Minister announces $25m fund (established several weeks ago) for innovative solutions in response to COVID-19

Dr Megan Woods, the Minister for Research, Science and Innovation, has been curiously silent  in recent weeks while the government set about tackling COVID-19 and – to buttress its credibility – firmly rooted its proclamations in science.

The last press statement from her as Minister of science was on February 4. At that time she announced the Government had signed a memorandum of understanding with urban air mobility company Wisk (the new trading name of Zephyr Airworks) to support a world-first passenger transport trial of the company’s all-electric, self-flying air taxi ‘Cora’ in Canterbury.

Today the silence ended with the Minister announcing the Government is investing $25 million to speed up the trial and deployment of innovations to help New Zealand’s response to COVID-19.

The COVID-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund is aimed at the fast development of new products and services that could help to detect, diagnose, treat or prevent COVID-19, by supporting Research & Development, prototyping and pre-production activities.

“Scientists, researchers and innovators in New Zealand and across the globe, are working hard to resolve the myriad of challenges COVID-19 presents. Working across government, the research sector and with businesses to respond hard and fast against the serious global health threat is vital, and this new Fund supports New Zealand’s problem solvers to get cutting-edge products and services to market quickly,” said Megan Woods.

This sounds all very worthy.

But according to the information in the press statement today, the fund was established in March.  And it has already allocated $6.75 million to projects so far, including:

·        Supporting the validation of technology that can detect COVID-19 antibodies in blood (Digital Sensing Ltd)

·        Supporting the development of a simple, versatile ventilator, capable of ventilating COVID-19 patients at the different stages of disease progression (ES Plastics)

·        Supporting early stage research investigating the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine.

AgScience could find no previous mention of this fund on the Beehive website, where we would expect to find a ministerial announcement of the fund’s establishment.

Accordingly it looks like this is the official announcement, several weeks after it was set up and decisions made for allocating funds.

 The Minister said: 

“We are working across government to develop a vaccine strategy with the research and science community, and potential vaccine manufacturers. While that strategy is being developed, I’m proud to say that we’ve been able to support researchers with part-funding through this Fund to allow them to start getting on with this important work.

“I’m excited to see how quickly the research, science and innovation sector has responded to this challenge and I’m confident that together we’ll be able to come up with some exciting solutions,” said Megan Woods.

More information can be found here on MBIE’s website

There you will learn the initial size of the fund is $25 million (excluding GST). As a guide, a minimum proposal size is expected to be $50,000 (excluding GST).

Source:  Minister of Research, Science and Innovation

 

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