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Life sciences summit crucial for NZ’s economic future

November 23, 2023

A life sciences summit in Wellington next March will be crucial for the future growth of the New Zealand economy.

The inaugural March 22-23 event, run by BioTechNZ , will unite Aotearoa’s life sciences and biotech communities across all sectors including agriculture, environment, industrial as well as human health, BioTechNZ executive director Dr Zahra Champion says. 

“Our objective is to recognise the advantages in life sciences when complemented with biotech to solve some of the biggest challenges we face on our planet.  

“We will be having a panel of New  Zealand’s future leaders at the summit to hear how New Zealand can attract and retain talent in the rise of the bioeconomy.

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

“New Zealand Statistics say that less young Kiwi women are doing stem subjects, and then ones that do don’t make it thought to senior positions. The gender gap must be closed.

“Companies can boost performance by reversing this trend. Gender-diverse companies are 48 percent more likely to outperform the least gender-diverse.

“There has been an increased focus on gender parity in new hires and on greater equality in executive roles. But companies may be missing another critical moment: equitable advancement in early promotion.

“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 McKinsey’s 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 in creating initiatives that support women into senior biotech roles.

“Diversity is especially crucial in these roles to help debias the technologies that make up an ever-present and evolving component of modern life.

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

Early promotions in a career are most critical to success, and yet for the past eight years, McKinsey research has consistently shown that women lose ground in the step up to manager.

Biotech, or the application of our knowledge of the genome to engineer organisms with beneficial traits, enables new solutions to today’s challenges, Dr Champion says.

Today, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which adds the tools of molecular biotechnology to humanity’s toolbox, promises similar improvements in wellbeing as those that were delivered by previous technological innovations.

“But some public fear of biotech, in spite of the tremendous advances it has already provided, may prevent these innovations from having the impact they promise.

“The biotechnology industry must substantially 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 about the potential of the sector. This means actively participating in the development of regulatory processes for these evolving technologies and the benefits that it delivers.”

For further information contact Dr Zahra Champion on 021 899 732 or NZTech’s media specialist, Make Lemonade editor-in-chief Kip Brook on 0275 030188

BioTechNZ Our aim is to raise awareness and increase the understanding to enable our nation to embrace the best opportunities biotech offers to us daily, helping us live better, healthier and more productive lives.