(L-R): Professor Lorraine Warren, MP for Palmerston North Iain Lees-Galloway, David Cunliffe, Professor Malcolm Wright.

Unis have role to play in regional growth – Cunliffe

Tertiary institutions like Massey University have a key role to play in developing regional innovation hubs to drive economic growth, says Labour MP David Cunliffe.

The Labour spokesman for regional development, tertiary education, research and development and science and innovation, met with Massey Business School academics based at the Manawatū campus this week to see how the university was supporting local businesses.

“Universities are an essential lynchpin of regional as well as national economic development,” Mr Cunliffe says. “They provide the skills to power regional economies and the research and expertise to unlock regional resource endowments.

“Around them typically centre business research, spinoffs, growing companies and whole communities which in some way depend upon the pipeline of smart people and smart ideas that universities generate.”

Latest spin-off company provides a good model

Mr Cunliffe met with Professor Malcolm Wright, deputy head of the Massey Business School and the driving force behind a new regionally-focused marketing research company called Consumer Insights Ltd.

Professor Wright, who has always undertaken consultancy work as his academic schedule allowed, partnered with Massey’s commercialisation arm Massey Ventures Ltd last year to offer services to a wider audience.

The firm focuses on delivering the research needs of businesses in the central North Island, particularly in the Manawatū, Taranaki and Whanganui regions. Its unique business model has academic experts team up with postgraduate students to provide market research and consulting services in a cost-effective way.

Mr Cunliffe was impressed with the Consumer Insights model and said it was a good example of a university spinoff company providing value in its community.

“Consumer Insights is providing valuable linkage between Massey Business School and companies who can benefit from marketing science and analysis,” he says. “At the same time Massey students are gaining on-the-job business experience that fits them better for the job market when they graduate.  

“We also visited Gallagher Fuel Systems in Marton who stated that regional proximity to Massey was crucial to provide the engineering and research support needed to continue as a leading technology business. On another occasion I visited Food HQ, which is leveraging Massey’s deep expertise in food technology and agri-business.”

Regions need local start-ups

Mr Cunliffe also met with Lorraine Warren, Massey’s Professor of Innovation and Entrepreneurship. They discussed the role of universities in creating an ecosystem for entrepreneurship and the importance of supporting regional start-ups.

Professor Wright says it is heartening to see senior MPs taking an interest in regional development.

“The regions have a lot of spare capacity so they are a good option for entrepreneurs, providing the business environment is right” he says. “That’s why Massey University is behind initiatives like Consumer Insights; they can provide much needed support for local entrepreneurs. We welcome Mr Cunliffe’s visit as an indication that innovation policy may start to recognise the growth potential in the regions.”

Consumer Insights Ltd website: www.consumerinsights.co.nz

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