In 2009 HERA put a proposal to Government to work with companies to transition them to being innovative and match fit for a competitive export market.

While the proposal was not successful, HERA took up the challenge in establishing the Above Ground Geothermal and Allied Technologies (AGGAT) programme which is part funded by MBIE, and which provides a science base to support innovative technology development by companies.

This went part way to meeting the need but still leaves an unfortunate gap at company level. A gap involving identifying and implementing the next generation of processes and manufacturing technologies that will prepare them for the future and the emerging markets for them to effectively compete in.

This gap is not unique to New Zealand’s metal industry; many countries have recognised the need and the urgency to do something about it as in the UK where the Department for Business Innovation & Skills (BIS) has funded an Innovation Support Programme aimed mainly at small and medium sized businesses operating across the UK’s Metals processing supply chain.

They say, “the UK Metals sector is going through significant market changes, so innovative products and process improvements to help companies adapt, survive and grow are needed urgently.”

“The programme is fully funded by government and is to be delivered by The Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) in collaboration with the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC) who will work closely with the High Value Manufacturing Catapults and other innovation collaborators across the UK. The scheme provides up to $335,000 per company.”

The competition in the global marketplace is increasingly shaped by countries choosing to support the transition of their metal based industries towards high value manufacturing driven by innovation.

For the UK, this new programme bridges the innovation gap for their metals-based industry, giving them a potential competitive advantage. If we are serious about wanting a competitive high value manufacturing industry, we will need to respond and provide at least a similar level of support.

In the meanwhile, New Zealand industry eagerly awaits a productive response.