New Zealand science's most influential people

The Listener has just published its list of the most powerful and influential people in the country and have included a subcategory on science and technology.

I’m happy to say three of the five suggestions the Science Media Centre made to the Listener ended up on the list.

Science & technology:

1: Sir Peter Gluckman – the obvious choice. The scientist who has the ear of the Prime Minister. Has made a splash with a series of hard-hitting and thought-provoking speeches and lectures around the country this year. His first recommendation to the Prime Minister on restricting access to psuedoephedrine was picked up largely intact by the government.

2: Shaun Coffey – I was lambasted (via email) a few weeks ago for suggesting on this blog that Shaun Coffey should be nominated in the science and tech category of the Welly Awards run by the Dominion Post.

“Shaun has not, and can not, fix IRL’s NZ industry disconnection problems,” wrote one incredulous scientist.

However, the Listener seemed to think that Coffey’s efforts to revive the smallest and most diverse CRI and to generate some interest in innovation through the What’s your problem New Zealand? competition deserved some credit. Agresearch’s CEO Andrew West slipped off the Listener’s list entirely due to the proposed merger between Agresearch and Lincoln University being downgraded to a “partnership”.

3: Rod Drury – still tech’s most dynamic and visionary entrepreneur. Drury has stepped back form the limelight to focus entirely on taking online accounting software start-up Xero to the world market. Behind the scenes however, he is more engaged than ever in the big-picture issues affecting the country, particularly the Government’s plan to get high-speed fibre connections to most of the country.

4: Stephen Goldson – The Listener puts it best: Agresearch’s chief scientist is “a go-to guy for ministers and other bigwigs who want to talk science policy, and when he calls, they pick up”. Now advises the chief science advisor on agricultural issues and this year was elected to the council of the Royal Society of New Zealand. Most commonly seen in airport lounges on his way somewhere…

The Listener paints Jenny Morel... ouch
The Listener paints Jenny Morel... ouch

5: Jenny Morel – The grandmother of the New Zealand venture capital industry and the veteran of several tect start-up investments, not all of which have gone terribly smoothly. But Jenny Morel has the experience and the access to capital, making her the woman tech entrepreneurs flock to for advice and hard cash. She also organises the low-key but influential networking event Morgo, where the technorati rub shoulders.

Other scientists on the most powerful and influential list:

Brent Clothier: No.4 on the environment list. Plant & Food’s scientist makes it onto the list, according to the Listener, for his work on “virtual water” – one of the big looming issues for New Zealand as countries start to scrutinize how much water it takes to make goods and services. For more on that, check out this Science Media Centre briefing on virtual water we did with Brent a couple of months ago.

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