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Advanced Technology Needed

New Zealanders' relative standard of living will continue its 30-year decline if industry does not turn to advanced technology, according to a recent report by Industrial Research Ltd.

But with increased government and private sector investment, the advanced technology sector has the ability to contribute 25% of GDP by 2025 and be a major generator of new companies, new jobs and high value export earnings.

IRL CEO Geoff Page, says New Zealand's standard of living has been declining for several decades through the long-term fall in traditional commodity-based export prices.

"In 1950, the equivalent of 0.7 tonnes of wool would buy a small family car. Today we have to produce 4.5 tonnes of wool to buy that same car. As a country we have gone from having the third-highest standard of living in the world in the fifties, to rating 25th last year."

The difference in performance between traditional exports and added-value, higher technology exports over recent years has been striking.

Electrical and engineered products doubled their value added to the economy between 1991 and 1997, while meat and dairy processing remained almost static. Advanced technology is also aiding the value of and growth in traditional products.

Complex lipids, for example, are worth thousands of dollars a kilogram, and can be extracted from milk. They are in demand internationally from health product and cosmetics manufacturers.