Last night we went along to the launch of ‘Get Off the Grass’, a new book by Professor Shaun Hendy and the late Sir Paul Callaghan, which builds on the work of Paul’s 2009 book ‘Wool to Weta’. ‘Get Off the Grass’ investigates why New Zealanders work harder and earn less than most other people in the developed world.

The crux of their argument is that New Zealand needs to be focusing on knowledge, rather than nature. Achieving growth and prosperity and maintaining our ‘clean, green’ environment does not need to be mutually exclusive.

Hendy has done a lot of work analysing ‘innovation ecosystems’ and looking at the networks of innovators around the world. His work clearly shows that innovation is driven by large scale collaboration in geographic centres; big cities support denser networks making them more innovative. For New Zealand, a country too small to have a Tokyo or Los Angeles, this means we need to foster nationwide collaboration and see ourselves as a ‘city of 4 million people’. We need a ‘dating service of ideas’. We need to open up data and research. We need to take risks and not be afraid to fail. We need to invest more in science and research. And we need to see ourselves as ‘a people of knowledge, not just people of nature’.

These two physicists’ bold ideas build an exciting narrative around the potential of New Zealand’s innovation economy. It’s wonderful that Shaun has continued Paul’s audacious journey into the study of economics and society in New Zealand. This is a powerful book that challenges ideas about how our country works, and what our country can achieve.

If your’re interested in finding out more, you can read an excerpt from the book here, check out Shaun Hendy’s blog, or buy a copy here, or you can register for the MacDiarmid Institute’s online foresight game Pounamu which will run from noon to noon 29-30 August with the question: In 2023, we’re all smart about science. What will you do with you the capacities science gives you?

Professor Shaun Hendy launches ‘Get Off the Grass’ with a public lecture at Victoria University