WELLINGTON, March 29 (Xinhua) -- Computer services and machinery manufacturers led a 29-percent rise in New Zealand business spending on research and development (R&D) over the last two years, the government statistics agency said Wednesday.
Businesses spent 1.6 billion NZ dollars (1.12 billion U.S. dollars) on R&D in 2016, up by 356 million NZ dollars (249.59 million U.S. dollars) from 2014.
The computer services sector, including businesses providing services such as producing and distributing software, and web design, had the biggest increase in R&D, up 40 percent.
The second-largest increase was for machinery and equipment manufacturing, up 37 percent.
Total spending on R&D by businesses, government, and higher education was 3.2 billion NZ dollars (2.24 billion U.S. dollars) in 2016, up 20 percent from 2014.
R&D in the higher education sector lifted and government R&D had a modest rise, but the bulk of the overall increase was from business spending.
"While higher R&D spending is a key driver of economic growth according to some studies, it is not a guarantee that a business will be more creative or profitable," business performance senior manager Daria Kwon said in a statement.
The figures were a sign of the confidence businesses had in themselves and the New Zealand economy, Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith said in a statement.
"R&D is crucial for creating a strong and diversified economy and these are encouraging numbers," said Goldsmith.
However, the main opposition Labour Party said the figures showed the government spending as a percentage of GDP actually fell to 0.26 percent in 2016 - continuing a four-year declining trend.
"Total R&D expenditure as a percentage of GDP is now a paltry 1.28 percent - almost exactly where it was in 2012," Labour Party research and innovation spokesperson Megan Woods said in a statement.
"Overall our GDP expenditure is roughly half the OCED (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) average, and way behind our competitors such as Denmark (2.96 percent), Finland (2.9 percent), Israel (4.25 percent) and the U.S. (2.79 percent)," said Woods.
"In fact, New Zealand has the lowest investment of the OECD's small advanced economies."