BusinessDesk report by Pattrick Smellie
The chief executive of Industrial Research Limited, the Crown Research Institute being folded into the new advanced technology institute, has announced his resignation after six and a half years spent restoring the once-ailing science body’s financial performance.
Shaun Coffey said he was leaving “after careful consideration”, and following IRL’s acknowledgement in the last week through a series of awards and medals for its contribution to the New Zealand innovation system, including one of the Prime Minister’s Science Prizes.
Coffey found himself offside with Science and Innovation Ministers Wayne Mapp and then Steven Joyce because of his advocacy for retention of the advanced materials research capacity developed at IRL’s Wellington campus, at Gracefield in Wellington.
Ministers were at one stage keen to move all activities to campuses in Christchurch and Auckland, close to those cities’ engineering schools, but were ultimately persuaded to maintain the IRL campus as part of a larger amalgamation of advanced materials science, initially dubbed the Advanced Technology Institute.
It has since been formally named Callaghan Innovation in honour of leading New Zealand physicist and science community leader, Sir Paul Callaghan, who campaigned for greater connections between science and new industries before his death from cancer earlier this year.
Coffey described the new institute, which also includes elements of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise and is intended as a “one stop shop” for high value, innovative businesses with high growth potential, as a “major challenge” and wished it every success.
Coffey thanked all those who had helped to “reinvent” IRL in the past six and a half years.
“The collective knowledge and abilities of our people, and their intense desire to put science to work for New Zealand, are constant sources of inspiration and motivation. It has been my profound privilege to serve them, and through them to serve New Zealand,” said Coffey, who came to the role from Australia.