Getting Ready for Market: what role science and scientists?

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 demanding on and of our talents and most importantly any less valuable or laudable than the markets we routinely go out to already?

What holds us back? Incentives? Traditional? Uncertainty? Knowledge? Resources? Support? Ready transparent translation pathways? Credibility? Reputation? Seemingly conflicting methods of assessment, reward and recognition of the work and the person? At least all of these things of course.

Every time we submit an abstract to attend a conference, a grant proposal to a Government Agency or a manuscript to a journal we are going to market. Over time we learn to know and understand this market that we are plying our trades in to such an extent that we don’t even recognise it as being our selling market anymore. This market whereby we and our product are constantly assessed critiqued and valued. Where investors, competitors, future collaborators, future students – all of whom are our market all decide if what we are selling is what they are buying that day. Some of us have better products to sell than others, some of us are better sellers – and for some few scientists they have the product, the pitch the je ne sais quoi and the market pays attention.

This market, of essentially our peers, is however, in relative terms, very limited and drives particular types of research and behaviours – important research and behaviours but nonetheless restricted. The other markets, the end user markets (which are many and varied, like our peer market) drive research in a different but not incompatible way and not, as many choose to believe, in a necessarily lesser or lower quality way. However, in New Zealand the international peer market continues to dominate our research agenda, despite quite persistent work right now to change that.

Some believe that these other markets should fully pay for the research (and then development) that will ultimately drive their growth – but how realistic is that in New Zealand right now to assume, and then rely on this happening of its own accord, in what is, let’s face it on international standards, a very nascent market, particularly in some of our targeted areas such as high value manufacturing and biotech. The entire system needs to evolve (including the researchers and universities) to achieve this outcome of a buoyant and diverse set of markets supporting an active and productive research environment.

There are the brave few who have been forging ahead in this area for years balancing the different paymasters with elegance and ease. But these few have not created a critical mass that has the capacity to turn into a movement and seemingly the systems, despite massive tinkering are still perverse, blocking the growth and diversification.

What will make the system work? What will ensure the brave few can be turned into a movement, and that as each new person enters the system they are different than those who entered previously and they come into a system that is changed and along with this the market grows and starts to support, pay for and demand research?

Learning to deal with, mitigate or change collectively and separately our incentives base; our capacity to deal with uncertainty, on all fronts; having the appropriate flexible, dynamic and evolving infrastructures that provide resources and support to people and systems; looking beyond the traditional; and feeling valued and recognised for the work that we do in appropriate ways is essential. These things will work for us to deliver what we need to realise the change. But none of these are easy and one won’t begat another without planning and no single person or organisation will be able to do it alone and yet the returns are huge so what’s stopping us recognising that we have to go to Market!

I hope you all had a great Easter break