Archive for the ‘Government funding’ Category

Assessment report calls for improvements to the Marsden Fund

Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith has released a report which details a number of measures to ensure the Marsden Fund, the Government’s premier fund for excellent investigator-led research, continues to be effective and fit-for-purpose.

The report found the Marsden Fund is highly-regarded, well-run and effective at selecting high-quality research within its current settings, but a number of improvements are needed to ensure it continues to deliver benefits in the future.

The Marsden Fund Council, which oversees the Fund’s operation, has been asked to develop a strategic direction which shows how the Fund will be managed to achieve its objectives and contribute to the National Statement of Science Investment vision and Goals.

The strategic direction will require the Marsden Council to:

  • Develop an Investment Plan that sets out the strategic direction of the Fund, addresses the issues identified in the assessment, and shows how the Fund will be managed to achieve its objectives; and
  • Develop a Performance Framework that will include periodic review by international experts to provide assurance of the value of the Government’s investment.

The implementation of any changes to the operation of the Fund will be clearly signalled through the Investment Plan. To assist the Council in its expanded role and to provide a strong, independent voice, the Minister of Science and Innovation will also be including more international Councillors on the Council through future appointment rounds.

“For the last 23 years the Marsden Fund has been undertaking high-quality scientific research and with these changes the Fund can plan for the next 23,” says Mr Goldsmith.

The Marsden Fund Assessment of Strategy and Management Report can be found on the MBIE website, HERE.

Up to $4m available as part of Fifth Mātauranga Capability Fund

Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith is back on deck, making his first media announcement of the year jointly with Māori Development Minister Te Ururoa Flavell. The ministers  have opened a fifth round of the Te Pūnaha Hihiko – Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund in which up to $4 million is available for successful projects.

“We are seeking proposals that strengthen connections between Māori and the science and innovation system. This fund will continue to foster a greater understanding of how science and technology can contribute to the aspirations of Māori organisations, for the benefit of New Zealand,” says Mr Goldsmith.

“The government is investing in projects that contribute to the development of skilled people and organisations undertaking research that support the four themes of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s (MBIE) Vision Mātauranga policy.”

The Vision Mātauranga policy aims to unlock the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people.

It focuses on four themes:

  • indigenous innovation – contributing to economic growth through distinctive science and innovation
  • taiao/environment – achieving environmental sustainability through iwi and hapū relationships with land and sea
  • hauora/health – improving health and social wellbeing
  • mātauranga – exploring indigenous knowledge and science and innovation.

“We know that Māori success is New Zealand’s success and we have already seen innovative results that have wide reaching benefits from the programmes funded to date.

“Unlocking the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people will have major economic, social and environmental benefits for New Zealand.” Mr Flavell says.

A total of $3.97 million was invested in 33 new programmes through the fund in 2016, a substantial investment that recognises the value of Māori participation in science and innovation.

Applications must be with the Ministry of Business Innovation and Enterprise by April 5. Successful applicants will be announced in May.

$3.1 million towards climate change research projects

Ooh, goody. More money for ag science.

Good, at least, for those working in the climate change area whose projects have been given an official nod of approval for Government funding.

The Ministry for Primary Industries today announced 13 research projects have received funding approvals totalling $3.1 million through its Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme.

SLMACC supports new climate change knowledge generation in the agriculture and forestry sectors for adaption, mitigation, and cross-cutting issues.

The ministry’s Director General, Martyn Dunne, said it’s essential to invest in research to better understand the future operating environment and how New Zealand should adapt.

“We set research priority topics each funding round based on themes areas we want to investigate further for the benefit of primary industries. We consult internal and external experts to determine those topics.”

This year there were 12 priority topic areas under the three themes:

  • impacts of climate change and adaption
  • mitigation of agricultural and forestry greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions
  • cross-cutting issues, including economic analysis, life-cycle analysis, farm catchment systems analysis, and social impact.

“We received an extremely high calibre of applicants and were very impressed with the proposed research topics. Each project will take up to 3 years to complete, and the findings will help researchers, government, and farmers better understand, adapt to and mitigate climate change effects in New Zealand’s primary sectors.

“At each project’s end, the full report will be made available on this website and the Climate Cloud website, and user friendly summaries will be made more widely available.”

More information can be found ..

Another bucket of science funding – $35m provided for Entrepreneurial Universities

While scientists may wonder if the Government is doing everything it can to keep good people from taking their expertise and knowledge overseas, the Government has come up with a programme – and funding – to lure overseas scientists to this country.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce has announced a $35 million investment over four years for ‘Entrepreneurial Universities’, an initiative to attract world-leading entrepreneurial researchers to New Zealand to further strengthen our universities and “our broader fast-growing innovation ecosystem”.

The programme aims to encourage more of the world’s leading researchers and their teams to locate their labs here and base themselves in New Zealand, Mr Joyce said.

“We are especially wanting to recruit people with an established record in innovation and entrepreneurship in the top ‘maker’ disciplines, to help grow the pipeline of excellent innovative start-up companies in New Zealand, and train the next generation of scientific entrepreneurs.”

Up to 15-20 world-leading researchers and their teams were expected to be brought here over a three year period, he said.

The Entrepreneurial Universities programme will involve the Government entering into a 50/50 partnership with individual universities to attract and support named researchers and their teams to work in the university for an initial period of three to five years.

All the universities will be invited to bid for the opportunity.

The programme follows an approach to Mr Joyce and the the Tertiary Education Commission earlier this year by the University of Auckland and will be modelled on similar programmes around the world including the USA and Britain.

The initiative is part of Budget 2016’s $761.4 million “Innovative New Zealand” package and will complement increases in the funds for researchers already based here in New Zealand.

Mr Joyce said:

“Across the Marsden Fund, the Endeavour Fund, the Catalyst Fund, the Health Research Council, and other associated investment mechanisms, the government is investing an extra $410 million over the next four years in New Zealand science. The Entrepreneurial Universities fund will add another dimension to that comprehensive investment.”

He said Entrepreneurial Universities is consistent with the National Statement of Science Investment and is a key initiative in the Innovation stream of the Business Growth Agenda.

Sustainable Farming Fund projects announced

The Ministry for Primary Industries has announced a $6.9 million investment over three years in 25 new projects through the Sustainable Farming Fund.

The fund supports farmers and researchers involved at grass-roots level to tackle shared problems or to develop new opportunities.

The ministry’s director-general, Martyn Dunne, said:

“Every year we receive a very high calibre of project applications, and this year was no different. This year’s projects cover nine primary sectors including horticulture, forestry, dairy and meat.

“Each project has a number of milestones to reach over the three years. As milestones are reached, information is shared among the community who benefits from the project. Through the fund, we are able to support industries and communities to help each other carry out applied research and field trials.

“Our investment programmes team supports each project through their milestones and each year we are pleased by the quality of projects, and the results they produce.”

Supported by the Sustainable Farming Fund, some of the problems or opportunities being looked into include:

  • optimising pollination of Gold3 kiwifruit under hail netting;
  • resource development for new-entrant deer farmers;
  • reducing use of antimicrobials when managing mastitis;
  • understanding and managing grain storage pests;
  • increasing the market share for New Zealand olive oil.

New PGP programme to boost wool industry

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed a new Primary Growth Partnership programme aimed at lifting the profitability and sustainability of New Zealand strong wool.

‘Wool Unleashed’, or W3, is a new seven-year $22.1 million Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) programme between the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and The New Zealand Merino Company.

The programme is expected to contribute an estimated $335 million towards New Zealand’s economy by 2025.

“The wool industry was once one of New Zealand’s highest earners, with strong wool making up the majority of this, but it has been in decline since the 1990s,” says Mr Guy.

“The W3 PGP programme aims to reverse this trend by delivering higher premiums for New Zealand’s strong wool sector.

“This will be achieved through connecting strong wool farmers with markets, increasing on-shore processing, developing new and niche products and sharing best practice information across the wool industry.”

The programme will build on the success to date from another PGP programme—the New Zealand Sheep Industry Transformation Project—also led by The New Zealand Merino Company, which is focused on fine and mid-micron wool.

Mr Guy said:

“PGP programmes must be aspirational and transformational in nature. They must look beyond business as usual which The New Zealand Merino Company has demonstrated with its leadership in the merino industry and helping to establish the Te Hono Movement – a collaboration of primary sector leaders.

“Wool has lost its competitive edge as a fibre globally. We have the opportunity to make New Zealand strong wool and strong wool products relevant to select end users globally.  The W3 PGP programme will be a key contributor towards this, and will set the stage for a sustainable wool industry well into the future.”

MPI and The New Zealand Merino Company have signed a contract so W3 can formally begin.

The PGP aims to boost the value, productivity and profitability of our primary sector through investment between government and industry. It provides an essential springboard to enable New Zealand to stay at the forefront of primary sector innovation.

Government and industry are co-investing $746 million over time into 21 PGP programmes (two completed and 19 under way).

Decisions on whether to approve a programme are made by the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries, under recommendation from the independent Investment Advisory Panel.

More information is available at:



Funding that might have boosted rural research puts wind in yachting sails instead

The Taxpayers Union, an outfit that keeps a close eye on how the Government uses public money,  has expressed outrage at a recent Callaghan Innovation research and development grant of up to $17.25 million to Team New Zealand.

Union executive director Jordan Williams says the fund is supposed to be about making New Zealand’s economic boat go faster, not to subsidise a professional sports team.

“It’s even worse than the usual corporate welfare we see from this Government. Only a politician, or someone with an interest in the deal, could possibly think that this grant is really going to lead to new jobs, exports or meaningful economic growth.

“Not only are taxpayers funding the sport of millionaires, we know that Callaghan have given ‘growth grants’ to Team New Zealand’s opposition, Oracle Team USA. Talk about a kick in the teeth for taxpayers.”

He didn’t say so, but it’s a kick in the teeth for agricultural and horticultural sector scientists, too.

The R and D pot is only so big and $17.25 million diverted to the America’s Cup challenges is $17.5 million that won’t be applied to projects in their bailiwick.

It’s not the first time the Taxpayers Union has questioned science funding decisions.

In November it challenged the Royal Society decision to award a $600,000 Marsden Fund grant to anti-TPPA campaigner Jane Kelsey to research “Neoliberalism”.

The grant, made by the panel responsible for social science grants, is for a project entitled ‘Transcending embedded neoliberalism in international economic regulation: options and strategies’.

Williams said then:

“This is hard-earned taxpayer money, meant for genuine research, being wasted on a project which appears to already have a conclusion. It’s highjacking academic research money to promote far left ideology.”

“The research is apparently about New Zealand’s ‘embedded neoliberalism’. ‘Neoliberalism’ is a term which has come to be used by the far left to mean ‘whatever we don’t like’. It’s used by the likes of Ms Kelsey to make markets and economic freedom sound scary.”

“We’ve asked the Royal Society precisely what Professor Kelsey’s falsifiable hypothesis is. On the face of it, this grant appears to be for research with a predetermined conclusion.”

The union had publicly supported Ms Kelsey’s work in holding the Government and Ombudsman to account for failing to uphold the Official Information Act.

Williams said the union respected the right for any individual or group to champion their political views, even if it disagrees with them.

“But it is completely inappropriate for taxpayers, many of whom do not agree with Ms Kelsey’s work, to be forced to fund her political campaigning.”

If the Taxpayers’ Union was given a $600,000 government grant to research academic activism, Williams contended, “Professor Kelsey would be rightly outraged.”