Staff Profile

Meet Rebecca Adams, UniServices Director – Government Relations

24 May 2022
Rebecca Adams is UniServices’ director of government relations, based in Wellington.

What does your job involve?

I talk to government influencers to identify research and engagement opportunities for our business development managers and researchers to follow up. As a team, we pull together how a concept could work, including contractual elements, and how the University of Ƶcan take a lead role in shaping new policies and approaches. My job is also to take a deep dive into the scope of each opportunity and explore how it can be made wider, stronger and of more benefit to Aotearoa New Zealand as a whole. I look at the challenges for Government – where there is appetite to invest and where we have the expertise to truly transform a particular sector of society. When I talk to officials, I often discuss the development of strategic investment in key areas, for example health, and I come to that discussion keenly aware of the expertise that exists within the University and how it can be mutually beneficial.


How do you navigate the complex landscape of government?

The skills I developed while working as an MFAT diplomat in Tokyo come in handy! In that role I studied the country in depth and became an expert in my portfolio, which was security and foreign policy. I also mapped out who we needed to engage with and identified opportunities to raise the profile of New Zealand.

My portfolio is so broad across everything the University does –I can’t be an expert on everything, but I need a general appreciation of where the opportunities are. I tend to have a general knowledge about a lot of things but try to prioritise strategic opportunities where we can really make a difference, like the review of the science and health systems. I need to be across every paper that comes out on those areas because they’re so integral to how we do our work and what the University does.

I also follow a variety of media commentators (particularly political, economic and global commentators) who delve into and distil the complexities of government and geopolitical opportunities and challenges. That’s my homework – staying up to speed with different perspectives on the key issues for New Zealand, the global environment and where the opportunities are. I know what the University expertise is so when I’m engaging with officials, it’s always with the filter of ‘what are the research questions here and how can we help?’

The opportunities can seem quite small to start with, but they can lead to big things, so you’ve really got to play the long game. It’s not just about looking at the initial opportunity as a one off, but what it could mean in the future.

What would you like people to know about your team?

The Business Development team is aligned with the University of Auckland’s faculties and key sectors, helping to progress its strategic research interests. We do this by communicating the University’s research relevance to business and other stakeholders and connecting with key industry partners and government funders. They’re a supportive, passionate and hard-working group. They are very smart, not only technically but also when it comes to commercial acumen and developing partnerships with both government and industry. For both, you need a clear sense of how to present opportunities to different partners in a considered and calibrated way and that’s a great talent the team in Ƶhas. They’re real champions for the University and for Aotearoa New Zealand becoming the innovation hub we aspire to be. Research, commercialisation and start-ups are critical areas of investment for boosting productivity, reducing inequity and growing first-rate skills. I firmly believe that UniServices is a real frontrunner in this area, not just in New Zealand, but worldwide.

What motivates you to do what you do?

I love politics, so this is my dream job in so many ways – I relish knowing what’s going on in government. I feel so lucky to be meeting the most amazing minds in both government and academia. I’m also solutions focused and love problem solving so building connectivity across the system is highly motivating for me. I can’t pretend to fully understand everything researchers tell me about their work but the vision and ideas they have are inspiring – they have so much to offer. I believe in what they’re doing and believe in the difference it can make for New Zealand – that’s the motivator for me.

What do you do for fun?

I love anything outdoors: gardening, running, walking, biking and watching my kids play sports. They play a wide variety – netball, tennis, swimming, basketball and adventure sports. I’m also an avid reader and love politics – mainly New Zealand but I’m also intrigued by US and UK politics and the ins and outs of international dynamics. I’m a bit of nerd and I think that’s why I love this job – I’m always working with ideas and striving to make a difference to New Zealand.