The hunt for what happened to almost $100m of biological science funding

New policies and the restructuring of old appropriations make it hard to work out how agricultural and horticultural scientists fared in this year’s Budget.

The Government gives the impression the scientists should have fared well. Total new funding in Science and Innovation from the Innovative New Zealand package is $413.8 million over four years, beginning in 2016/17. This will lift total expenditure in Science and Innovation under Vote Business, Science and Innovation to $1.100m in four years.

Alas, without the help of a forensic accountant or some such, it is difficult to find which NZIAHS scientists are winners and which are losers. This gives new meaning to transparency in our public finances.

The editor of this blog gave it a go unaided, confining his search in the Estimates of Appropriations 2016-17 to Vote Business, Science and Innovation.

The relevant information is buried within the 141 pages where this year’s budgeted appropriations can be compared, item by item, with last year’s.

Lots of dosh is sloshing around at first blush (and there will be more goodies in the Primary Sector appropriations but finding them requires a separate search).

The Minister of Science and Innovation is responsible for appropriations of:

* Just over $250m for the Strategic Investment Fund to support long-term programmes of mission-led science, and the platforms that enable them, to contribute to the economy, environment and well-being;

* Just over $198m in 2016/17 for Research and Development Growth Grants, Targeted Business Research and Development Funding (both multi-year appropriations), and Repayable Grants for StartUps, to co-fund private businesses for investment, research, development projects, and funding for students to work in research and development active businesses;

* Just over $183m for the Contestable Research Fund to invest in the highest quality, mission-led research proposals for areas of future growth and critical need;

* Just over $124m for the Partnered Research Fund to achieve greater connections between researchers and end-users, and the Health Research Fund to achieve an improvement in health and well-being through health research;

* Just over $102m in 2016/17 for National Science Challenges (a multi-year appropriation) to fund research projects to address pressing issues of national significance;

* Just under $68m to allow Callaghan Innovation to support businesses to successfully develop new and improved products, processes and services through research and development, and technology-driven innovation;

* Just under $58m for the Marsden Fund for excellent fundamental research;

* Just over $27m for Contract Management to allocate funds and manage contracts for science, research and technology;

* Just over $26m for Talent and Science Promotion for engagement between scientists and the public by contributing to the development of talented, skilled individuals and their organisations, and in undertaking research and innovation;

* Just under $13m to achieve improved international flows of people, ideas, investment and trade through support of international research relationships;

* Just under $6m to meet the needs for traceable physical measurements.There’s got to be something in there for NZIAHS members.

To fine thing down, let’s look for “biological industries research”.

The first mention of this is near the bottom of Page 7” – an item labelled “Biological Industries Research” with money to be spent on “research and research applications to support productivity growth and sustainability of New Zealand’s primary industries, and the development of premium food and industrial biological products and technologies responsive to global consumer preferences”.

An appropriation of $97.997m was budgeted in 20i5/16. But nothing is provided for 2016/17.

Where has the money gone?

Our hunt took us to Page 32 where mention is made of two sums sure to be of interest to NZIAHS members.

First, there’s Crown Research Institute Core Funding in 2015/16 of $201.622m; and

Second, we find another reference to biological industries research and the aforementioned $97.997m.

These two items have been merged to provide some of the wherewithal for the Strategic Investment Fund.

The single overarching purpose of the appropriation for this new fund is to support long-term programmes of mission-led science and the platforms that enable those programmes.

But hey – all of the $201.622m has been nabbed from Crown Research Institute Core Funding to be absorbed by this new expenditure item in 2016/17.

Only $5.948m of the biological industries research has been taken for this purpose.

What happened to the rest?

The next mention of “biological industries”, among several items related to the Contestable Research Fund on Page 70, gives some of the answer.

This appropriation “is limited to research, science or technology, and related activities that have the potential for excellence and long-term impact for New Zealand’s economy, society or environment.”

The first item on a table of comparators for the restructured appropriation is “Biological Industries Research”. The 2015/16 appropriation was $68.868m but, again, there is no provision for 2016/17.

This and the appropriations for High Value Manufacturing and Services Research, Environmental Research, Energy and Minerals Research, Hazards and Infrastructure Research, and part of the Health and Society Research have been lumped together to form a single annual appropriation of $183.230m to fuel the Contestable Research Fund.

So –  much of the missing biological industries money has now been accounted for.

The rest can be found in breakdowns for another new item, the Partnered Research Fund, on Page 74.

This new appropriation “is limited to the co-funding of research commissioned by end-users, and the application of research by end-users”.

A 2015/16 appropriation of $23.481m for “Biological Industries Research” has been merged with the appropriations for High Value Manufacturing and Services Research, and Environmental Research, to form the Partnered Research Fund with a war-chest of $37.162m in 2016/17.

We now can account for all of the $97.997m for biological industries research where our hunt started.

But we haven’t finished.

Page 119 has more stuff on the Strategic Investment Fund and its $215.570m provision for programmes and $35.418m for infrastructure.

This new bucket of dosh results from merging the appropriations for Crown Research Institute Core Funding,  Biological Industries (independent research organisation funding only), Square Kilometre Array, Australian Synchrotron, Advanced Network Capacity, Genomics Research Infrastructure, Science Collections and Infrastructure, and the National eScience Infrastructure into a single annual appropriation.

On Page 121 there’s a table showing each of the providers of the programmes under the Strategic Investment Fund and their individual appropriations. Each has the same sum provided in 2016/17 as was appropriated in 2015/16 – AgResearch $38.889m ; the Institute of Environmental Science and Research $7.723m; the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science $27.115m; Landcare Research $24.205m; the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research $42.854m; the New Zealand Institute for Plant and Food Research $43.103m; the New Zealand Forest Research Institute (or Scion) $17.733m; and “Other Providers” $5.948m

Somewhat ominously, the table notes that resourcing commitments expire as per contract.

Overall, it looks like lots of money is being splashed around on science – but it was more comforting when the biological research and CRI stuff could be separately identified in The Estimates and compared from year to year.






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