Jun
26

Over … And … Out

Next week I am stepping down as Director of the Institute, having taken up the role of Vice-Provost (Research) at VUW in January this year, so this is my last Update. No more desperately trying to come up with something interesting, informative, hopefully occasionally thought provoking and maybe even evocative and controversial every couple of […]

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Jun
19

Thank you to our Deputy Directors

Professor Alison Downard is stepping down as our Deputy Director Stakeholder Engagement at the end of this month having held the position for two years. During this time Alison has played an incredibly important role. She came into the position at a very crucial time in the history of the institute, just a couple of […]

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Jun
05

Our new Emeritus Investigators

Quiet week this week, no controversy, think I did enough of that last time. This week it is time to shine the light on others. But first THANK YOU to the huge number of people I know and don’t know who contacted me and thanked me for speaking out on issues that they believe need […]

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May
22

Government funding… Tight, tighter, tightest!

We keep trying to get ‘it’ right: Government funding in a limited resources environment. Some recent things have highlighted just how tight things are really getting in the area of Government funding; reviews and refreshes are taking place, but meantime we all have to deal with functioning in a seemingly ever tightening resource environment. With […]

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May
08

What gets measured, gets done… What then is a meaningful set of KPIs?

Not everything that is valuable can be measured so how are these things included via an evidence base? You hear it a lot, and there is plenty of evidence out there to show, that if you set a numerical target for something, measure and monitor it then lo and behold you’ll achieve it. Why? Well […]

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Apr
24

Vision Mātauranga: partnering to create a new tomorrow

Last year, thanks to the initial work and foresight of Desi Ramoo, we began a relationship with Nihi Houia and Ron Hough of Ngā Hononga Marae (Charitable) Trust in Whanganui. Nihi and Ron visited us in Wellington and then in turn welcomed us in Whanganui. Very quickly it was evident that they shared our vision […]

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Apr
10

Getting Ready for Market: what role science and scientists?

We maybe think this doesn’t or shouldn’t pertain to us as scientists but in fact we get ready for market all the time; what makes us believe that expanding our market in order to make available the outcomes of our work to so-called end users is any less worth our time and efforts, any less […]

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Mar
27

What are the right career demographics?

And exactly how do you successfully succession plan? These two things might seem somewhat connected but not necessarily that they go totally hand in hand, but based on everything that I have been involved with lately, consideration of these two and working to get them right seem paramount for capturing (and assuring???) success today and […]

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Mar
13

What is a PhD? How do we ensure it is fit for purpose for researchers, businesses and society?

The PhD degree has been around a very long time. Has it evolved appropriately to ensure that it is really delivering for the future needs and employability of our students, our research and education communities, the national and international business communities and more broadly society as a whole? There was a time when, for the […]

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Feb
28

Governance Boards for Research Grants: really the best way to use our resources and people?

Blog Friday 27 February 2015 Funding in the research sector has significantly changed over the past few years and more change is to come. One thing that is rapidly becoming a constant across all of this change, however, is the requirement/proliferation of “Governance Boards”. Right now we have 11 Centres of Research Excellence and in […]

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Feb
13

MacDiarmid Institute’s Seventh International Conference Huge Success

This past week we have been in Nelson hosting our seventh international conference, attended by over 500 delegates and superbly organised by our Principal Investigator Shane Telfer (Massey University) and his team. In addition to the hundreds of science presentations we have been involved in a range of outreach activities during the week. This tradition […]

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Jan
30

Things anew

Welcome back everyone. I hope that this finds everyone in good health and feeling revived and inspired following the Christmas and New Year period.  We’ve started the New Year with some big changes and advances placing us in a position of strength as we head into our third contract supporting our work in the institute. […]

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Dec
16

Thank you, Farewell, Welcome and a Challenge

Last week was the final meeting of our current Board with several of our Board members leaving us. Steve Thompson our Board Chair is stepping down after five years in the role. He is joined by Jane Harding (University of Auckland), Charles Daugherty (Victoria University of Wellington), Fred Samandari (University of Canterbury) and Roger Ridley. […]

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Nov
28

The November Crush: the season of national meetings/conferences/symposia

A call for all of us (including Government Ministries and Agencies) to rethink our annual calendars In the last two weeks I have been to the MacDiarmid Institute’s public forum A Place to Live, the Institute’s Annual Investigators’ meeting in parallel with our Annual Student and Post-doc Symposium, the first ever cross-CoRE meeting and the […]

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Oct
31

Does our future rely on our presence offshore?

Over the weekend on Q&A (http://tvnz.co.nz/q-and-a-news/universities-should-expand-overseas-joyce-video-6116620) the Minister for Tertiary Education, the Hon Steven Joyce, as we all knew he would, and clearly sooner rather than later, started to expand on and more fully articulate his plans for change, growth and diversification of New Zealand’s tertiary education sector and in particular universities’ need to do […]

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Oct
17

Women of Influence and Young Science Communicators: Movers and Shakers of Our Future

The first celebrating New Zealand Women, a Fairfax Media and Westpac initiative, now it its second year, and the second New Zealand’s young science communicators in the Sir Paul Callaghan EUREKA! Awards, a Rotary initiative running now for three years. Professor Margaret Brimble, an Associate Investigator in the institute and based in the School of […]

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Sep
19

Leveraging resources, growing resources, diversifying income streams

But if we are always looking at only one source from which to get the more, then that is never going to be sustainable and so ultimately isn’t a viable strategy. Last week the application results for the 2014 MBIE funding round were released, as always there were major winners and losers. A massive congratulations […]

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Aug
22

Are there too many groupings of scientists or is there just not enough strategic oversight?

They commented that their first impressions were that the science landscape here seems full of groups of scientists and science infrastructure people, each of which is purportedly doing similar things (and at worst advertising that they do something and when you look closer that isn’t where the money is going at all). As a consequence […]

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Aug
08

Is it just me??!!

Can I just call a time out for a bit! Maybe I am feeling a bit in the need of being indulgent, possibly even being indulged, at the moment, but is it possible to actually just stop for a bit? Catch our breath? Have a look at the landscape that we are now occupying and […]

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Jul
25

Delivering culture change: uncertainty, trust, identification

While this alone is critical to the future development of New Zealand, our pursuit of providing an outstanding educational environment for our emerging scientists also provides us with the opportunity to achieve much more than just multiplying ourselves in our own images. We can use this opportunity along with our emerging scientists themselves to change […]

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Jul
11

Strategic vs. Mission-led Research: Vision, Leadership, Purpose

Or perhaps it is that we don’t like being told what to do by certain people? Or maybe it is just the way that something is contexturalised that sets up the brick wall for us as opposed to who in particular is doing the asking? When you consider the research funding vehicles that New Zealand […]

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Jun
27

Taking our outreach activities to the next level

An extension of our very successful and long running series of classes in Wellington, and our next national public forum – A Place to Live went live! Both of these outreach activities are part of extended partnerships that enable us to have greater reach and deliver more impact.  Both are geared to bring together different […]

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Jun
13

Programme based research, how do you make it work and why is it worth the effort?

For me it is essentially where a bunch of people come together, assess their skills, knowledge and expertise and collectively decide what research question they are able to tackle or particular outcome they will work to deliver by utilising all, or some subset, of their skills. The research question or outcome is something that would […]

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May
30

What are we trying to achieve?

Most of us at some point have, if not actually created one, contemplated creating a 5 year plan. A plan in which we set a pathway, have something we are working towards, an outcome that we want to create or attain. We work out ways in which we can ensure that we will achieve the […]

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May
16

MacDiarmid Institute Refunded: Thank you and congratulations

With the news that we have been successful in gaining funding through to the end of 2020 I get to be a bit self-indulgent this week and focus on thanking people for their participation and support during the past year or so as we developed the strategy for the bid. Many people have played very […]

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May
02

Enhancing the value (?!) of a PhD

Is a monetary amount really what value comes down to? If it is, how do you determine the value of something like a PhD and how do you go about ensuring that its value is the highest it can possibly be for the current environment? Value of course is so much more than the act […]

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Apr
11

IP the opportunities and the difficulties: how do we get this right – for everyone?!

We can identify things that can be introduced to enhance the system as a whole, or subsets thereof and perhaps most importantly what grit is making the wheels, at best, stick, at worst, make something grind to a halt. One of the things that never seems to be far away from any such discussions, no […]

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Mar
28

Communicating Science

There are even prizes for doing it … well … (quite substantial prizes in some cases), but what does science communication really mean and what parts of the broad spectrum of what people think of as science communication are going to drive the generation of a science-literate New Zealand who collectively have the capacity to […]

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Mar
14

Two Degrees of Separation and Ten Degrees of Conflict of Interest!

All of them in the end seem to really have as the underlying factors transparency and integrity. For some of the situations I have faced the outcome was, in my opinion, a pandering to the worst case scenario resulting in a process applied to all to deal with something that might have happened once in […]

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Feb
28

Want more? Be specific! AND explain why

More of everything no matter what it is? And while we generally place boundaries on our own demands ourselves or they are placed there for us, in the end if there were no consequences would we ever stop? But in wanting or asking for more shouldn’t we know what the more will be used for; […]

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Feb
14

How do we create STEM graduates without STEM trained teachers?

Here is what I know… Science and Mathematics will provide jobs for our children Science and Mathematics is and will continue to be responsible for our high standard of living Science and Mathematics will ensure that New Zealand increases its economic standing internationally Training in Science and Mathematics will provide the set of skills needed […]

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Jan
31

Strategic Partnerships Developing a Viable Common Goal

We are an organisation in our own right; we have responsibilities to deliver on our own mission but in doing so we must also ensure that our activities aid our partners in realising their missions. We have our own identity and yet without our partners we would not exist and therefore as our identity is […]

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Dec
20

The Christmas Wrap

We’ve had another big year. We welcomed two new Deputy Directors Profs David Williams (UoA) and Alison Downard (UoC) (Shaun Hendy stepping down at the end of last year and Simon Brown at mid year). We also welcomed six new Principal Investigators (Natalie Plank (VUW), Cather Simpson (UoA), John Kennedy (GNS), Duncan McGillivray (UoA), Bernd […]

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Dec
06

The Bid is Gone – YAY – let the doing begin!

Eight months of living and breathing the MacDiarmid Institute Centre of Research Excellence funding proposal to come down to a click of the mouse. Where were the trumpets, the marching band, the ticker tape parade?! Shouldn’t such a momentous occasion be marked with an explosion of lights and fanfare rather than the soft snoring sound […]

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Nov
22

The “real” cost of funding applications – isn’t there a better way?

That is, the true cost of the research is straightforwardly determined and transparent to all.  Essentially what this correlates to is an overhead charge being added to all salaries included in all funding requests, similar to a charge out rate for professional services of say lawyers and accountants. This overhead correlates to an institution’s estimate […]

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Nov
08

Just how important is mentoring?

There were many components to his talk but towards the end he introduced a particular exemplar of something that worked to enhance innovation and achieve economic benefits via research translation within an environment  that included or indeed was potentially even triggered by the University of Waterloo. Communitech in Canada, (http://www.communitech.ca/) started by a group of […]

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Oct
25

Research translation academic style: The elements of getting it right

There are many extraordinary exemplars internationally where the universities act as the vibrant hub of a burgeoning startup and innovation system.  Graduates are employed in their hundreds including a hefty chunk of PhD graduates.  Indeed these PhD graduates are right at the heart of it, starting the new companies and/or having the high level skills […]

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Oct
11

Opportunity calls to the prepared mind! Are you a prepared mind?

I don’t believe in serendipity – show the exact same information to several people, even several people with the same type and level of training and some will shrug their shoulders and go so what and a very few will smile and realise that they have something – something that could be great.  And then, […]

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Sep
27

When do you actually think about what might be vs. when could you? Maximise the full impact of your research!

At one level all of these questions have the same answer – to have impact! Impact within the research discipline, impact on the wider community and ultimately, impact on the World. Research makes a difference.  And let’s face it all of us want to make a difference, most likely as big a difference as possible. […]

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Sep
13

Mobilising our forces and creating strong partnerships

People working together to create a single entity, to realise a specific outcome or to explore and resolve a problem using their individual and collective expertise.  So everyone should jump at the chance of working together – right?  Furthermore they should immediately see the advantage of teaming up with people of complementary skills and creating […]

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Aug
30

Success = People

By almost anyone’s definition the MacDiarmid Institute is a very successful research consortium of leading New Zealand scientists.  The success is achieved and maintained through the willingness of its members to participate in impactful science research in a collaborative vein.  But it is much more than that.  Our people deliver on the broader strategic aims […]

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Aug
16

Get off the Grass!

The book is the follow up on Paul’s 2009 book “Wool to Weta” Transforming New Zealand’s Culture and Economy, both published by Auckland University Press.  In the few years prior to Paul’s death he began to explore the ideals of New Zealand and its economy and the place that science had in working to define […]

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Aug
02

Jeff Tallon Victoria University of Wellington Distinguished Alumni

Jeff has many plaudits already including being awarded the Royal Society of New Zealand’s top award; the Rutherford Medal in 2002, jointly being presented the Inaugural Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2009 with Dr Bob Buckley his long-time colleague, collaborator and friend and receiving a DSC from VUW in 1997. Jeff has held a James […]

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Jul
19

Callaghan Innovation: Research for Economic Growth

In it is summarised many of the messages that we have been hearing since Callaghan Innovation was launched on 1 February of this year.  The business proposition was strongly stated: Callaghan Innovation will deliver the research needs of New Zealand high value manufacturing industry in order to create real dollar returns. Few would challenge such […]

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Jul
05

New Deputy Director Professor Alison Downard

Alison is a Professor of Chemistry at the University of Canterbury she started as a lecturer at Canterbury in 1988, which was her first academic appointment.  She is a founding Principal Investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute.  Alison is an internationally recognised leader in surface modification and engineering using electrochemical methods.  She has pioneered many of […]

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Jun
21

Simon Brown Deputy Director 2011-2013

Simon was the inaugural holder and instigated our first commercialisation plan, introducing the concept of scoping and in-depth projects. These projects are geared to facilitate the analysis of MacDiarmid Institute research with respect to its commercial potential.  They act as a conduit; providing the beginnings of a feedback loop between the commercial and research domains […]

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Jun
07

Is collaboration actually a competitive advantage?

They are discussing it in opposition to competition.  As a way of undoing a bad couple of decades for New Zealand, with an overly competitive [income and input][1]system touted as being the root of why as a country we have not delivered as many outcomes as our potential capacity indicates that we could.  That collaboration […]

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May
24

Come on New Zealand – Size really does matter!

As scientists we build our careers on our ability to ask the right questions, at the right times, find the answers and then provide solutions or if not solutions a higher level of understanding of something.  To do this successfully we have to understand the system that is under scrutiny well enough in order to […]

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May
10

The National Science Challenges: exactly what does $134 m get these days?

Nearly $135 m over four years of new investment in the New Zealand research sector is tagged for this research investment vehicle ($75 m of this was only announced with the release of the 10 Challenges). This amount over four years equates pa to the level of investment in the CoREs and approaches that of […]

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Apr
26

What will CoREs look like in the future? How prescribed should this be?

These responses along with the discussions that have been going on with the Ministry of Education will form the basis of the policy framework.  This framework and the associated criteria will essentially outline what CoREs will look like in the future and the benefit they will deliver to New Zealand.  Or will they?  Is it […]

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Apr
12

Capturing a Vision – but which one?

And then thinking, from both an individual and institutional perspective, how you will deliver on any of that let alone all of it!  Who will have the courage and capability, the vision to lead it, make it happen and get all of us to not just poke our heads above the parapet but actually full […]

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Mar
15

From The Other Deputy – David Williams

This will be brief, since the bidding season is at its frenzied height. The Marsden deadline has just passed and MBIE looms. Large documents are being assembled. Wise heads will offer opinions. Other wise heads will weigh A versus B. Yet more heads will ponder cost against benefit. A huge amount of intellectual effort is […]

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Mar
01

From Deputy Director Simon Brown

Many lives were changed for ever and many people are still living with a whole range of impacts, on their families, homes and workplaces. But I’m constantly amazed at how courageous people are in making the best of their situations, and how normal life can still be, much of the time. Living west of the […]

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Feb
15

New Zealand Science Shines!

But more than this we show how strong our science and scientists are, how much we contribute to the advancement of the international community and knowledge base, how our science leaders are the world’s science leaders. The conference is a celebration of science and the vibe as you walk around is palpable.  Vice Chancellors McCutcheon […]

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Feb
01

Callaghan Innovation open for business

Last week the new Board was announced. Sue Suckling is the Chair and Murray Nash (previously at MED) is the acting CE.  Richard Templer will lead Callaghan Innovation Research Limited. Transition times are always difficult particularly when the transition includes merging, expansion and evolution and of course people. This is the situation currently being faced […]

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Jan
18

Time for Reflection?

Happy New Year! Welcome back to all of you, I hope you had a fantastic Christmas and New Year and managed to find some glorious sunshine, golden beaches, a fantastic book and the company of great friends and family.  The Christmas/New Year break gives us the chance to relax, the volume of email traffic subsides, […]

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Nov
30

Partnership, Excellence, Collaboration

These three words and what they mean to people and to the institute were strong points of focus at the MacDiarmid Institute Board and Investigator meetings held at the University of Canterbury last week.  Their real meaning was clearly evident in the myriad of discussions that took place over the three days and the vibe […]

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Nov
16

CallaghanInnovation

Attached are Sue Suckling’s speech and the CallaghanInnovation weekly newsletter for your information. Tomorrow the call will go out for the CEO of CallaghanInnovation with the appointment planned for January and the new organisation to be in effect on 1 February 2013.  Needless to say getting the right person into this position will be the […]

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Nov
02

Shaun Hendy steps down as Deputy Director

Shaun was appointed as a Principal Investigator of the MacDiarmid Institute towards the end of 2002.  He is a computational and simulations physicist exploring a variety of phenomena that are unique to the nanometre length scale.  He works closely with many experimental researchers, both leading and aiding interpretation of experimental data.  Shaun is a Professor […]

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Oct
19

Stability and Freedom; all you need!?

A place where talent wants to live.This seemingly simple catch phrase became a major driving force for Sir Paul Callaghan as he worked to open people to the possibilities of what could be, here in New Zealand; to get them thinking and ultimately believing and actively pursuing a better future for all of us.  From […]

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Oct
05

With change comes return – as long as you grab it and sustain it!

There’s a lot going on at the moment! All of this creates a lot of uncertainty and it often gets difficult to see the potential benefits of all or any of changes currently being introduced or mooted, or to remember why any of this is important when there are so many possible personal costs to […]

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Sep
21

Achieving in spite of adversity and because of opportunities

Whether as an individual, a team or an organisation creating a vision or reaching for opportunities seems to always come with obstacles, barriers, opponents, self-selected gate keepers and the naysayers.  At times it seems like everything is stacked up against you and that you are stumbling through a mine field in the dark with size […]

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Sep
07

Minister Joyce visits the MacDiarmid Institute in Wellington

This week we hosted Minister Joyce for the first time.  During his visit we introduced him to the range of activities that we undertake. In particular we provided the Minister with evidenced of our significant nation-wide collaboration network that has grown significantly over the 10 years since our establishment.  Our connectivity extends across all our […]

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Aug
24

Science is finally on the agenda, but do they actually get it?

Last night I attended a function marking the official release of a report (Science and New Zealand’s Future: Reflections from the Transit of Venus Forum) from Sir Peter Gluckman, Chief Science Advisor to the Prime Minister, on the recent Transit of Venus Forum.  At the event both Sir Peter and the Prime Minister, The Rt […]

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Aug
10

When Does Greatness Begin?

All of us can think of individuals, groupings, businesses and institutions that we consider to be in the category of greatness. How did they get to be like that? Rationally we concede that a great person doesn’t emerge at birth, that a business isn’t from its first day leading and defining the competitive edge. But […]

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Jul
27

New steps forward: the establishment of the Advanced Technology Institute

The yet-to-be announced Establishment Board will be responsible for meeting this deadline and effectively defining the full framework of the ATI. The goal of the ATI is to provide a strong support system for our current and future manufacturing and services sectors.  The premise and realisation of the ATI will be defined and driven by […]

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Jul
13

Criticality and collaboration, what’s best for NZ?

The Government is currently considering how to best achieve critical mass in research and as part of this how to ensure strong, real collaboration and use of resources and infrastructure, while maintaining a competitive environment.  A focus of this is a review of the Centres of Research Excellence initiative. In particular the question being asked […]

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Jun
29

Commitment and Collegiality

These plans will be the basis for a joint meeting between the Board and the Science Executive at the end of July. They define what we are doing now and what we intend to do, forming the basis for our rebidding proposal. The meeting was great and showed to me yet again how amazing the […]

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Jun
22

Not everything is simple!

Indeed sometimes complexity is what generates a seemingly simple and succinct outcome from a system. There are many examples within science that speak to complex systems working to produce a single outcome, or multiple complex components working in synchronicity with each other to produce multiple and/or variable outcomes. Discovering how these systems function and capturing […]

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Jun
15

Capturing the Inspiration and making it Reality

How do I create tangible outcomes, both for my own personal gratification but more importantly to activate the environment and people around me to spread the inspiration, whereby they create further and more impactful tangible outcomes? It seems too easy to be immersed for a few days at a conference, have the initial grains of […]

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Jun
08

Our Future Horizons

This week several members of the MacDiarmid Institute have been in Gisborne District region, firstly participating in and viewing the Transit of Venus and then attending the Transit of Venus Forum: Lifting Our Horizons.  This Forum and the partnership with Te Aitanga a Hauiti and the Uawa community was initiated by the late Professor Sir […]

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Jun
01

Are we everything that we could be?

In July last year the Principal Investigators of the MacDiarmid Institute collectively agreed upon the high level vision and mission of the institute and the four key strategic areas. Our Vision: SCIENTIFIC EXCELLENCE, LEADERSHIP, INSPIRATION: ADVANCEMENT OF NEW ZEALAND Our Mission: To deliver excellent scientific research and education Creative, ambitious, innovative research in advanced materials […]

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May
25

Two balls nearly always attract!

Emeritus Investigator Professor John Lekner has created a big splash in the international colloid and nanoparticle worlds this past week or so with his most recent paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society A. John shows that “two charged conducting spheres will almost always attract each other at close approach, even when they have […]

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May
18

Building collaborations and partnerships and defining our future

The Forum is a partnership between the MacDiarmid Institute, Victoria University of Wellington, the Royal Society of New Zealand and Te Aitanga a Hauiti iwi and the East Coast community of Tolaga Bay. Sir Paul Callaghan conceived the idea of the Forum and drove it. He envisioned an event in which collectively we considered New […]

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May
11

Developing our innovation potential, big and small, skills and businesses

The programme has several facets aimed at pushing forward potential commercial programmes within the MacDiarmid Institute, providing an amazing training platform for our students and postdoctoral fellows, developing and strengthening our network throughout our Partner institutions and more broadly the regional incubators and getting our Investigators engaged in commercialisation concept development. The programme is delivering […]

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May
04

Opportunities: where are they and how do we make the most of them?

These opportunities have the capacity to change our current perspectives, challenge us, be the catalyst for major advances with significant and broad reaching impacts and generate outcomes creating further opportunities. So with all of this at stake why are we often blind to opportunities, or perhaps worse worried about even considering the possibility of acting […]

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Apr
27

When is enough really enough?

And perhaps even more than good, you need to be great.  The collection of attributes that we used to aspire to is now those that seems to be expected, even common place.  Included within those attributes is the need for us to be specialists, and preferably renowned, cutting-edged practitioners; communicators across all media and all […]

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Apr
20

What will it take? Developing our Emerging Scientists

Our Deputy Director, Professor Shaun Hendy, the current President of the NZAS presided over the day during which the viewpoints of a range of stakeholders were put forward, opening with those of the Government and the Opposition. Several MacDiarmid Institute members participated in the day and there were many of our emerging scientists in attendance at […]

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Apr
13

Calling All Alumni

This is fantastic but we want more.  So please join up and encourage others to do so.  If you don’t have a Linked In account?  Join up at http://www.linkedin.com and then join the MacDiarmid Institute Members and Alumni group. Why do we want to keep in contact with our Alumni and continue to be of […]

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Apr
05

The Secrets of our Success

A central value of the MacDiarmid Institute is collaboration without barriers engendering the ideals of shared knowledge and resources. Here collaboration acts as the foundation for competition and individuality at the institutional and personal level. This collaborative basis results in more research activity, a better use of the available resources and the generation of a […]

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