By guest writer, Nick Baker from Cucumber, one of our foundation sponsors. Thanks Cucumber! 

On Day Two of the Festival, a set of local experts came together to share their experience of research and development. The catalyst for the event is the new Research and Development Tax Incentive which encourages more companies to conduct R&D. 

The host of the event was Locus Research who have been a product development and innovation company locally for over 15 years, working with local and national companies like UBCO, Inverse, Livestock Improvement Corporation and Air New Zealand.

The first speaker was Matt Glenn, the CEO of Robotics Plus spoke about some experiences from his career spanning companies like Fonterra, Ballance and Hill Laboratories. From a science background, he now leads a team of experts in mechatronics – the combination of mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and software. His goal with the company is to enable robots to take over tasks from humans when the tasks are dirty, dull and dangerous.

Greg Jarvis is CEO of Bluelab, another local company competing on the world stage. They provide measurement and control equipment for growers and are always striving to iterate their products faster in order to meet the expectations of their market. Greg spoke of the need for partnerships to acquire technical input and of the difficulties of balancing the speed of hardware and software development so that one does not hold up the finished product. 

Tim Allen is CEO of Ubco Bikes which produces Utility Electric Vehicles (UEVs) or an electric off-road bike. Tim was the founder of Locus Research and became involved with Ubco a few years ago after working with them to develop their product. He is now at the helm of Ubco taking the product to the world. He spoke about continuously, tolerating uncertainty, seeing things in context and the importance of directional alignment within the business. 

Next up, Juliet Ansell, Zespri’s Innovation Manager spoke of her background as a scientist the need for research to be done now for a company like Zespri so that it will continue to solve  the problem that their customers will face 3-5 years time, before they know they’ll need it. Crucial to R&D in science she said, was learning to accept failure as a truely positive thing provided you learn from it.

Kirstin Mead is an Innovation Manager for Callaghan Innovation Bay of Plenty, shared about the government agency that partners with New Zealand businesses. They have over 200 of New Zealand’s leading scientists and engineers working for them to help local companies progress their ideas and concepts. Kirstin explained her role and how important innovation is to the local economy. 

Finally, Angela Hodges of Findex explained the new Research and Development Tax Incentive. As with most tax matters, there is a great deal of work required ahead of time in order to prove that the work you are doing is true R & D. For example, you need to establish if somebody else has already done similar work and then establish who will own the intellectual property (IP) of the work. As a guide you need to be looking at a minimum of NZD$50K spend and you need to be sure how much of that spend is eligible for the tax break. Of all the taxes out there – this must be the most exciting one, for it’s potential to unlock and support kiwi innovation. 

Finally the speakers formed a panel for Q&A and discussed topics like the single reason that drives them to innovate and what to do when innovation is heading towards failure – in this case the general agreement was that you need to be up-front when progress is slow and costs are spiralling and make the tough decisions when they need to be made.

Overall it was a very interesting night and a reminder to everyone of the very impressive people and companies that are present in the Bay of Plenty, and of the challenges that those companies face.    

To access the slides from this session: https://www.locusresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/What_is_the_future_of_RD_presentation.pdf

Locus Research who hosted the event have also done their done snazzy blog – you can check it out here: https://www.locusresearch.com/think/blog/2019/08/what-is-the-future-of-rd-event/