Innovate! Transforming New Zealand’s technology-based economy

Richard Bentley


“Essential reading if you’ve ever wondered why New Zealand produces so few successful export-driven science and technology companies — and what we need to do about it.” — Harry Mills, author of Zero Resistance and The Rainmaker’s Toolkit


In Innovate! Richard Bentley reviews our technology-based business sectors and finds that they are fragmented and that key sectors are threatened by emerging technologies and innovative competitors who are smarter, faster and cheaper. He also finds that our science and innovation system is biased to science research and provides insufficient support to exporters.

To address these issues, New Zealand needs to urgently build a new network of university-based technology hubs. They would become the centres of sector research, focused on technology development that builds competitive advantage and assists exporters. These hubs would energise innovative environments, catalyse collaborations between businesses, co-ordinate the development of sector-focused export strategies, and direct research toward economically relevant outcomes.

In a further radical step, Richard Bentley proposes that the management of the science and innovation system, including the new hubs, move from within government to a new Innovation Council led by business, the universities and NZ Trade and Enterprise.

About the author

Richard Bentley is a Wellington-based and now mostly retired company director and manage­ment consultant.

Following a brief spell in consulting engineering he joined Challenge Corporation in a corporate planning role, and transferred into Fletcher Challenge Ltd (FCL) in the merger in 1980. He spent the first three years working on energy and minerals investment opportunities, then transferred into the FCL Steel Sector in senior management positions and in 1989 was appointed CEO of the Natural Gas Corporation shortly after it had been acquired by FCL from the Crown.

Richard remained CEO of the corporation for twelve years to 2001 and stayed on as a director and chair of the audit committee until 2005, when the corporation was acquired by Vector Ltd. He has served on many boards including CRI GNS (1992–2000), CRI Crop and Food (2001–2007 and chairman for the four last years), NZX-listed Wool Equities Ltd (chairman 2003–2006), Canesis Ltd (chairman 2004–2006), privately owned Rissington Breedline Ltd (chairman 2001–2008) and Medialab (now Harmonic, chairman 2002–2006), and he was a member of the Busi­ness Round Table for ten years through the 1990s.

He has also worked with many organisations including the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, where he chaired an advisory board on the introduction of the NCEA, the Institution of Professional Engineers NZ and Transit NZ.

Richard was chairman of the Karori Sanctuary Trust from 2003 to 2009 through its development phase, and chaired the Guardians of the Sanctuary Trust until 2013. He has been a director of the Carter Observatory board for nearly thirty years (chairman 2003–2008) and led the modernisation of the Carter Observatory and its transfer from Crown into Wellington City Council ownership. He remains chairman of the Carter Observatory Trust.

Richard was an Electricity Commissioner from 2007 to 2010, and in May 2009 joined the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology as group manager, Manufacturing and High Growth Firms. He continued across into the Ministry of Science and Innovation and the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment, where he assisted with the preparations and design for Callaghan Innovation. He was CEO of the Centre for Advanced Engineering from 2013 until its closure in 2015, and a member of the Engineering Leadership Forum; he is still the Forum’s secretary.

Educated at Onslow College and Canterbury Uni­­versity, he obtained an honours degree in civil engineering and a master’s degree in economics. He was made a Distinguished Fellow of the Institution of Professional Engineers NZ, a Fellow of the Institute of Directors, and was awarded the CNZM in 2006.

Additional information

Dimensions 160 × 234 mm

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