Alert Newsletter: Issue 330


Comment by CEO Dr Steve Thompson Steve.Thompson@rsnz.orgPeter Maire is worried about how we commercialise technology in New Zealand. And he should know. After all, he’s taken Navman to a $200m company with over 500 people. Navman copped some stick last year for selling the majority of the company to a large US investor, but that move has given Navman the credibility to do deals to supply the major international players in their markets. Since the offshore sale, Navman has added another 230 staff at home in New Zealand.

For Peter, it’s essential to control the brand and the distribution and marketing channels in order to capture the real value-added. Speaking in Wellington last week, he said that New Zealand has a lot to learn about marketing. He wants to see much closer links between CRIs and industry. He wonders whether we should follow the Singapore/Taiwan science models, rather than those inherited from Europe. He spends a lot of time in Taiwan, where he says he finds some of the best strategic thinkers on Earth.

Even in the face of global warming, the world produces 40 million new cars every year, and Navman aims to put a global positioning device in each one. He doesn’t aim for stunningly new technology, but enough in advance of the competition to give him the edge. His rule of thumb is to make $30 return from $1 of R&D within the first three years, and he sees returns on government science hovering more around the 1:1 ratio. He’s frustrated when he sees technology going undeveloped in CRIs which he knows could be turned into winners. He wonders whether we spend too much on basic research.

Well, I guess I don’t have to agree with every one of his views, but he does have an R&D message NZ companies should listen to.


By Dr Kathleen Logan, Policy Analyst, Royal Society of New Zealand.‘Stem cell research represents a hugely important field of endeavour for biological scientists’ said Professor Robert Lord Winston at a meeting this morning in Wellington. Today, Professor Winston completes his whirlwind tour of several New Zealand cities where he gave four public talks, which over 3000 people attended.

This morning in Wellington, he was discussing with policy officials several areas of science for which the regulatory systems are currently being developed in New Zealand. One area discussed was stem cell research, for which regulations in the UK are permissive whereas in the US they are highly restrictive, mainly for political rather than logical reasons.

The general consensus from a recent stem cell conference is that the ability of adult stem cells to differentiate into other, specific, types of cells, e.g., neurones or blood cells, is still very much an unknown. There are also pitfalls in embryonic stem cell research, so that the promise of new tissues developed from these cells is still at an early research stage.

One of the benefits of having few restrictions on research is the serendipitous effect. An example is that stem cell research can offer new ways of understanding some cancers. This is because some solid tumours may be diseases of stem cells that exist naturally throughout the body.

Currently there are risks associated with stem cell cultures that are coaxed to form new tissues for medical treatment. For example, a small number of cells that have not completely differentiated into the desired tissue, could be transplanted, e.g., into a brain, with unknown effects. The mechanisms are not fully understood and need more work.

In this area of science as well as in many others, having an open regulatory framework that enables, rather than prevents, research is imperative to enable us to minimise risk by increasing knowledge.


Another chance to hear the 2004 Royal Society of New Zealand Distinguished Speaker.For those who did not get a chance to hear Robert Lord Winston speak on his recent national tour, and for those who did and wish to hear more, Lord Winston will be interviewed by Chris Laidlaw on the National Programme at 9.30 a.m. on Sunday 11 July.


Applications are now being called for the 2005 R. H. T. Bates Postgraduate ScholarshipThis Scholarship was established by the Royal Society of New Zealand in memory of Professor Richard Bates FRSNZ. The Scholarship, tenable at any New Zealand university for one year, is available to graduates who are registered for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Students in the physical sciences and engineering will be eligible, with preference being given to those whose research aims to apply information/image processing to studies in medicine, the physical sciences, astronomy or engineering.

Applications close on 22 October 2004.

For further information, see:


‘Supercomputing in science: lessons from the last decade and a view of the future’

Per Nyberg, Cray IncThis presentation will address developments in computational simulation in the earth sciences. Per Nyberg will provide an overview of the emerging and driving scientific trends and demands that are shaping the computational facilities being developed by major environmental research institutes. Per will discuss how developments in supercomputers are being shaped to meet these demands.

Per Nyberg is currently responsible for Cray Inc.’s worldwide strategic planning, business development and marketing for the earth sciences industry. He has worked extensively in a variety of roles with many weather and climate centres worldwide such as the Meteorological Service of Canada, National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Australian Bureau of Meteorology. Before joining Cray, he worked for more than 11 years with NEC Corp’s high performance computing business.

Friday 9 July 9.30 a.m. (note early time) Main Conference Room, Allen Building NIWA, Greta Point

Further information from Michael Uddstrom, 0-4-386 0365


The Coldest Week of the Year is Nigh!MetService meteorologists are forecasting frosty weather to set in over much of New Zealand over the weekend, so that the coming week may well be the coldest of the year.

‘Following tonight’s showery southwest change, some spots in central parts of the South Island may well see ten or more degrees of frost at some stage in the next five days,’ commented MetService Weather Ambassador, Bob McDavitt. ‘The coldest time of the year is usually in July or early August and the large slow-moving anticyclone now on our weather maps is an ideal candidate to bring us this year’s low.’

McDavitt went on to say that the coldest-ever observed air temperature in New Zealand was -21.6 degrees Celsius at Ophir (near Alexandra) on 3 July 1995. ‘Ground frosts can be as much as 4 degrees cooler than the observed air temperature.’

In contrast to the frost forecast for the South Island, MetService is forecasting some wind and showers this weekend for the far northeast of the North Island. According to McDavitt a low pressure system is expected to skirt around the north side of the anticyclone. ‘The forecast for the rugby game between All Blacks and Pacific Islanders at North Harbour stadium in Albany on Saturday night is for gusty southeast winds and dry conditions.’

For further information please contact: Bob McDavitt Weather Ambassador (09)377 4831


On 30 November to 3 December this year the inaugural Medical Sciences Congress will be held in Queenstown ( ).The theme is ‘Celebrating New Zealand Health Research’ and medical scientists from diverse areas such as the endocrinology, physiology, perinatal medicine, genetics, neuroscience will be attending. This is the first time that NZ scientists from such a wide range of disciplines will come together at one meeting. All members of the New Zealand Health Research community are encouraged to attend and present their research. The meeting features key note lectures from distinguished international researchers, symposia from the top researchers in New Zealand covering diverse research areas of cardiovascular, developmental origins of adult disease, neuroscience, reproduction, endocrinology, bioengineering etc. Student presentations are particularly encouraged and on the day prior to the meeting the Royal Society will host a workshop designed to equip emerging researchers (senior postgraduate/early postdoctoral) with the tools to succeed in a competitive research environment. The meeting offers a tremendous opportunity for medical researchers to engage with their colleagues around the country in the scenic surroundings of Queenstown. For so long we have travelled outside New Zealand to meetings and failed to recognise the strength and breadth of our local research. This initiative needs your attendance and support.