Clarky's Comment - September 2009, R&D and Innovation

PF Olsen is fully committed to research, technology and innovation. Its rapid deployment is a source of increased human productivity, safety and competitive advantage. In fact, and this applies whether we are talking NZ Inc., the forest industry or one particular firm, R&D and innovation is the ONLY long-term strategy that will sustain us into the future. Any of us can have the most customer-focussed, most efficient process and lowest cost or best value product and service offering now - but that is a temporary advantage without R&D and innovation. Just ask General Motors! Eventually, without continuously re-inventing, experimenting and finding new and better ways to meet customer needs, our competitors will always catch up or overtake us.

At the forest industry level PF Olsen has demonstrated its commitment to R&D as the single largest forest industry contributor to Future Forest Research. 14% of all industry funding into this multi-theme, multi-million dollar research collaborative comes from PF Olsen Ltd. In addition PF Olsen has contributed over the past 4 years to wood quality research carried out by WQI Ltd and has maintained a smaller contribution into its successor Solid Wood Initiative.

PF Olsen was a foundation member the Radiata Pine Breeding Cooperative that was formed in 1987 and has continued to support breeding research under its various industry structures ever since. The knowledge gained has not only heavily influenced the genetics our clients have planted but has also enabled PF Olsen to play an important role in the production of the very best in Control Pollinated pine seed for New Zealand forest plantations since the mid 1990s.

Overall, however, the funding of research in the NZ forestry and timber processing industries has lagged that applied in other primary sectors and in timber industries in some competing countries. The start-up of Solid Wood Initiative is a positive step and hugely important for both forest owners and processors as we grapple with turning a highly variable and expanding pine resource into products more valuable and easier to ship to market than logs.

The questions to ask when considering funding for R&D is not whether the specific projects being put up have a likely payback, but:

  • What are the structures in place to enable our R&D effort to be well-directed, and flexible to changing demands and early findings?
  • Are the mechanisms in place to enable R&D findings to be disseminated and quickly picked up by industry?
  • Where will I be relative to my competitors in 10 years time if I do not innovate based on new knowledge?