Research overview


Initiated in 1998, the CANZ research programme has been seeking to understand what is involved in creating world-class competitive enterprises from a New Zealand base. The key questions posed by the programme are:

  • what are the bases on which exemplar New Zealand firms have established their competitive advantage?

  • how have these advantages been created?

  • what forces act to encourage or impede the evolution of these advantages through time?

  • by what steps do New Zealand firms create businesses of international scope?

Getting good answers to these questions has been vital ever since deregulation in the mid-1980s created one of the most open economies in the world. New Zealand firms must now establish competitive advantage in a fully globalised economy, and in an era of revolutionary change in communication and information technologies. On the success of these efforts hangs all of the country’s economic progress.

New Zealand is not alone in facing these questions. The international research community has only just begun to ask how competitive capability evolves through time. The CANZ project is showing that the answers for small isolated economies such as New Zealand’s are likely to be appreciably different. To an important extent, New Zealand firms are facing a strategic challenge on which no international guru can give guidance. We are having to develop our own understanding of these crucial processes.

Competitive Advantage New Zealand exemplars

CANZ aims to fill these crucial gaps in our knowledge. The study is developing theory on the evolution of competitive capabilities in New Zealand firms, and their internationalisation paths, through in-depth study of a small number of firms, chosen to represent important exemplars of world-class success.

Companies that have generously supported CANZ research with their time and wisdom include Criterion Furniture, Footscience International, Formway Furniture, Gallagher Industries, Montana Wines, Kiwi Cooperative Dairies, Nuplex industries, PEC, Scott Technology, Svedala Barmac, and Tait Electronics. These include firms that are global market leaders in their tightly-defined markets, with global market shares of up to one third, and dominant positions in major global markets. They export over 90% of what they produce and are active in 50-60 countries around the world. They have global reputations for quality, design and innovation, and win top prizes in international competitions. Despite their distance from their offshore markets, they gain advantage from being faster to market and faster to deliver.

Competitive Advantage New Zealand users

The CANZ research aims to help New Zealand businesses by giving them greater insight into their own competitive development, and also effective strategies for the internationalisation of their business. It also aims to inform government efforts to design market and regulatory conditions that will foster these vital processes of competitive development in firms.