Story: Knowledge-based industries
New Zealand is isolated from world markets, and ‘weightless’ exports like computer games or drug patents are a key to economic success. Creative, biotechnological and internet technology industries are growing quickly, and have had striking international successes, like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the rings blockbusters, and fashion icon Karen Walker’s designs.
Full story by Mark Derby
Main image: Professor Ian Graham, Endace
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With knowledge-based industries New Zealand can compete strongly in overseas markets. The country is isolated from the rest of the world, so high-value products – like films or computer software – that can be easily delivered to large foreign markets via the internet are a key to economic success. Because New Zealand has a small population, industries are often held back by a lack of money – they rely on costly research and development for their success.
The three creative industries that have made the biggest impact overseas are film, television and fashion.
Film director Peter Jackson’s Lord of the rings trilogy became a Hollywood blockbuster. He filmed in New Zealand and also made all the special effects in his studios in Wellington. Not many television programmes have been sold overseas but Shortland Street is one that has. Probably the best-known fashion designer is Karen Walker, whose product range sells in 250 shops around the world, including London and New York.
As well as Peter Jackson’s successful Weta Workshop, there are digital design companies making Playstation games, interactive websites and digital educational resources for overseas markets.
Biotechnology uses science and technology with plants and animals and other living organisms to make products like medicines. Because New Zealand has a lot of plants and organisms that are unique, it is a good place for people to develop new medicines or other products.
New Zealand farming researchers have been world leaders in biotechnological research on stock like cattle and sheep. Now scientists use information about animals to make new medicines for humans.
Pigs left to fend for themselves on the subantarctic Auckland Islands have cells that could be developed into treatment for diabetes in humans. Researching wild species like this is known as bioprospecting.
New Zealand is part of the worldwide Physiome Project. Scientists can model the human body on computer. Auckland University worked with Oxford University to make a computer model of the heart, used to study heart diseases and treatments.
IT companies earned $6.2 billion in 2007. Christchurch is known as the IT centre of New Zealand – one in every 300 people there wrote software for a living in 2008. However New Zealand has not kept up with leading countries in providing broadband internet access. This has slowed the development of IT industries.