FRST industry survey

By - , Build 97

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology recently published the results of an industry survey taken during March and April 2005.

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a072 1 online3

Building and construction is a large and important sector of New Zealand’s economy. Despite its size, which makes it impossible to survey comprehensively, the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology (FRST) sought representative opinions from a wide range of industry associations and individuals. The Report on industry survey of building and construction research noted the following:

  • The sector is diverse – it covers a range of interests, from commercial companies to government regulators, and a range of company sizes, from Fletcher Building to individual builders and plumbers.
  • There are a number of industry associations but few have significant research budgets.
  • FRST funding for relevant building and construction sector programmes was $9.7 million at the time of the survey.
  • There are fewer ‘public good’ science and technology programmes than in other sectors.
  • The Building Research Levy and the Heavy Engineering Research Levy are collaborative industry-generated funds for research and development, which when combined, are of similar magnitude to FRST’s investment on behalf of Government within the sector.
  • The ‘separate badging’ phase to distinguish Building Research (investor of the Building Research Levy) from BRANZ Ltd (sector-specific, industry-governed research provider) was underway during the survey, but the distinction was still not clear to the industry. A range of opinions was expressed about the role ‘BRANZ’ played in the sector; there was no doubt the ‘BRANZ’ brand had high recognition across the sector.
  • BRANZ was quoted most frequently (72% of answers) by respondents as a source of research information, and was the research organisation with which most respondents quoted having a relationship.

The survey concluded that for research, science and technology to have a higher priority in the sector, the involvement of industry associations and companies needs to increase. This would create better understanding both of industry by science providers and of science by industry.

FRST not well understood

FRST was identified as providing independent funding for research and development (R&D), i.e. funding projects without commercial connotations, and ensuring a research capability exists. However, what FRST does and how it works was not well understood. This contrasted with the high awareness of BRANZ programmes, which led the reviewers to question whether there were opportunities for FRST to link better with the industry through BRANZ Ltd.

Most respondents rated R&D as important to both their industry and organisations, but industry associations, consultants, companies and government bodies have different levels of awareness of R&D, and experience different benefits. More users were aware of individual FRST-funded building and construction programmes than in some other sectors that had been surveyed, but fewer users reported benefits. Overall, the two most important benefits for the sector were goods and services for the New Zealand market and improved human health, safety and well-being.

Research strategy and collaboration needed

The reviewers concluded that there was a need for an industry research, science and technology strategy. They detected a desire among industry participants to collaborate in producing such a strategy and determining research, science and technology priorities. Following the FRST survey, the Construction Industry Council published a research agenda in May 2006. Building Research, which assisted with the development of this strategy, believes it should go some way to addressing this point.

The reviewers also concluded there was room for better coordination and collaboration between Building Research and FRST in research investment. Building Research was acknowledged for regularly surveying industry needs, and investing in knowledge transfer (see pages 76–78). Building Research looks forward to further strengthening its close ties with FRST and assisting FRST with a more focused delivery of new knowledge to meet industry needs.

For more

The FRST report can be downloaded from www.frst.govt.nz/evaluation/BuildingSurvey-2005.cfm. The CIC research agenda is available at www.nzcic.co.nz/Research_Strategy.pdf.

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Articles are correct at the time of publication but may have since become outdated.

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