136 new proposals get Marsden Fund money for critical research

New Zealand’s top researchers will be able to investigate critical issues and build knowledge across the board supported by $85.64 million over the next three years through the 2018 Marsden Fund round, announced today by Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods.

The Marsden Fund supports New Zealand’s top researchers to conduct excellent research across science, mathematics, engineering, social science and the humanities.

This year 136 new proposals have received funding across a range of disciplines and topics, from climate change to kauri dieback to youth mental health.

Woods said the government has set some ambitious targets – reducing child poverty, transitioning to 100% renewable electricity by 2035 in a normal hydrological year and increasing the supply of warm, dry homes.

“Building up the knowledge base is absolutely vital for us to address these issues, particularly with global challenges like climate change,” she said. 

“These recipients will undertake research of the highest quality in their fields of expertise and raise the standard of research in New Zealand. The Marsden Fund is key to growing New Zealand’s innovation-led economy and society, and boosting our R&D investment.

“The diversity and strength of the research funded will have many flow-on effects for New Zealand’s science and innovation system, as well as long-term benefits for our environment, society and the economy. I congratulate all of the recipients announced today.”

The Marsden Fund is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Proposals are evaluated by independent assessment panels and the final recommendations for funding are made by the Marsden Fund Council, which is chaired by Professor David Bilkey.

The Minister said the full results and researcher contact details for media comment are on the Royal Society Te Apārangi’s website.

She steered people to the site in English

And in Māori: https://royalsociety.org.nz/news/e-tautoko-ana-nga-takuhe-a-te-putea-a-marsden-i-nga-rangahau-auaha-i-aotearoa-mai-i-nga-rapoi-ngota-tae-atu-ki-nga-moroiti-o-te-kopaka-runga.

Source:  Minister of Research, Science and Innovation 


Finance Minister answers criticisms of R & D tax incentive scheme

Finance Minister Grant Robertson was given the chance to respond to criticisms of his first Budget – including criticisms of the research and development tax credit scheme – when Simon Shepherd questioned him on Newshub’s The Nation.  

He probably didn’t need being reminded that the Budget has been been praised as solid and sensible while critics say it was boring and a bit too timid.

The interviewer brought R & D into the reckoning when he raised questions around the billion dollars in R & D incentives.

The questioning was not as exhaustive as scientists might like.

Simon Shepherd:  “But a company has to spend $100,000 on R & D in a year to qualify. So that’s going to cut out all the small, upcoming tech start-ups, isn’t it?” 

Grant Robertson: “Yeah, there are other means by which they will be able to get funding and get support. The R & D tax incentive is targeted at businesses, giving them some certainty about the spending that they will do.

“We know that internationally, these schemes exist, and we know that if we want to be competitive in getting innovation going, we need a big, large-scale scheme like this. But this is the point – in order to start transforming the economy, we need to lay the base properly.

“R & D tax incentives, the Green Investment Fund, the Provincial Growth Fund, the money we’re putting into transport and infrastructure – they’re the basis of an economic transformation.”

Question: “But there’s been some criticism of first the Provincial Growth Fund – there seems to be just a big pot for forestry and rail and not the kind of transformational technology – clean, green regional technology.” 

Answer: “Well, we’re in the first year of that, and I think as I said on Budget day, I expect the balance and mix of the Provincial Growth Fund to change over the years. But that forestry work will be part of transforming that industry.

“One of the big issues is that we continue to rely on the export of raw commodities. What we want to do through establishing the New Zealand Forestry Service is start to move that industry up the value chain.

“So part of what the Provincial Growth Fund will do is actually move us in to areas of prefabricated timber, adding value to those products in New Zealand. But you’ve got to start somewhere. And the issue we’ve got is that the regions have not been given the attention they should’ve over the last nine years. We are now putting our stake in the ground on that.”


Source: The Nation

International innovators helped to connect, collaborate and undertake R&D in NZ

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods today formally launched the Innovative Partnership programme which aims to attract future-focused international innovators and firms to undertake R&D and develop their products in New Zealand.

Dr Woods said the Government is committed to developing New Zealand as a hub for high-value, knowledge intensive businesses that create value through innovation and R&D.

The Innovative Partnerships programme, which is led by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, aims to engage with innovative companies that are pushing the boundaries of technology and solving the world’s big problems, and promotes the advantages of working in New Zealand.

“These companies are then connected with the right people, businesses, agencies, research organisations and universities, as well as supported through navigating central and local governments,” says Dr Woods.

The official launch of the programme comes after American innovator Kitty Hawk Corporation, operating in New Zealand as Zephyr Airworks, credited Innovative Partnerships as part of the reason it is testing its revolutionary air taxi technology in New Zealand.

The Innovative Partnerships programme is run by small team of experts dedicated to helping R&D players connect, collaborate and innovate in New Zealand.

While the programme is led by MBIE, several agencies across local and central governments work together to support and facilitate the elements that influence a decision to undertake R&D in New Zealand.

More information on the programme is available here. 


Grass-roots projects get $7.15m boost from Sustainable Farming Fund

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has welcomed 28 new projects under the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF), and the new SFF Tere pilot scheme announced today.

The fund supports community-led projects at the grass-roots level to build productivity and resilience throughout the primary industries.

The 28 projects represent a combined investment of around $7.15 million.

“The SFF has enabled unique collaborations of farmers and growers, scientists and researchers, iwi, local government and many others that are making a real difference for our rural communities and the wider primary industries,” says Mr O’Connor.

“The SFF Tere pilot has been an opportunity to show we can take the SFF even further by enabling the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to increase investment in smaller projects.”

The name “SFF Tere” translates in English to be quick, swift or fast, which describes the nature of projects funded.

O’Connor had discussed the Sustainable Farming Fund with ministry officials and challenged them to develop an initiative that would enable investment in small SFF projects.

SFF Tere is the result and four SFF Tere projects, representing $271,000 in investment, have already been approved. They will get under way in the new calendar year.

Information about the 28 projects can be found HERE.

Science Board appointment announced

Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith has announced the appointment of Dr Andrew McLeod to the Science Board for a term of three years

The Science Board is responsible for investing funding used predominantly by research organisations for science, technology, research, and related activities.

Dr McLeod studied Pharmacy at Otago University before completing his PhD and post-doctoral studies in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at the University of California in San Francisco. He has held senior management positions at Douglas Pharmaceuticals, Dow Pharmaceutical Sciences and Douglas Nutrition Ltd.

Currently, Dr McLeod is leading the medical division of Douglas Pharmaceuticals Global Dermatology Franchise in New Zealand.

“More information on the Science Board can be found on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website.

$85 million for new education and research facilities at Lincoln University

The Government will provide Lincoln University with $85 million to support the construction of new education and research facilities to be shared with AgResearch on the university’s campus.

The investment will help Lincoln University’s recovery from the Canterbury earthquakes by replacing earthquake damaged buildings with modern teaching and research spaces.

Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment and Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith, announcing the investment today, said it would benefit “students, the primary sector, and New Zealand as a whole”.

“The new 27,000m² joint facility will enable increased collaboration, with researchers and academics organised by discipline rather than organisation, leading to an increase in the quantity, relevance, and quality of agricultural related research.

“The new facility will make an important contribution to creating a globally competitive agri-tech industry. By creating better links between research and industry the new facility will improve innovation and the applicability and speed of technology transfer to industry,” Mr Goldsmith says.

The new buildings will be a key part of the Lincoln Hub – a specialist land-based innovation cluster in partnership with Lincoln University, AgResearch, Plant and Food Research, Landcare Research and DairyNZ.

“The new facility will assist the growth of the ecosystem of science and education at Lincoln. It will play an important role in promoting a career in the agricultural sector for prospective students and staff, and will increase the number and quality of land-based sector graduates.

“I’m excited for this innovative new facility and I look forward to seeing its benefits realised,” Mr Goldsmith says.

The new facility will accommodate almost 700 staff, students and academics and is comprised of five linked buildings which will be home to Lincoln University science research and teaching spaces, AgResearch laboratories, corporate facilities, and office spaces and facilities for DairyNZ.

Construction of the new buildings is scheduled to be completed by December 2019.

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.