Speech to Life Sciences Summit

  • Hon Judith Collins
  • Good morning all, it is a pleasure to be here as Minister of Science, Innovation and Technology.
  • It is fantastic to see how connected and collaborative the life science and biotechnology industry is here in New Zealand.
  • I would like to thank BioTechNZ and NZTech for the invitation to address this summit and to acknowledge the great effort both groups are making to grow New Zealand’s biotechnology sector.

Rebuilding the economy

  • This Government has been elected with a clear mandate to rebuild the New Zealand economy.
  • New Zealand has many challenges and to address them we need you.
  • We need innovative, world leading companies that provide good jobs, and valuable products and services for Kiwis and the world.
  • Today I would like to talk about how this Government is reforming gene technology regulation to give you the tools you have been calling for, and how science and innovation will help us address the economic improvements we need to get this country back on track.
  • The transformative power of innovation is key to our country’s future.
  • From advances in health treatments in our hospitals, to improved crops in our supermarkets, technology has the power to make New Zealanders lives better.
  • Fantastic work happens here at home, in your labs and in your companies.
  • New Zealand is home to amazing science, and I stand before you with a deep appreciation for the incredibly valuable work you all contribute across our science and innovation ecosystem.
  • You know better than me about how biotechnology can deliver enormous benefits for New Zealand, from making advances in health science, combatting climate change, to lifting agricultural productivity and boosting exports.­­
  • I’m sure that many of you have felt frustrated at how our outdated gene technology legislation has held you back. Having the right regulatory environment in which to function in is essential to enable advancements in your work.
  • While innovations such as CRISPR have made gene technologies more predictable and safer than ever, New Zealand’s outdated rules make it all but impossible for you to apply these technologies outside the lab.
  • Under the current Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act, fewer than ten Gene Edited or Genetically Modified products have been approved for release outside labs.
  • No commercial GE or GM crops are grown in New Zealand, and no fresh produce developed using gene technologies is sold here.
  • Countries like Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom have safely embraced gene technologies, and the European Union is working to liberalise its rules.
  • We are being left behind, putting our climate goals at risk and depriving Kiwis of significant advances in healthcare, environmental protection and economic growth.

Our plan

  • This Government will reform New Zealand’s gene technology rules, removing barriers that prevent you from just getting on with your jobs.
  • We will ensure that you are empowered to do you research here, instead of forcing you to go overseas for trials and field testing.
  • We will pass legislation by the end of 2025 to enable greater use of gene technologies while ensuring strong protections for human health and the environment.
  • The new rules will be future focused and designed to accommodate advances in gene technologies and methods.
  • They will be based on managing the risks of these technologies, rather than focusing solely on the methods of genetic modification.
  • The regulator will oversee the new system and ensure ethical and cultural concerns are well managed.
  • It will involve a streamlined approval process to reduce the burden on both our scientists and businesses, and help you to navigate the approvals process so you do not get lost in confusing bureaucracy.
  • MBIE officials are holding round table events here at this Summit, and I encourage you to participate because these changes are being designed to support your research.
  • I am also keen to hear from you on what we can do to ensure the system works both now and into the future.

Better business connections

  • I intend to encourage private participation and co-investment in the sector, and incentivise areas of focus for science and research with commercial value.
  • This will position us to continue developing world leading solutions to address some of our greatest global challenges.
  • We have a great community of spin outs and start-ups that have come from New Zealand’s science system and industry involvement in research and development is essential for our companies to deliver the economic impact we need.
  • There is already an established base for this work to build on, such as our Research and Development Tax Incentive which has now provided over 1,000 businesses with tax credits, supporting over $3.3 billion dollars of business investment in research and development.
  • Beyond this, we need businesses to actively engage with our science system to ensure cutting edge knowledge and technology is deployed where it is most needed.
  • Getting more of the right people from across businesses, universities and research institutes to connect in a meaningful manner will be essential for New Zealand to benefit from the great work you do.

Technology sector commitments

  • I will also pursue the technology sector commitments signalled in our manifesto to make New Zealand more attractive to technology companies, founders and to high skilled workers.
  • We need to aim for the highest possible goals when it comes to economic growth, which means focusing on growing high value, exporting technology firms, and focusing on the science that will support them with cutting edge technology.
  • As a first step, our ‘Boosting the Tech Sector’ manifesto commitments outline new potential visas as well as changes to the taxation of employee stock ownership plans.
  • The technological advancements we need won’t be possible without our public science system.
  • We will also support you to rapidly test areas of promising, innovative research, refreshing and diversifying the scientific expertise around the country.
  • Diversity in the science system at a fundamental level will contribute to our ability to meet many challenges that lay ahead of us.
  • We’ve seen the real-life impact of this, such as the importance of previous mRNA research leaving us in a position to rapidly react to a pandemic.
  • We need to be ambitious, increasing focus on the science and innovation that will create and support firms working at the cutting edge of their field, that will allow us to face the upcoming challenges head on.

Closing statement

  • These challenges that we face may be complex, but they are not insurmountable.
  • It is through your work across science, innovation and technology that we find solutions to some of the world’s most pressing issues.
  • Your work not only contributes to the advancement of knowledge, but also brings tangible progress and meaningful impact to our communities.
  • The collaborative nature with which you undertake this work is very valuable to me, and these next two days are a fantastic opportunity to update each other.
  • Thank you and I wish you all the best for the rest of the Summit.
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