“For masterpieces are not single and solitary births; they are the outcome of many years of thinking in common, of thinking by the body of the people, so that the experience of the mass is behind the single voice.”
Virginia Woolf

We inherit a misconception about medical breakthroughs. It’s the myth of the extraordinary, prescient scientist— working in splendid isolation—solving another of the mysteries of the universe.

Curiosity and intellect drive discovery, certainly, but invariably there is more than one great mind at work on the same puzzle. Darwin only published On the Origin of Species when he became aware that Alfred Russell Wallace had reached the same conclusion.

We’re beginning to understand that the advancement of knowledge is a collective phenomenon. According to Nature1 , papers with more than a hundred authors were rare thirty years ago, but not any more: the first paper with three thousand authors was published in 2008. CERN— the European Organization for Nuclear Research—has 22 member states and is used by scientists from 608 universities and research facilities.

Matt Ridley2 concludes that innovation operates in the same way as biological evolution: we are combining and recombining ideas, rather than genes. “We should think of innovation as a system,” he says, “with its own momentum, that we should encourage and draw out.” And that, he says, is why innovation happens where people can meet and exchange ideas

This is precisely the philosophy of Te Papa Hauora. By bringing great minds together, on a single site, we will encourage and draw out the process of innovation in healthcare. In particular, we will facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, which is crucial, because in healthcare everything is more complicated than it appears and everything is connected. We might assume that a child not doing well at school is a problem for the education system, until we learn the teacher had discovered a hearing difficulty and referred the child to the health system. Only later do we learn that the parents did not proceed with treatment, for socio-economic reasons. Achieving wellbeing—hauora—is complex.

Humans are an interactive species. Our social networks powered the world long before our digital networks and the people we know, the people they know, and the people we randomly meet, often hold the key to the big breakthroughs we need.

“The idea of the lone individual against the world has a mythical, romantic attraction,” write Richard Koch and Greg Lockwood. However, “History reveals a pattern whereby humans have become increasingly specialised, yet increasingly connected. Networks thrive on the differences between people, on the insights that come from pulling together good ideas from diverse worlds.”3

Co-locating the agencies, enterprises and individuals who are working together for a better healthcare future will exponentially boost Christchurch’s existing reputation as a crucible for innovation in healthcare.


  • Challenge old ways of thinking
  • Integrate ideas from multiple sources of knowledge
  • Speed up the process of translating science to the bedside
  • Revolutionise research and teaching
  • Change the healthcare landscape
  • Attract new businesses and new investments
  • Attract great minds
  • Deliver long term benefits not just to Christchurch, and Canterbury, but New Zealand

Te Papa Hauora will further the reputation of Christchurch as a place of collaboration, discovery and learning and enable this city to attract and retain great minds.

Dr. Ian Town, Chair, Health Precinct Advisory Council