ex­tra­or­di­nary in­no­va­tion is Pre­ci­sion Seafood Har­vest­ing, a 10-year pro­ject be­tween CRI Plant & Food Re­search and three ma­jor (and com­pet­ing) Kiwi seafood com­pa­nies: San­ford, Sealord and Aotearoa Fish­eries. The $52 mil­lion part­ner­ship has pro­duced a tech­nol­ogy to re­place fish­ing nets with col­lapsi­ble PVC tubes with holes (think those colour­ful plas­tic tubes at kids play­grounds). In­stead of trap­ping ev­ery­thing in their wake, these tubes al­low un­der­sized fish to es­cape, and “off-tar­get” species (the ones the trawler isn’t want­ing to take home) to be re­turned to the sea alive and un­harmed.

Pre­ci­sion Seafood Har­vest­ing says not only

It’s part of our na­tional myth that we can be self-suf­fi­cient and have a garage in which to tinker. That’s not where great ideas come from any more. In­di­vid­ual peo­ple can no longer master ev­ery­thing you need to master to make beat­ing.” some­thing world-

SHAUN HENDY, AUCK­LAND UNIVER­SITY

is the sys­tem sig­nif­i­cantly more sus­tain­able thanhan nets, but it should bring in a $100 mil­lion in­crease ncrease in ex­port re­turns.

Hendy has stud­ied patent data­bases around thehe world, look­ing for pat­terns be­tween the num­ber um­ber of jointly- owned patents and the to­tal num­ber um­ber of patents reg­is­tered. He’s found that ap­prox­i­mately pprox­i­mately 10% of com­pa­nies that file patents atents around the world share own­er­ship with­ith other com­pa­nies or or­gan­i­sa­tions. But as­ton­ish­ingly, ston­ish­ingly, that 10% ac­counts for more than two-wo-thirds of the world’s to­tal patents.

In New Zealand, he found only three ex­am­ples xam­ples of com­pa­nies co- own­ing patents. That’s hat’s right, three. And one of those was a patent atent for a col­lab­o­ra­tive in­ven­tion be­tween Fon­terra and a now- de­funct biotech­nol­ogy com­pany, Ge­n­e­sis R&D Cor­po­ra­tion.

“I’LL DO IT MY­SELF”

Bram Smith is gen­eral man­ager of the Kiwi In­no­va­tion Net­work (Ki­wiNet), a group­ing of univer­si­ties and crown re­search in­sti­tutes col­lab­o­rat­ing to com­mer­cialise sci­en­tific re­search. He sees many of the same Kiwi-in­shed prob­lems in re­search or­gan­i­sa­tions.

“What I hear a lot is ‘I don’t need to col­lab­o­rate, I’ll do it all my­self ’,” he says. “But in or­der to keep up with what the rest of the world’s do­ing, it’s not a mat­ter of in­vent­ing ev­ery­thing here, we need to be im­port­ing in­no­va­tion from over­seas, adapt­ing it for our par­tic­u­lar need­sneed and then ex­port­ing our in­no­va­tions back over­seasover to other mar­kets.

“W We spend too much time locked in our work­shopswork and not be­ing inspired by what’s go­ing­goin on around the world, or not be­ing inspired by what’s w go­ing on in com­pa­nies in our own co com­mu­ni­ties.”Can­ter­bury Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor Andy BuchananBuch is an ex­am­ple of a re­searcher col­lab­o­rat­ing­colla with com­mer­cial or­gan­i­sa­tions to m meet a com­mu­nity need – in this case for earth­quake-re­sis­tan­teart wooden build­ings.

BuchananBu and his team are de­vel­op­ing ways of usus­ing struc­tural tim­ber that can com­pete with con­creteconc and steel for large span and mul­ti­storey­store build­ings, giv­ing ar­chi­tects more op­tions in in­no­va­tive in build­ing de­sign.

Buchanan’sBu re­search has been funded by $5 mil­lion­milli of pri­vate in­vest­ment from the likes of CarterCart Holt Har­vey, Nel­son Pine In­dus­tries, and oth­ers,othe plus another $5m in gov­ern­ment fund­ing.

BuchananBu has now set up the Struc­tural Tim­berTim In­no­va­tion Com­pany, which is look­ing to co com­mer­cialise this re­search with in­dus­try part­nerspart around the world, par­tic­u­larly in mar­kets­mar like Ja­pan and Canada, where there is lots of wood and high earth­quake risk.

MINEMIN THOSE KIWI NET­WORKS

There’sTher no rea­son for New Zealand busi­nesses to be bat­tling away on their own, says Nick Houldsworth,Hou chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer of Vend, when­whe easy ac­cess to our com­mu­ni­ties and com­pa­ni­escom is one of the big­gest as­sets New ZealandZeal has.

“It’s I a small mar­ket and peo­ple know each oth­erothe and it’s pretty easy to build con­nec­tions,” Houldsworth says. “New Zealand cul­ture lends it­self well to start-ups be­cause it’s a very flat cul­ture, where peo­ple are gen­er­ally ac­ces­si­ble. And it’s a mer­i­toc­racy – if you have a great idea, peo­ple want to hear about it, whereas in other coun­tries there may be more hi­er­ar­chy and lay­ers to get through.”

“Peo­ple are inspired by suc­cess,” he says. “If you get a cou­ple of peo­ple who are do­ing very well in a par­tic­u­lar sec­tor, peo­ple want to fol­low suit. And they recog­nise that the best way to get ad­vice is to work with oth­ers and to build on the suc­cess of oth­ers.

“If you want to chat with Rod Drury, you can find him on Twit­ter and he’s gen­er­ally pretty re­spon­sive.”

If you want to chat with RodRo Drury, you can find him on Twit­ter and he’s gen­er­ally

re­spon­sive.” pret­typre

If Rod Drury isn’t your man, there are other ways en­trepreneurs can pick each other’s brains: two of them be­ing crowd­sourc­ing and shared workspaces.

Crowd­sourc­ing is bet­ter known as a way for start-ups to raise money, of­ten by show­ing a pro­to­type or de­sign to prospec­tive cus­tomers, and then ask­ing them to pre-pur­chase the prospec­tive prod­uct.

But it’s not just money en­trepreneurs are af­ter. In­creas­ingly, peo­ple are crowd­sourc­ing ex­per­tise, ask­ing strangers, of­ten with no fi­nan­cial re­ward, to con­trib­ute their skills and knowl­edge to a pro­ject.

The in­ter­net is full of ex­am­ples of crowd­sourced col­lab­o­ra­tions. Take Egyp­tian­born de­signer Karim Rashid, who used his Face­book page to ask his 400,000 fans to help him de­sign a seven-storey build­ing in New York. As well as choos­ing their pre­ferred ideas, com­menters pro­vided feed­back and ideas for Rashid, some of which he in­cor­po­rated into the fi­nal pro­ject.

HELPED AT HIS OWN GAME

Closer to home, Welling­ton en­tre­pre­neur (and game de­sign rookie) Mark Ma­jor used crowd­sourc­ing plat­forms 99de­signs, Red­dit and Face­book to get ex­perts to help him with de­sign and fea­tures for his new iPhone game, Plum­met Free Fall. The game has been down­loaded more than 350,000 times and was num­ber one on iTunes in four coun­tries, in­clud­ing Rus­sia.

Peo­ple are also com­ing to­gether in a more phys­i­cal way through use of co-work­ing spa­ces. De­signed to give lonely start-ups the power of the group, shared spa­ces of­fer cheap in­fra­struc­ture, but also a com­mu­nity of other peo­ple work­ing in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion.

In a quick Google search, Idea­log found al­most 20 such spa­ces, from the well- es­tab­lished Icehouse in­cu­ba­tor and BizDojo net­works, to newer fa­cil­i­ties like the Hanger in Queen­stown.

De rigueur is a cool name (The Aviary, Iron Bank, In­no­va­tion Precinct etc), a fast in­ter­net con­nec­tion and (one sus­pects) a bit of al­co­hol to get the com­bined cre­ative juices flow­ing.

Free­lance PR guy Paul Brislen, who works out of GridAKL in Auck­land’s Wyn­yard Quar­ter says en­cour­ag­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion is a de­lib­er­ate act. “There’s a team of peo­ple from BizDojo in the Grid ev­ery day en­sur­ing there’s al­ways some­one talk­ing at lunchtime, there’s al­ways op­por­tu­ni­ties to meet new peo­ple, so ev­ery­body’s en­gaged and ev­ery­body’s in­volved.”

EX­PORT COL­LAB­O­RA­TIONS

On a big­ger scale, or­gan­i­sa­tions like Ex­port NZ and New Zealand Trade and En­ter­prise are also ac­tively fos­ter­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween New Zealand com­pa­nies.

The Fam­ily of Twelve con­sists of 12 in­de­pen­dent New Zealand winer­ies fo­cused on pro­mot­ing Kiwi wine over­seas. They join to­gether or­gan­ise tast­ings and events in key mar­kets and to get prom­i­nent crit­ics, som­me­liers and re­tail buy­ers to visit New Zealand.

Im­por­tantly they share not just costs and lo­gis­tics, but knowl­edge and con­tacts.

Mean­while a strong push to get Kiwi av­o­cado

If you’re an ex­porter you are ham­string­ing your­self if you don’t have a rich col­lab­o­ra­tion net­work in New Zealand. Your com­peti­tors will, in gen­eral, be en­joy­ing a much more col­lab­o­ra­tive en­vi­ron­ment.”

SHAUN HENDY, TE PU­NAHA MATA­TINI

grow­ers to “com­mu­ni­cate and col­lab­o­rate like never be­fore” is al­ready reap­ing re­wards, in­dus­try body CEO Jen Scoular says. A new­lyu­nited sec­tor has dou­bled sales to $135m for the 2014-15 sea­son, and wants to dou­ble them again by 2023, she says.

“As an in­dus­try we want to share data and knowl­edge and pro­vide peo­ple in the av­o­cado in­dus­try ac­cess to in­sights that will help im­prove de­ci­sion-mak­ing and or­chard pro­duc­tiv­ity.” It’s a logic you can’t ar­gue with, Hendy says. “The smart move is to try and be more open and try and get a re­turn from your ideas and your tech­nolo­gies as they go out into the world,” Hendy says. “If you’re an ex­porter go­ing into off­shore mar­kets, you’re ham­string­ing your­self if you don’t have a rich col­lab­o­ra­tion net­work in New Zealand, you’re at a disad­van­tage against your in­ter­na­tional com­peti­tors who will, in gen­eral, be en­joy­ing a much more col­lab­o­ra­tive and in­no­va­tive en­vi­ron­ment.”

But don’t just col­lab­o­rate, says Serge van Dam, a Welling­ton en­tre­pre­neur cur­rently chair­ing three SaaS start-ups, Wip­ster, Mon­toux, and Coach­seek.

COL­LAB­O­RATE WITH PUR­POSE

Ex­tend your net­work, van Dam says. Build re­la­tion­ships. Be in­ter­ested in what oth­ers are up to and don’t be so se­cre­tive about what you’re do­ing, he says. Trust other re­searchers, in­ven­tors, en­trepreneurs and com­pa­nies. Busi­nessBusi and in­no­va­tion aren’t zero sum games.

“TThere’s an emo­tional im­pe­tus to work­ing to­geth­er­toge be­cause we want to see New Zealand per­form­perf on a global stage and there’s this al­most nat­u­ral,natu cir­cum­stan­tial ad­van­tage that we can draw on,” van Dam says.

“WWe’ve just all got to be will­ing to not just use loosel terms like col­lab­o­ra­tion, but be very specific­spec about how we can help each other. Whether­Whe it’s in­tro­duc­ing peo­ple via email, or giv­inggi ac­cess to a con­tact list or shar­ing ex­pe­ri­ence­sexpe to make other peo­ple smarter, I thi­think we’ve got a real op­por­tu­nity to make each other bet­ter. The world’s an enor­mous mar­ket­place­mar and a ris­ing tide lifts all boats. If every­oneever gets smarter, we all ben­e­fit.”

SOFT­WARE AS A SER­VICE

Soft­ware as a ser­vice is a per­fect breed­ing ground for col­lab­o­ra­tion. There’s the back­ground of the in­ter­net to start with – that open source nir­vana of geeks sav­ing the world. Then there’s the fact many Saas com­pa­nies are born from the de­sire to solve a sin­gle prob­lem, which may have once been one small as­pect of a com­pre­hen­sive (and ex­pen­sive) soft­ware suite.

“By solv­ing a sin­gle pain point you can make a much bet­ter prod­uct, much faster,” ex­plains Nick Houldsworth, chief mar­ket­ing of­fi­cer of cloud-based point of sale soft­ware ser­vice com­pany Vend. “But cus­tomers still need dif­fer­ent sys­tems to be con­nected to­gether.”

Vend is one of over 400 ser­vice providers in­te­grated on the Xero ac­count­ing soft­ware plat­form. Xero CEO Rod Drury says that by open­ing his sys­tem to other app de­vel­op­ers, Xero doesn’t lose sovereignty. In­stead other com­pa­nies add func­tion­al­ity to his prod­ucts.

“Any­thing that can be au­to­mated will be au­to­mated,” he says.

And while the level of col­lab­o­ra­tion varies greatly be­tween those 400 providers, Xero ac­tively works with start-ups to in­crease the value of the sys­tem as a whole, and to foster tal­ent in the ecosys­tem, Drury says.

“We love hav­ing com­pa­nies camp out in our of­fices and tak­ing ad­van­tage in the in­vest­ment we’ve made in them.”

Vend started as one of those com­pa­nies, re­al­is­ing quickly that by col­lab­o­rat­ing with an ex­ist­ing ser­vice provider, they could con­cen­trate on solv­ing a spe­cific prob­lem while also hav­ing ac­cess to Xero’s grow­ing cus­tomers base.

“So there was a pretty com­pelling rea­son for us to col­lab­o­rate, both from cre­at­ing a unique propo­si­tion for the mar­ket, but also achiev­ing a new chan­nel to mar­ket for our­selves,” says Houldsworth.

“We were find­ing new re­tail­ers and they were find­ing new ac­coun­tants and we knew that if we could com­bine forces we could find new cus­tomers to­gether.”

But the two com­pa­nies don’t just col­lab­o­rate ver­ti­cally. They also col­lab­o­rate hor­i­zon­tally, shar­ing prac­ti­cal knowl­edge and mar­ket in­sights.

“In those early stages it’s re­ally help­ful to have a col­lab­o­ra­tive work­ing re­la­tion­ship not just to find new cus­tomers but to just get bet­ter at your craft,” Houldsworth says. “Be­cause you’re ef­fec­tively try­ing to sell a sim­i­lar prod­uct at a sim­i­lar price point to a sim­i­lar au­di­ence, and in a lot of ways are try­ing to fig­ure it out as you go along.

“So the more you can share ideas, the bet­ter equipped you’re go­ing to be tack­ling some of those prob­lems.”

And as Xero helped men­tor Vend, Vend is help­ing younger com­pa­nies which are pro­vid­ing an­cil­lary ser­vices on its own plat­form.

“We’re al­ways happy to share in­for­ma­tion be­cause we’ve had the ben­e­fit of learn­ing from oth­ers as well,” Houldsworth says.

“We also get to learn things in re­verse, even if the com­pany is smaller than us. They’re of­ten try­ing new tac­tics that we’re not think­ing about.”

Ear­lier this year Xero and Vend were se­lected to help Ap­ple de­velop and pro­mote the busi­ness ca­pa­bil­i­ties of the iPad. One of the big­gest com­pa­nies in the world col­lab­o­rat­ing with two com­pa­nies started half a world away.

Ap­ple doesn’t want to have to build its own Xero or Vend; it wants to make its iPad bet­ter by help­ing make Xero and Vend bet­ter.

PRI­MARY COL­LAB­O­RA­TION

It’s not just cloud-based soft­ware that’s prov­ing fer­tile ground for col­lab­o­ra­tion.

A group of New Zealand’s pri­mary in­dus­try lead­ers de­cided to look to Sil­i­con Val­ley to learn how to col­lab­o­rate and bet­ter adapt to a volatile com­modi­ties sec­tor.

In 2012, John Brack­en­ridge, CEO of Merino New Zealand, and Keith Cooper, CEO of meat com­pany Sil­ver Fern Farms, vis­ited Pro­fes­sor Baba Shiv, an ex­pert in mar­ket­ing and “neu­roe­co­nomics”, at Stan­ford Univer­sity in Stan­ford, Cal­i­for­nia.

While there, Brack­en­ridge and Cooper re­alised that many pri­mary sec­tor CEOs didn’t even know each other, let alone work to­gether. The two started invit­ing pri­mary sec­tor lead­ers for a week-long an­nual boot camp at Stan­ford, where along­side univer­sity pro­fes­sors and Sil­i­con Val­ley lead­ers, they talk and think about how New Zealand’s pri­mary in­dus­tries can shift from be­ing com­mod­ity pro­duc­ers to gen­er­at­ing more value through bet­ter un­der­stand­ing the chang­ing con­sumer be­hav­iours.

Since 2012, the boot camp has grown to 50 par­tic­i­pants, in­clud­ing CEOs and se­nior man­agers from­from Ze­spri,Ze­spri Sealord Sealord, Fon­terra Fon­terra, and

We’re al­ways happy to share in­for­ma­tion be­cause we’ve had the ben­e­fit of learn­ing from oth­ers as well. We also get to learn things in re­verse, even if the com­pany is smaller than us. They’re of­ten try­ing new tac­tics

about.” we aren’t think­ing about.

NICK HOULDSWORTH, VEND

In Italy, the com­pa­nies which have sur­vived, the ones which have pros­pered, are the ones that have col­lab­o­rated, even with their arch en­e­mies, as long as they are in the same space.” philo­soph­i­cal

JOHN BRACK­EN­RIDGE, MERINO NZ

oth­ers, host­ing a di­verse range of speak­ers from Amer­i­can de­signer Wil­liam McDonough to for­mer US Sec­re­tary of State, Con­doleezza Rice.

As well as be­ing inspired by the speak­ers and the Sil­i­con Val­ley ecosys­tem, Brack­en­ridge says by nur­tur­ing re­la­tion­ships and es­tab­lish­ing trust, pri­mary in­dus­try lead­ers have be­gun work­ing to­gether to help each other in over­seas mar­kets.

The most prom­i­nent prac­ti­cal out­come of the boot camp is Pri­mary Col­lab­o­ra­tion, a ge­o­graphic group­ing set up by Andy Bor­land, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Scales Cor­po­ra­tion, help­ing New Zealand pri­mary in­dus­tries ac­cess Chi­nese mar­kets. The col­lab­o­ra­tion in­cludes fish­ing com­pany Sealord, Sil­ver Fern Farms meat, Syn­lait Milk, Villa Maria Es­tate win­ery, Maori food and bev­er­age pro­ducer Kono, and Pa­cific Pace, it­self a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween three Hawkes Bay ap­ple-based com­pa­nies Mr Ap­ple, Cras­born­Group and J M Bo­s­tock Group.

Brack­en­ridge is ex­cited about the pro­ject. “You’ve got New Zealand’s big­gest ap­ple pro­ducer, New Zealand’s big­gest seafood com­pany, New Zealand’s big­gest meat com­pany and one of the big­gest wine com­pa­nies all say­ing, ‘Rather than go­ing into Shang­hai in a silo, why not go in col­lec­tively and share in­sights, share re­sources, learn from each other?”

Af­ter this year’s boot camp, Brack­en­ridge trav­elled to Italy, where the econ­omy has had to rad­i­cally trans­form, af­ter los­ing much of its man­u­fac­tur­ing busi­ness to China. Brack­en­ridge sees Italy, where col­lab­o­ra­tion has be­come a nec­es­sary part of suc­cess, as a model for New Zealand’s pri­mary in­dus­tries. “The com­pa­nies that have sur­vived, the ones that have pros­pered, are the ones that have col­lab­o­rated, even with their arch en­e­mies, as long as they’re in the same philo­soph­i­cal space,” he says. “We need be able to col­lab­o­rate with some­body who’s get­ting mar­ket in­sights and know­ing when to col­lab­o­rate and when to com­pete.”

Col­lab­o­ra­tion is a process not an out­come, Brack­en­ridge says. “The out­come is greater value, greater con­sis­tency, less volatil­ity, as a con­se­quence of us be­ing far more so­phis­ti­cated in our value chains and our brand­ing, and there­fore less de­pen­dent upon com­modi­ties.

“And the way to do that is through bet­ter in­vest­ment in tal­ent, bet­ter aware­ness of dig­i­tal, and the util­i­sa­tion of a far more col­lab­o­ra­tive ap­proach to mar­ket.”

PUB­LICPUBL / PRI­VATE COL­LAB­O­RA­TION

The Kiwi In­no­va­tion Net­work (Ki­wiNet) was launched in 2011 as a group­ing of univer­sity and Crown Re­search In­sti­tutes. It now in­cludes 15 part­ners which rep­re­sent 6000 New Zealand re­searchers (67% of the to­tal). Its aim is to get sci­en­tists and busi­nesses work­ing to­gether.

Ki­wiNet Gen­eral Man­ager Bram Smith, says get­ting col­lab­o­ra­tion hap­pen­ing is all about es­tab­lish­ing trust, and the only way to es­tab­lish trust isi through re­la­tion­ships:

“When we first set up we were re­ally wor­ried about con­fi­den­tial­ity, so we had quite com­plex ar­range­ments around mak­ing sure that if some­body dis­closed in­for­ma­tion, it wasn’t shared or didn’t blow any com­pet­i­tive ad­van­tage. “But what hap­pened was over time, that re­ally started to break down. Peo­ple started to build trust and pur­sue con­fi­den­tial­ity and nondis­clo­sure agree­ments only when it was re­ally nec­es­sary.”

A key part of get­ting that sort of trust is en­cour­ag­ing peo­ple to form per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, he says. “Or­gan­i­sa­tions don’t col­lab­o­rate, peo­ple do. So you’ve got to en­able peo­ple to form per­sonal re­la­tion­ships and get to know each other. You can’t just force peo­ple to­gether and ex­pect them to col­lab­o­rate.”

In June this year, Ki­wiNet held the inau­gu­ral NZ Math­e­mat­ics in In­dus­try con­fer­ence, where six com­pa­nies paid $6,000 each to have 100 of the coun­try’s top math­e­ma­ti­cians take on their real world math­e­mat­ics prob­lems – to­gether.

“It’s great for the busi­ness be­cause they get re­ally sharp minds work­ing on their op­por­tu­ni­ties,” says Smith. “It’s great for the math­e­ma­ti­cians be­cause they get good ex­pe­ri­ence of the kinds of prob­lems busi­nesses have and how to solve them. And it cre­ates a re­ally good cul­ture of get­ting peo­ple col­lab­o­rat­ing to­gether from across mul­ti­ple or­gan­i­sa­tions to pur­sue in­no­va­tion op­por­tu­ni­ties and solve tech­ni­cal chal­lenges.”

In less than a week, some prob­lems were solved, or well on the way, and some math­e­ma­ti­cians were of­fered con­tracts to con­tinue their work.

“We see re­searchers who could do so much more for com­pa­nies around them if they could get out and talk to them, if they could im­merse them­selves in what those com­pa­nies are deal­ing with,” Smith says.

“And we see so much more that com­pa­nies could do if they had more ca­pac­ity to en­gage with the science com­mu­nity. A lot of what Ki­wiNet does is just get peo­ple to­gether in the same room so they can get to know each other and form re­la­tion­ships.”

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