APEC Study Centre for improving innovation in Papua New Guinea to open


The PNG APEC Study Centre is to be officially opened next week at the National Research Institute. According to Dr Thomas Webster, Professorial Research Fellow at the NRI, the aim of the centre is to improve the understanding and enabling of innovation in Papua New Guinea.

Dr Thomas Webster describes the APEC Study Centre’s focus on innovation. Source: BAI

‘Research helps us to understand how we are doing things, identify areas to introduce innovations and do things better,’ Webster, Professorial Research Fellow under the Governance Research Program at the NRI, told the recent Business Advantage PNG Investment Conference in Brisbane.

Webster, who is also a former Director of the NRI, says the mandate of the centre is to support research that advances new ideas and supports policy ‘across a range of economic, regional trade and investment issues’.

The emphasis will be on ‘evidence-based’ research.

‘We recently hosted the PNG APEC Study Centre Consortium Conference in May as part of PNG’s commitment as host of APEC 2018.

‘It was the first conference of its kind in PNG.’

‘Innovation can be defined as a new idea or another way of doing something.’

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The conference’s theme was ‘Harnessing growth in an increasingly connected region’, with a focus on innovation, technology and digitalisation.

‘It brought together 100-plus researchers, practitioners from industry and the development sector, and policymakers,’ Webster said.

The issues addressed included:

  • How to increase access to mobile technology in rural communities
  • Cacao producers in PNG using technology to share price data and processing techniques to ensure better returns for their cacao.
  • How can blockchain track the condition of perishable goods and improve supply chains in PNG.
  • How do we ensure growth is inclusive for all groups including: Women and minorities
  • How can reform in the energy market increase competition and access in the electricity market?


Webster said innovation can be defined ‘as a new idea or another way of doing something’.

He noted that there are different types of research.

‘How does research impact innovation? Peer research is a structured form of inquiry aimed at enhancing general knowledge.

‘Applied research, like what the NRI does, is using that knowledge to solve problems.

‘The APEC Study Centre will be examining access and competition issues in the energy market and how costs can be reduced.’

[It is] looking at current issues and saying: “How can that knowledge help bring about improvements?”

‘Basically, what we do is bring data together, put that into a particular structured form to give information and, using our different lenses and ways of looking at the data, identify an innovative way of doing better.

‘Through that process, new ideas or ways of doing business emerge.’

Webster said the approach will be multi-disciplinary and bring together specialists from areas such as finance, economics, political theory and sociology.

‘We bring them to acknowledge, analyse and understand better the underlying factors for a given problem or issue.

‘We also have what I call—and most Papua New Guineans call—the “lived-in experience of Papua New Guineans”.

‘Looking at those things through Papua New Guinean lenses and helping to understand the issues in a Papua New Guinean context.’


Webster said the APEC Study Centre will be examining access and competition issues in the energy market and how costs can be reduced.

It will also look at access and cost issues in the water sector.

Other issues to be examined will be:

  • How the PNG Government can support a stronger trading environment for business and advocate for reduced tariffs on PNG made goods.
  • How to encourage a stronger domestic economic environment.
  • How to simplify the tax system and reduce the burden of tax reporting on business.
  • How blockchain has the potential to improve trading, ledgers and supply chain for a range of goods and services.

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