The role of research and development in New Zealand's industrial growth : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Geography at Massey University.
The conceptual background to this thesis involves an examination of the interrelationships between technological change, innovation and research and development, and the impact that they can have upon national economic growth and development. Research and development investigations can be translated into product and process innovations and these can cause short and long term structural changes. Such impacts are differentiated temporally and spatially because of the selectivity of the innovation diffusion-adoption process. These relationships can be examined in a more concentrated way by looking at the role of research and development upon New Zealand's industrial growth. Research and development has already contributed significantly to agriculture and, if manufacturing industry is to become a major component of New Zealand's growth, the potential implicit in the greater application of industrial research and development must be considered. The analysis of research and development involved looking at two groups of organisations; individual manufacturing firms and research associations. It was hypothesised that manufacturing firms in New Zealand are essentially concerned with adopting and adapting overseas technology, and that research associations are primarily concerned with improving the efficiency of their industry. Research and development in manufacturing firms was firstly examined generally, with a look at staffing and expenditure figures and the variation in programme emphasis among firms. The sectoral perspective of research and development activity looks at interindustry variations and the influence of firm size upon the type of work undertaken. A four-fold classification of firm organisation was proposed and it is possible to see how the programme emphasis and the criteria for project selection and research and development expenditure varies accordingly. The linkage impacts generated by research and development are also examined. Examples of growth impacts generated by technological and capital goods linkages and the phenomenon of spin-off firms are also discussed. At all times the spatial dimension of these processes is presented so that some idea of the diffusion of the impacts associated with research and development can be gained. The analysis of research and development activity in the research associations proceeded in a similar manner. The particular emphases of the research and development programme were examined, along with the sources of project ideas and the criteria considered in their selection. Any locational and linkage impacts that may be generated were also examined. Emphasis was given to the nature of the interaction that occurs between member firms and the research associations, and to the accountability that the associations have to the industry they serve. Once again the spatial dimensions of the processes examined have been presented. In conclusion, it was determined that the industrial research and development activity carried out in individual manufacturing firms and in the research associations does make a positive contribution to New Zealand's industrial growth. Product ranges can be diversified, production techniques can become more efficient, new firms may be created and general industrial growth ensues. Research and development, as part of the more general phenomenon of technological change, can certainly contribute to New Zealand's industrial and economic growth and development.