13 Sep 2011

NZ high-tech sector 'better than ranking indicates'

9:26 am on 13 September 2011

A champion of the high-tech business innovation sector is treating a recent report showing slippage in New Zealand's international competitiveness with scepticism.

New Zealand's ranking in the World Economic Forum's annual global competitiveness survey has fallen five places in two years to 25th of 142 countries.

The country scored well in the basic requirements for a competitive economy, such as infrastructure and primary education but went backwards in business innovation, an area the World Economic Forum says is crucial to super-charging economic growth.

Victoria University physicist and business innovation author Sir Paul Callaghan believes the rankings are flawed.

He says output from New Zealand's top 100 technology companies is recovering after the global financial crisis while double-digit growth rates for the most high-tech firms - electronics, computing and aerospace - have continued.

"Its 11% on a very small part of our manufacturing industry but if it keeps on growing at that rate we're going to see significant impact on New Zealand's exports over the next decade."

But Sir Paul says more could be done to boost entrepreneurial skills, ensuring ideas in the lab are developed commercially to the fullest extent possible.

He also supports the restoration of Labour's tax credit for research and development which was scrapped by the National-led Government after the 2008 election.