R&D tax incentive update: Minister says legislation will be introduced in October

Reporting progress on the Government’s plan to introduce a research and development (R&D) tax incentive, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods reiterates the aim to lift New Zealand’s economy-wide spend on R&D from 1.3% to 2% of GDP over the next 10 years. The tax incentive will be a key lever in reaching this goal.After a consultation period, officials are now producing final recommendations on the design of the scheme.

There will be further opportunities for people to have their say on the design of the R&D tax incentive during the select committee process later this year.

Legislation will be introduced in October for the R&D tax incentive to be in place by 1 April 2019. Eligible businesses paying tax will be able to benefit from this policy from day one.

Over time, the Government intends to have a full package of support for New Zealand’s Innovation system, including support for start-ups.

“We recognise it is vital to have the right kinds of support in place for pre-profit businesses that are in tax loss or those that have insufficient taxable income to benefit from a tax credit,” Dr Woods said.

She has noted concerns that R&D-intensive firms and start-ups would not be able to benefit from the incentive.

The policy issues involved in supporting companies in tax loss through a tax incentive were complex, she said, “but we are committed to having a solution in place by April 2020”.

In the meantime start-ups and businesses in tax loss can continue to get support from the range of grants and incubators from Callaghan Innovation.

Source: Minister for Research, Science and Innovation

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Ravensdown PGP gets new funding boost

Ravensdown’s Primary Growth Partnership programme has been extended to cover more geographic areas with the aim that the research outputs will be valid for 90% of hill country in New Zealand.

The research involves aerial scanning of hill country farms combined with actual soil tests so a predictive model of soil fertility can be calibrated across the varied terrain. New additional funding has been made available by Ravensdown and the Ministry for Primary Industries on a 60:40 basis so that the North Canterbury and Southland regions can be modelled and tested.

The farmer-owned co-operative has committed to invest $564,000 to complete this additional work, with MPI investing $376,200.

This PGP programme, called Pioneering to Precision, and an aligned Ravensdown-funded programme, which is investigating improved aerial spreading precision, is at the three-quarter mark on its seven-year journey. The special aerial camera used by the programme scans 1,000 hectares an hour. These ‘AirScans’ can be turned into a soil fertility map that directs a GPS-enabled topdressing aircraft with computer-controlled doors to deliver fertiliser where it’s needed, instead of where it’s not.

Of the farms using the aerial spreading precision service so far, the system ensured fertiliser was avoided for 14% of land either because it was ineffective, culturally sensitive or environmentally vulnerable. The technology also makes it safer for pilots and can be better for productivity and the environment.

“When it comes to the aerial scanning of hill country, there will be some climate and soil differences which means you can’t necessarily take results from one part of the country and apply it to another,” said Mike Manning, Ravensdown’s General Manager Innovation and Strategy.

“We’ve done a fair amount of calibrating actual soil results with modelled results across the east coast and central parts of the North Island, South Canterbury and Otago. While we wouldn’t expect the differences to be huge across many of these regions, it’s important to check.”

Ravensdown is looking for farms in the newly added areas who want to test their farm using the AirScan service.

Source:  Ravensdown

Three new strategic science platforms announced

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today announced $35.4 million over six years for three new strategic science platforms undertaking research to improve the performance of New Zealand’s seafood, shellfish aquaculture, and hide and skin processing industries.

The new platforms are funded through MBIE’s Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) which supports long-term research in priority areas critical to the future of New Zealand’s economy, environment and wellbeing, says Danette Olsen, Manager, Strategic Investments.

A SSIF platform supports capability important to New Zealand by bringing together scientists, resources, expert knowledge and the facilities needed to deliver on long-term research goals.

All three platforms are intended to improve New Zealand’s international competitiveness through local research and innovation, and  ultimately to strengthen sustainability of our seafood, aquaculture and hide industries by the creation of higher value products.

Platforms will be hosted by the independent research organisations Cawthron Institute and the Leather and Shoe Research Association (LASRA).

The Seafood Safety Platform, aimed at eliminating product recalls and ensuring market access for New Zealand’s seafood will be hosted by the Cawthron Institute and will receive $3 million per year for six years.

The Shellfish Aquaculture Platform, also hosted by Cawthron, will receive $2 million per year for six years to undertake research aimed at enhancing, growing and securing New Zealand’s shellfish aquaculture industry.

The third new SSIF platform will be hosted by LASRA and will address the quality, performance and sustainability New Zealand’s valuable hide and skin processing industry. The platform has been granted $0.9 million per year for six years.

Visit the MBIE website for more information on the new science platforms hosted by Cawthron Institute and the LASRA.

Source: Ministry of Business Innovation and Development

Almost $1.2m secured in health research funding to reduce the burden of leptospirosis

A Massey-led study has been awarded $1,199,841 from the latest Health Research Council of New Zealand funding round to undertake a nationwide case-control study of the disease leptospirosis.

A common workplace hazard in the agricultural sector, leptospirosis can cause disease and death in animals. It can also transfer to humans through direct or indirect contact with infected urine or contaminated water, resulting in anything from a minor flu-like sickness to admission to hospital and long-term illness.

The three-year study will attempt to address gaps in knowledge about leptospirosis to  inform control strategies by identifying risk factors, sources and pathways for human infection. The study will recruit 150 incident cases, including patients from GP practices, hospitals and recruited through Medical Officers of Health.

The principal investigator, Massey’s Associate Professor Jackie Benschop, says the ultimate goal is to reduce the increasing burden of the disease in New Zealand.

“Two-thirds of patients are hospitalised, many suffer long after infection and numbers are increasing – 91 in the first half of 2017 compared to 33 in 2016 and we are tracking for a high number in 2018,” she says.

“The use of protective equipment does not necessarily prevent infection, animal vaccines do not cover all strains, and it is popping up where people had previously thought it would not. The disease is placing an unacceptable burden on New Zealanders in the agricultural industries and in rural communities.

“We and others have been doing a lot of work on the infection, but with this study the focus is on those ill with the disease. We aim to provide an improved evidence base for policies and practices to lower the incidence and health consequences of leptospirosis in New Zealand and contribute new knowledge about this globally important emerging health hazard.

“Direct benefit will occur through the reduction in incident cases, a more productive work force, and potentially provision of information to reduce livestock infection and identification of new animal vaccine candidate strains.”

The study will seek to understand existing and emerging environmental pathways by employing molecular tools, genomics and modelling from other disease studies. This will include a study of risk factors, infecting species, and sources of infection.

“We have observed that the demography of patients is changing,” says Dr Benschop.

“Our pilot work suggests the disease patterns are changing with more rodent sources and environmental pathways, including flooding, becoming increasingly important in disease transmission, with more women affected, as well as more patients employed outside of the traditional high risk occupations.”

Traditionally the disease is thought to infect pigs, sheep, cattle, goats, rodents and possums, but cases have been found in animals not previously considered as carriers, such as domestic cats, alpacas and horses, so these too will be investigated so for decisions to be made about widening vaccine targets.

“Our environment is changing, the disease is changing with it, so we must keep studying it as these changes occur, to understand the developing risks,” she says.

The study’s findings will aid the development of intervention and control strategies and assessment criteria for the Accident Compensation Corporation.

“ACC access can be challenging for those with the disease or suspected of having the disease. ACC receives approximately 30 claims annually, 75 per cent of which are from farmers and 12 per cent from meat workers. Apparently many people are not claiming ACC partly because there is under diagnosis of leptospirosis,” Dr Benschop says.

“We will explore associations between attributes of cases with accepted claims and those with rejected claims, including the level of support from the patient’s employer to make an ACC claim, patient’s interaction with their GP and other factors.”

It’s time to look, too, at people’s attitudes.

Detailed in-person interviews of 30 cases with occupational exposure will be conducted including assessment of work-place attitudes to personal protective equipment and decisions on vaccination of animals.”

School of People, Environment and Planning’s Dr Gerard Prinsen will lead the qualitative interviews.

Dr Prinsen and Dr Benschop have demonstrated the success qualitative interviews in investigating attitudes to red meat safety in butcher and meat sellers in Northern Tanzania.

The work will be undertaken with the University of Otago, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research, with GPs and within several departments within Massey University, including the Centre for Public Health Research and the Institute of Fundamental Sciences.

Beef+Lamb NZ opens consultation on higher farmer levies

B+LNZ is undertaking consultation on a proposal to increase sheep and beef levies to accelerate investment in four important programmes.

It is seeking farmers’ views on a plan to increase the sheepmeat levy by 10 cents to 70 cents per head and the beef levy by 80 cents to $5.20 per head.

The additional levies would be invested in the international activation of the Taste Pure Nature origin brand and the Red Meat Story, helping the sector lift its environmental performance and reputation, telling the farmer story better, and strengthening B+LNZ’s capability to address biosecurity risks.

Consultation on the levy proposal is running until 13 July.

Source: Beef+Lamb New Zealand

Banana-growing project among the winners of Māori science funding

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta have announced funding for 34 new projects worth $3.8 million over two years through the sixth round of Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund.

Te Pūnaha Hihiko: Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund invests in people and organisations undertaking or planning research which supports the four themes of the Vision Mātauranga Policy: indigenous innovation; taiao achieving environmental sustainability; hauora/oranga improving health and social wellbeing; and mātauranga exploring indigenous knowledge.

“This fund has a strong focus on investing in Māori people and organisations that can create unique opportunities and innovative solutions through science research,” says Minister Woods.

“The projects funded through the Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund reflect the high calibre of diverse research aimed at creating a healthier, more sustainable and better future for all of New Zealand.”

Nanaia Mahuta says the new projects in this year’s round include sustainability in the Chatham Islands, improving biodiversity and kaitiakitanga (guardianship) in South Westland, and developing a climate change strategy for Te Arawa.

“The contribution Māori make to our research, science and innovation sectors is distinctive and essential to the growth of New Zealand,” says Minister Mahuta.

“Māori have valuable knowledge to help solve our country’s unique problems. Investment into Māori knowledge and resources, and building a better understanding of Māori values creates resilient communities.”

Up to $4 million per investment round is available through two different schemes in the fund.

A full list of successful projects is available on the MBIE website.

At the top of the list, AgResearch is being funded for three separate projects.

One of these (with $93,455 of funding) is to nurture the growth of a banana industry through “the rapid expansion of commercial Banana growing in Tārawhiti” in partnership with a company, Tai Pukenga Limited.

The Institute of Environmental Science and Research has secured $100,000 for the validation of a food safety framework for mahinga kai Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu.

The Rakiura Titi Islands Administering Body / Te Rūnanga o Ngāi Tahu, in partnership with Callaghan Innovation, has secured $100,000 for a project to find ways of utilising tītī by-products and add value to mahinga kai.

Source: Ministers of Science and Māori Development

Dr Woods confirms the end of Growth Grant programme at end of 2018/19 tax year

Science, Research and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has made plain that the $657.2 million Growth Grant programme will be terminated at the end of the 2018/19 tax year.

Critics of the programme expressed disappointment on Budget Day that Dr Woods had not reaffirmed the phase-out of the grants in favour of the new R&D tax credit.

Taxpayers’ Union Executive Director Jordan Williams, for example, complained that when the Minister announced Labour’s R&D tax credit scheme earlier in the year, she said it would replace the growth grant scheme administered by Callaghan Innovation.

“But buried in the Budget appropriations we see that Callaghan Innovation’s funding for corporate welfare hasn’t been cut by a cent. Not even one,” he said.

“Megan Woods has let down taxpayers, and we will be working day and night to redouble our efforts to defeat this corporate welfare industry that picks winners and favourites, and keeps Callaghan Innovation’s feather-nesters in their taxpayer funded make-work scheme.”

But the Minister’s Office has confirmed to AgScience that – as reported by National Business Review yesterday – the Growth Grant scheme will be closed to new applicants on March 21 2019.

She told the newspaper:

“Businesses with an active Growth Grant on March 31, 2019, will have the option to continue receiving their grant until March 31, 2020.

“A temporary grant scheme mirroring the R&D tax incentive will be implemented to provide support for former Growth Grant recipients with insufficient tax liability to use an R&D tax credit immediately.”

A core focus for Callaghan’s 384 staff is now gone and a sharp round of redundancies is presumably on the way, NBR reported.

But Dr Woods emphasises Callaghan Innovation will have a continuing role in support areas.

“All of Callaghan Innovation’s other services and products, including R&D Project Grants [a smaller scheme that typically tops out at $100,000 per grant compared to Growth Grants’ $15-25m] and R&D Student Grants are not affected by the R&D Tax Incentive,” the minister says.

A minister staffer told AgScience a paper went to Cabinet on April 19 about the R&D Tax Incentive Discussion Document.

The R&D Tax Incentive discussion document and the Growth Grant transition consultation document (HERE) outline the main features of the Government’s proposals.

Submissions are open until 1 June.