Life sciences summit crucial to New Zealand’s economic future


A Life Sciences Summit in Wellington next March will be crucial for the future growth of New Zealand’s economy.

The inaugural event from March 22-23, hosted by BioTechNZ will unite the life sciences and biotechnology communities of Aotearoa across all sectors including agriculture, environment, industry and human health, said BioTechNZ Executive Director Dr Zahra Champion .

“Our goal is to recognize the benefits of life sciences when complemented by biotechnology to solve some of the greatest challenges we face on our planet.

“We will have a panel of future New Zealand leaders at the top to learn how New Zealand can attract and retain talent in the growing bioeconomy.

“There is additional support needed for biotech to access and train more support for this important work, and for New Zealand the talent shortage is severe.

“New Zealand statistics indicate that fewer young Kiwi women are studying stem materials, and those who do are failing to move into leadership positions. The gender gap must be closed.

“Companies can boost their performance by reversing this trend. Mixed companies are 48% more likely to outperform less diversified ones.

“The focus has been on gender parity in new hires and greater equality in leadership roles. But companies may be missing another critical moment: equitable advancement in the first promotions.

“Across all industries and roles, women are promoted at a slower rate than men. Indeed, only 86 women are promoted to manager for every 100 men at the same level, according to the McKinsey Women in the Workplace 2021 report.

“Venture capital firms such as Brandon Capital, Bridgewest Ventures, Global Bio Fund, Pacific Channel and BioPacific Partners are leading the charge by creating initiatives that support women in biotech leadership positions.

“Diversity is especially crucial in these roles to help distort the technologies that are a ubiquitous and evolving component of modern life.

“We need to better understand the barriers that prevent women in tech roles from getting early promotions.”

Early promotions in a career are the most critical to success, yet over the past eight years, McKinsey research has consistently shown that women fall behind as they move up to managerial roles.

Biotechnology, or applying our knowledge of the genome to engineer organisms with beneficial traits, is enabling new solutions to today’s challenges, says Dr. Champion.

Today, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which adds the tools of molecular biotechnology to humanity’s toolbox, promises improvements in well-being similar to those brought by previous technological innovations.

“But public fear of biotechnology, despite the tremendous advances it has already brought, can prevent these innovations from having the impact they promise.

“The biotechnology industry must dramatically increase its efforts to educate and engage the public to ensure that biotechnology truly lives up to its potential.

“We must continue to educate the public, regulators and other industries on the potential of the sector. This means actively participating in the development of regulatory processes for these evolving technologies and the benefits they provide.

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