Ensuring a line of sight for impact

Julian ElderAlmost two years ago the Government released a National Statement of Science Investment 2015-2025 (NSSI) that presents its long-term vision and 10-year strategic direction for the New Zealand science system.

The NSSI vision is “a highly dynamic science system that enriches New Zealand, making a more visible, measurable contribution to our productivity and wellbeing through excellent science”.

To achieve its vision the NSSI presents two ‘pillars’ – excellence and impact. Public investment in science depends on strong performance under both pillars as defined below.

Excellence refers to the “quality of the science system and of the people who work within it”. We do excellent science at Scion and have a strong focus on measures to ensure this remains the case.

Impact means “all our science should have a strong line of sight to the eventual benefits for individuals, businesses or
society. This does not mean focussing on purely industry led, close-to-market research. Science has an important role in challenging, as well as supporting, existing industries, products, practices, approaches and frameworks”.

In Scion’s current Statement of Corporate Intent (SCI) we have identified seven areas of impact that are inter-dependent and collectively span the value chains we serve.

Our ‘impact areas’ are:
1. Increase value from plantation forested land.
2. Increase the resilience of forests to biotic and abiotic risks.
3. Licence to operate and standards across the forest industry value chain.
4. Diversify forests and local manufacturing to support regional growth.
5. Increase the use of wood and fibre products in the built environment.
6. Manufacture and apply biorefinery products from wood fibre, waste and other materials.
7. Use more forest biomass to improve New Zealand’s energy security and reduce emissions.

Within each of these broad impact areas are research programmes and projects staffed by talented and committed scientists and technicians working hard to meet project milestones and deliver on goals. We know that excellent science goes hand-in-hand with high impact. Assessing and illustrating the impact of Scion science is critically important to demonstrating the return on investment delivered. Seeing the line of sight is new thinking we are embedding in Scion.

We have illustrated this in the SCI with our bioadhesives technology Ligate™ where we can see the final, long-term effect. Our scientists began with insights that people want healthy and ‘green’ wood products in their homes. A sequence of results followed along a science and technology path. These results included successful proof of concept, validation of lab results in a pilot plant trial, securing of patent, publication of academic paper, successful scale-up production in mill trials, recognition via national awards and high interest from global markets. Eventually the impact will be realised when consumers will be able to select totally biobased wooden interior finishes and furniture for their homes, and when forest growers will have more value realised from tree residues.

Currently the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment has invited feedback on a discussion paper on the impact pillar of the NSSI. For strong impact performance, all players in the science system, within New Zealand and internationally, need a shared understanding of impact, how to generate it and how to demonstrate it.

As part of Scion’s strategic planning we aim to do this. We will be looking not only at science excellence and what the impacts on New Zealand could be, but also we will be exploring the pathways to the delivery of those impacts and Scion’s role as an enabler.

This planning will occur in the broader context of our Strategy Refresh, which will review our current seven impacts asking are they the best opportunities for New Zealand in the developing global forestry and bioeconomy world?

This is an exciting and stimulating discussion to have. Our journey into our future has begun. We are seeking clarity and forward focus for Scion as we and colleague organisations face the turbulence of global change. Line of sight to ultimate benefit for our citizens and our country is paramount.

I welcome your thoughts on this topic and any other matters raised in this issue of Scion Connections.

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Dr Julian Elder
Chief Executive

For further information contact
Dr Julian Elder at Show email