The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 79
Necessity for Research
Necessity for Research.
"I have said that the function of the School of Commerce is to provide a liberal education suitable to youths entering upon a business life. I have, I think, demonstrated that the course laid down by the School of Commerce provides for this. Another function, however, is that this school should encourage research, that it should teach men how to use their brains in solving business problems that come up for solution. A University would be doing only half its work if it was not doing that. It is because she has done this that Germany has made such great progress. About the beginning of the month a cable came from Berlin stating that they were celebrating the centenary of the Berlin University. They had a great gathering there, and at this gathering no less than £500,000 was collected in the room for University purposes. To what object is this sum to be devoted? It is to be devoted, as one might naturally suppose, to scientific research, and it is through this scientific research that Germany has been able to accomplish such great things. As an instance of this, I might mention the growth of the sugar beet industry, which, perhaps, will be of interest to many of you, seeing that a Sugar Beet Bill is before the New Zealand Parliament at the present time. The sugar beet industry was established in Germany in 1840, and between then and 1850, 8,000 tons of beet was produced annually, and from this 5.72 per cent, of beet sugar was extracted. In 1875 the output of beet aggregated 573,030 tons, and 8.60 per cent, of sugar was obtained. The chemists, you see, were at work. With 5.72 per cent, of the extraction it was very hard for beet sugar to compete with the cane sugar of the British West Indies, but her chemists persevered, until, in 1905, they were able to get an extraction of 15.37 per cent., or nearly double that of 1875. Germany now grows £20,000,000 worth of beet sugar annually, she exports half of it, and the industry absorbs something page 14 like £15,000,000 in wages annually, while the tops and residue of 1 the beet are used as fodder, worth £2,000,000 annually. It is, however, but fair to acknowledge that not a little of the wonderful progress of the sugar beet industry has been due to its being fostered by ample bonuses granted by the German Government. Perhaps a still more striking example of the havoc wrought in our Imperial trade through the combination of German science and German commercial exploitation is the fact that in 1895 indigo to the value of £1,392,534 was exported to Great Britain by India. Soon after this German scientists succeeded in making an artificial indigo, and by 1907 the amount of natural indigo exported to England from India had dwindled down to £151.297—that is, practically to vanishing point. These figures show how Germany has been able to fight her way up in the world, and if we in New Zealand, at the beginning of its history, are to develop our country on right lines, if it is to take its proper place in the world, it can be done by education, by encouraging scientific research. This is one of the functions of the University School of Commerce. Our students are encouraged to go in for scientific research. There is ample scope for it in our commerce and industries in New Zealand. With our great mineral resources, as yet practically untouched, and with other industries in their infancy, such as those concerned with oil and flax, there is much that might be done. Great developments have yet to be made in our export of dairy produce and frozen meat, and we have to study the question: How can we find new markets for them? How will our commerce be affected in years to come by the opening of the Panama Canal? and how can we trade successfully with the countries bordering the Western coast of South America, and with Canada and the United States? Also, how can we enter into closer trade relations with China and Japan? There are great problems that commercial men must face here if New Zealand is to progress commercially as she should do. Our young men ought to go to the University, and be encouraged to conduct research in the different lines of business in which I they are engaged. To show what can be accomplished in this connection, I will quote one instance, which will, doubtless, be of interest, particularly to the President. Professor Thomas told me a few months ago that a young man engaged in the grain trade was very anxious to obtain the fullest information he could about the grass seeds of New Zealand. He went to the University College, and placed himself in communication with Professor Thomas, the Professor of Botany. Professor Thomas, as you can imagine, did not spare himself. He went to great pains to get special information, and he assured roe that this young man, when he had finished his studies, probably knew as much about grass seeds, their capabilities and values, as any man in New Zealand. It is one of the functions of the University College to encourage this kind of work, and one which it page 15 is carrying out in several directions. By conducting this research work, commerce in New Zealand should be forwarded very much indeed. Your proposal to offer a prize of, say, £5 for the best essay on a commercial subject by students at the University, will doubtless have such a result.