Māori firms are leading the way for big business with higher rates of innovation but the government needs to ensure mātauranga Māori has legal protection, the Productivity Commission has found.
The commission looked at New Zealand's leading companies - the top 10 percent - and found our biggest businesses produce on average less than half that of top companies in similar economies overseas.
It wants them to be more innovative and spend more money on research.
Productivity Commission chair Ganesh Nana said Māori firms could light the way because they had higher rates of innovation, research and development than other New Zealand firms.
Nana also said Māori values such as kaitiakitanga, manaakitanga and whānaungatana provided added brand value overseas.
"Māori firms offer significant potential to contribute to sustainable and productive economic growth.
"However, they face a number of barriers and challenges that are constraining their potential.
"The government should act to reduce these constraints, to unlock the potential of current and budding Māori frontier firms, and help the Crown better meet its Treaty obligations."
He made a number of recommendations, including that the government accurately work to protect mātauranga Māori and intellectual property.
Federation of Māori Authorities chair Traci Houpapa said it was open to working with the government on that.
She said Māori firms did well because strategies were built around what was good for people.
"We know good economy is about what's good for people and systems and structures around them - same thing with regards to a te ao Māori thinking approach - balancing cultural and commercial outcomes.
"So Māori are still interested in commercial gain, in ensuring best return on investment for their assets, the focus for us is more about what's happening over intergenerational timeframes and that's one of the distinct differences for us as Māori leaders, as well as coming through in terms of these reports."