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 its future. This was partially spurred on by his foray into science commercialisation through the company started from his fundamental research, Magritek, now heading towards its 10thanniversary; his position as Founding Director of the MacDiarmid Institute, which afforded him opportunities to interact with politicians, the public, and industry, all of whom asked him questions that greatly extended beyond his central expertise, rapidly gaining him an audience for his knowledge, thoughts and opinions; and that his two children had left New Zealand to live their lives and raise their children in England. He wanted to know, what would it take to get New Zealanders to stop exporting their children in such high proportions and start exporting science knowledge based products? He wanted New Zealand to be a place where talent wanted to live.
Paul began to examine our economy, our high value manufacturing and ITC industries. The latter was the focus of Wool to Weta. During his exploration into economics he learned about something called the New Zealand Paradigm for which despite having all the “right” components to ensure a burgeoning economy, New Zealand’s economy is not burgeoning. So what was missing? Could the missing elements be introduced to ensure that New Zealand could and would prosper? This became the basis of the then unnamed second book.
During this time Shaun had begun to consider the question of how do you really value science research? He started his blog “A Measure of Science”. Using this as a medium he began to consider the role of networks, collaboration, patents and innovation, applying methods that had originated in mathematics and physics to analyse the behaviour of the business and innovation sectors. Comparing systems across the world and understanding the makeup of different economies as related to investment, physical geography, resources and size.
These two efforts originally working in parallel came together when Paul asked Shaun to work with him on the second book. Unfortunately the book was only about half finished when Paul died, Shaun worked hard to ensure its publication and therefore that Paul’s ambitions were realised.
Paul and Shaun take us on a journey of New Zealand’s economic history – and indeed of world economics, outlining why the world of economics finds us so paradoxical. We learn about models based on corn and the building of competitive canal systems and railways through to models based on water flow between buckets as a method to understand an economy. Comparisons and case studies of New Zealand and other small nations, particularly Finland and Denmark are presented, capturing aspects of their diversity, collaboration, investment and network behaviour. At each stage pertinent conclusions are drawn which are not just used as commentary but to formulate a foundation for growth for New Zealand. While the book ends with four key aspects, littered throughout are germane pieces of information – some have been in play as suggestions for decades, others have been revealed more recently from Shaun’s and other’s work – but to learn those you will have to read the book.
Next time I will be writing this from Germany where I will be attending a conference, so until then enjoy reading Get off the Grass.