Global refrigeration tested at home

MICHAEL BERRY
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2012

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Christchurch-based commercial refrigeration company Skope Industries has commissioned a $1 million testing chamber that is only part of its considerable boost in research and development.

Executive director Alexandra Stewart said the family-owned manufacturer had built its research and innovation team from 15 to 32 over the past three years.

The extra staff combined with a new testing facility meant the company's product design turnaround had shrunk from 18 months to about six months, she said.

The testing chamber, which was commissioned by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, brought the company up to speed with the testing facilities used by Coca-Cola Amatil, one of its top customers, she said.

It can be set to any temperature between 3 degrees Celsius and 50C with up to 95 per cent humidity which allows the company to test how its refrigerators would perform in almost any country.

Skope paid for the chamber without Government assistance.

Stewart's father and chairman Robert Stewart said the Government's commitment to put up money to help innovative companies get an edge on the global marketplace through research and development was admirable.

"I think Steven Joyce and this Government have done amazing things. They've turned the way people think about manufacturing and exporting on its head."

Skope had benefited to the tune of $4m through a research and development grant. That boosted the $14m invested by the Stewart family to make their research and development "leading edge", he said.

"Coca Cola [Amatil] say we're the most leading edge refrigeration company in the world, except we're in the wrong country."

The company had partnered with Chinese whiteware company Haier to improve its manufacturing capacity.

Joyce said increasing exports was important and the Government believed targeted grants to support private sector research were key to "overcome these tyrannies of distance". The Government gave about $120m in grants annually to help firms such as Skope.

It was also gearing up the Crown-owned Industrial Research to be a "one-stop shop" research and development partner for businesses.

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- BusinessDay.co.nz

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