As we all head into the end of another busy year, our thoughts naturally turn to the coming 12 months. Those who know me would agree that I’m a ‘cup half full’ person who sees challenges as opportunities. When times are tough, I look for those opportunities that can make a real difference and focus efforts on them to overcome barriers and promote sharper focus.
Over the past year, Standards New Zealand has been actively promoting the benefits standardisation could bring to the New Zealand economy, and to New Zealanders. A number of other countries have attributed gains in labour productivity, economy-wide productivity, and faster economic growth, to standardisation. For example:
- In Australia, a 1% increase in the stock of Standards is associated with a 0.17% increase in economy-wide productivity.
- In Canada, a 17% growth rate in labour productivity and a 9% growth rate in output (real gross domestic product (GDP)) have been linked to standardisation, between 1981 and 2004.
- In the United Kingdom, Standards have contributed £2.5 billion annually to UK GDP (£75 billion since 1948). Standards have contributed to 13% of labour productivity growth.
- In Germany, the estimated national economic benefits of standardisation equate to 1% of gross national product.
New Zealand’s economy-wide labour productivity levels are in the lower quartile of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) rankings, and slipping. This productivity gap can be addressed, in part, by increasing levels of standardisation and more coordinated use of the national standards and conformance infrastructure.
Standards can improve productivity, facilitate trade, increase innovation, and reduce regulatory burdens. They can do this by:
- reducing costs by delivering economies of scale – ISO's first technical committee was set up to write international guidelines for screw threads whose differing sizes added an estimated £ 25m (roughly £ 750m today) to the cost of the Allied effort in the second world war. Standards can facilitate the diffusion of technology and technical knowledge across industries, countries, and the world
- acting as a spur to economic growth and promoting innovation – our Construction Industry Council's past research has validated that a 10% efficiency gain in the building and construction industry equates to a 1% lift in national GDP. Standards are noted as having a core part to play in lifting and maintaining overall efficiency in the industry
- supporting less regulation from government – Standards provide 'lighter touch' tools for regulators to use to achieve policy objectives
- international standardisation removes trade barriers – a world without Standards would soon grind to a halt. Transport and trade would seize up. The internet would simply not function, and the many systems dependent on information and communication technologies would falter or fail. Standards New Zealand was recently invited to join a mutual recognition programme for conformity assessment procedures by the Saudi Arabian Standards Organization (SASO). Seven major trading countries have already signed and two more are about to join. I expect to see more such programmes in the future.
Examining how we can measure the macroeconomic benefits of standardisation, and measuring productivity growth potential, will be a particular focus for us in 2009. We look forward to driving appropriate research to confirm this statistic, and its relevance to the national economy.
Standardisation is a true opportunity for New Zealand right now. If we applied a factor of 1% GDP growth in New Zealand, that would equate to a contribution of $1.6 billion to our economy. Imagine…
On behalf of our team and members of the Standards Council, I would like to wish you and your loved ones a safe and very enjoyable holiday season, and a successful 2009.
Standards Council – resignation
John Albertson has been a member of the Standards Council since 2006. John has decided to step down from the Standards Council, effective from 31 December.
'While this is sad news for us, it’s a positive step for John,' says Richard Westlake, Chair of the Standards Council. 'John has been appointed to the 2008 board of a listed New Zealand company, which will give him a completely new set of challenges.'
'We shall miss John for his long, tireless, and always constructive commitment to standardisation, and to Standards New Zealand – and we shall also miss his experience and sound advice,' says Richard.
New staff – Brian McMillan
As Strategic Advisor in the Strategic Development and Innovation Centre, Brian will be supporting our business development, planning, and government engagement functions. Brian is excited about the role and enjoying being part of our team. With a background in the research and education sectors, Brian has recently returned from Australia, where he was working as an academic head hunter.