Archive for the ‘Science funding’ Category

133 projects are selected for Marsden funding from an increased pool of $84.6m

Massey University is delighted its researchers have received more than $15.6 million from the Royal Society of New Zealand’s annual Marsden Fund for 26 projects, a record number of projects funded and total funding.

The 26 successful Marsden grants – made up of 10 “Fast-Start” grants for new and emerging researchers and 16 standard grants – represent 18.4 per cent of the total funding pool this year.

The projects include studying super-heavy elements, Māori resilience in post-disaster contexts and sexuality and ethical deliberation in residential aged care.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jan Thomas congratulated the researchers, saying competition for research funding is intense and  133 research projects selected to receive funding nationwide were chosen from more than 1000 preliminary proposals.

The 133 projects are being funded for a total of $84.6 millionm a significant increase from last year’s $65 million.

The Fund received a boost in the 2016 Budget of an additional $66m over four years, which allowed more proposals to be funded and increased the success rate from 10.7% last year to 12% this year.

Full Marsden Fund results are available on the Royal Society Te Apārangi website.

The Science Media Centre is posting expert reaction to the results on its website.

  • Associate Professor Nicola Gaston, Department of Physics, University of Auckland, comments:

“It’s great to see that the Marsden Fund continues to act as it should, in supporting researchers across the science and humanities research spectrum. It is fantastic to see the anticipated increase in success rates deliver, and in particular to see the effect of this on the number of early career grants coming through.

“Success rates remain low, however, and the increase in research funding to OECD averages promised by the new government cannot come soon enough. In particular, the Marsden Fund continues to hold itself to account and report carefully on gender and ethnic equity; this demonstration of best practice should make the Fund a worthy target of that promised increase.

“It’s even nicer to see that there has been a significant increase in the number of Māori researchers funded: this metric has been too low for too long, and it is to be hoped that this year’s data is a sign of real progress – though this is yet to be seen, time will tell.

“It is also really exciting to see the range of projects that have been funded. This is work that underpins and enhances the expertise of our universities and research institutes, and we are all richer for it.”

  • Professor Shaun Hendy, Director, Te Pūnaha Matatini, University of Auckland, comments:

“This is the largest number of Marsden projects awarded in one year and is also one of the highest success rates – in fact, with just over 12% of proposals funded, it is the highest success rate for applicants to the fund since 2003. This is due to the largest real increase in funding since the Marsden Fund was created.

“It is also pleasing that this large increase in funding didn’t simply lead to more proposals being submitted, which would have lowered the success rate and increased the burden across the sector. It was established researchers that benefited most from this increase in funding, with early career applicants receiving the lowest proportion of funds since 2008.”

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A change in Govt funding policy – but perhaps not before Apple gets a $25m bite

There’s only so much money in the Government’s science funding pot so it’s always worth keeping an eye on how much will be in the pot and who gets how much of it to do what.

At Fairfax’s Stuff site, Science, Research and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has confirmed the Labour, NZ First and Green Government will be reintroducing research and development tax credits.

Under the scheme, companies wanting government money to keep up with technology trends will no longer need to apply for grants from Callaghan Innovation.

Instead they will have the option again of claiming back a credit for privately funded research.

This was portended by Labour’s campaign commitment to a 12.5 per cent tax credit for research and development.

According to the Stuff report (HERE) –

The National Party axed tax credits when it was elected in 2008. They were replaced by Callaghan, which handed out $113 million in grants to hundreds of businesses last year.

Woods did not outline any specific changes to come for Callaghan and, prior to the election, said her party was not proposing any, despite criticising National’s system as “bureaucratic” and “picking winners”.

This week she said she would be meeting with respective government officials – likely from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Callaghan – to discuss a roll-out plan for the scheme.

Woods said Callaghan occupied a “really important space” in the innovation industry and more businesses undertaking research and development would be a “huge cause for celebration” for the agency.

Business leaders seem to be welcoming the change.

ManufacturingNZ executive director Catherine Beard said businesses would happily welcome back tax credits, especially those that did not fit Callaghan’s criteria for growth or project grants.

However, she said the Government should ensure that applying for the tax rebates involved little paperwork.

And –

The Manufacturers’ Network (previously named the New Zealand Manufacturers and Exporters Association) chief executive Dieter Adam said it was great to see tax credits return.

But he was concerned that if Labour was only in government for one or two terms, the credits could easily be axed again by the opposition.

“That would be a huge waste,” Adam said.

The Taxpayers Union, meanwhile, is critical of money being dished out under one of the the old Government’s funding programmes.

Union executive director executive director Jordan Williams says the world’s most profitable company is set to receive up to $25 million a year in corporate welfare grants, thanks to Callaghan Innovation’s ‘growth grant’ programme as a consequence of Apple buying  PowerbyProxi, a major recipient of the R&D grants.

Williams said:

“First it was money for Larry Ellison’s Oracle, then French company Gameloft, and now Apple is getting in on the action. Our Government’s corporate welfare schemes make New Zealand a laughing stock. We pay for R&D and don’t even require the results to stay in New Zealand.”

“Designed in California, funded by Kiwi taxpayers. Anything that results from the R&D ends up in the pockets of Apple’s shareholders. It’s nuts.”

“Callaghan Innovation is trying to defend the grants by pointing out that they couldn’t have known the business would be bought by Apple. But that’s mischievous. Korean giant, Samsung, has owned a substantial equity stake since 2013.”

Science could be in for shake-up – Sciblogs examines policy implications of change in govt

The Science Media Centre provides a rundown on how science funding and research priorities may change under the new government.

Science didn’t feature significantly in its own right as an election issue, centre director Peter Griffin says. But numerous science-related issues have been prioritised by Labour, its coalition partner New Zealand First and confidence and supply partner the Green Party.

The most significant change on the cards could be the way in which the Government tries to stimulate private sector research and development efforts, he says.

A 12.5% R&D tax credit is set to replace an extensive programme of R&D grants to businesses.

In the run-up to the election, the Science Media Centre collated policy positions on major science related issues ranging from the country’s Predator Free 2050 strategy to healthy housing.

In a post-election wrap-up on Sciblogs, Peter Griffin explores the potential policy changes on the table in five key science-related areas – freshwater quality, climate change, science funding and genetic modification.

Read the full coverage HERE.

Callaghan student grants breaking records

Callaghan Innovation has approved the 2017/18 round of Student Experience Grants, with 139 businesses to offer 358 students paid work over the summer break.

A record 179 businesses applied for 418 internships

Since Callaghan Innovation was established in 2013, 274 different companies have been approved for an Experience Grant. As a result, over 800 students have undertaken an R&D Experience placement.

The grants support undergraduate students studying science, technology, business, engineering or design to gain valuable work experience during the summer student break. They provides funding of $18 an hour for up to 400 hours of work.

The programme is available to businesses of any size that have a focus on research and development. More information is available HERE.

Endeavour Fund to invest $248 million in 68 research projects

Funding of $248 mijllion over the next five years has been awarded for 68 new science research projects through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s 2017 Endeavour Fund.

The fund is intended for transformative initiatives with a strong potential to improve a range of outcomes for New Zealand.

As part of the 2017 fund round, up to $15 million a year in total will be invested in 41 projects under the ‘Smart Ideas’ initiative over the next three years.

Up to $43 million a year in total will be invested in 27 ‘Research Programmes’ over the next five years.

Successful funding proposals include improving NZ Pinot noir production (New Zealand Winegrowers) and  exploring new technologies to improve weather forecasting (MetOcean Solutions Limited).

A quick tally by AgScience suggests AgResearchy secured $24,999,999 of funding, Landcare Research $9,749,999, Lincoln Agritech $12,213,045, Massey University $$9,854,328 and Plant and Food $150,000.

The successful proposals were selected by the Science Board, an independent statutory Board, following a review by independent experts. The new research contracts will begin on October 1.

More information on the successful  proposals can be found HERE.

 

Future farming fund investment will optimise primary sector, farm leaders say

Federated Farmers has welcomed the Government’s announcement that it will lift investment in the Sustainable Farming Fund from $7 million to $20 million.

Science spokesman Guy Wigley said working with the sector was a much more effective and useful approach than the tax and punish policies of some other parties.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy announced a cross-sector panel will oversee what will be renamed The Future Farming Fund, driving advances in farming technology and practices while further reducing farming’s environmental footprint.

Since its launch 17 years ago, the Sustainable Farming Fund and leveraged sector support has helped more than 1000 projects to lift the performance and sustainability of primary producers.

“This kind of research is what keeps us at the forefront of farming technology and ensures we remain among the most efficient producers of food on the planet,” Mr Guy said.

Federated Farmers is a lead organisation in projects such as the smart irrigation study in Canterbury. This is about quantifying the relationship between irrigation over time, the accumulation of soil carbon and changes in soil water holding capacity, with spin-offs for knowledge on groundwater recharge and nutrient leaching.

“The project is typical of environmental gains we can make when we improve our knowledge of technology and natural systems,” Mr Guy said.

Federated Farmers said the payback from the Sustainable Farming Fund for food production, export earnings and the environment from turbo-charging a fund for farming technology and practice will be many times the investment.

Goldsmith announces $35m for advanced genomics research

The Government will invest up to $35 million over seven years in Genomics Aotearoa, a new collaborative science organisation supporting advanced genomics research, Science and Innovation Minister Paul Goldsmith announced today.

Genomics is a fast-moving, data intensive research field which underpins a wide range of science of increasing importance to New Zealand, Mr Goldsmith says.

Led by the University of Otago, Genomics Aotearoa is an alliance between the Universities of Auckland and Massey, Crown Research Institutes AgReserach, ESR, Landcare Research, and Plant and Food, and 32 associate organisations including researchers and end users of genomics and bioinformatics.

From health research to the primary sector and the environment, there are considerable social and economic gains on offer from the new collaborative platform, Mr Goldsmith says.

Genomics involves data-intensive computing to decode the DNA of plants, animals, and humans to understand how groups of genes interact with each other and the external environment. It is not genetic modification, which is the direct manipulation of an organism’s genome.

“This investment will establish Genomics Aotearoa as a collaborative platform of genomics research that grows New Zealand’s capability, builds international connections, and develops the tools and technologies that will support our genomics researchers in delivering excellent science,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“The new platform will accelerate genomics research in New Zealand, and thereby speed up our understanding of diseases like Kauri dieback, how to counter pest animal species, and develop new medical treatments for diseases such as cancer.”

Funding will come from the Government’s Strategic Science Investment Fund and follows a competitive two-stage application and assessment process managed by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.

Genomics Aotearoa presented a strong proposal that was comprehensive in scope and ambition, and seeks to cement national collaboration between genomic researchers and end-users across all life sciences of relevance to New Zealand’s economic, environmental and social wellbeing,” Mr Goldsmith says.

“This platform represents a new, strategic approach to Government investment in genomics research that allows us to build on our existing capability while remaining nimble enough to respond to future technological opportunities.”

MBIE will now work closely with Genomics Aotearoa as the platform undergoes a six month establishment phase which will involve developing a research agenda and work programme.

More information is available HERE.