Ayesha Verrall replaces Megan Woods as science-sector Minister

The science sector has a new Minister after the Cabinet reshuffle announced today.

But this was not highlighted in the Prime Minister’s press statement, which perhaps is a measure of where research and science rank in the Government’s priorities.

Jacinda Ardern explained that she has made changes to her Cabinet line-up following the decision of senior Minister Kris Faafoi to resign from Parliament and Speaker Trevor Mallard’s nomination to a European diplomatic posting.

The changes will take effect following a ceremony at Government House tomorrow afternoon.

The press statement featured these points:

  • Kris Faafoi resigns from Parliament. Kiri Allan promoted to Justice Minister, Michael Wood picks up Immigration
  • Speaker Trevor Mallard to end 35 year parliamentary career in mid-August as he prepares to take up a diplomatic post in Europe. Adrian Rurawhe to be nominated as Speaker
  • Priyanca Radhakrishnan moves into Cabinet and gains Associate Workplace Relations and Safety
  • Kieran McAnulty becomes a Minister outside of Cabinet with a focus on regional issues – picking up Emergency Management and Racing. Duncan Webb to take over as Chief Whip
  • Chris Hipkins takes over Police and passes COVID-19 Response to Ayesha Verrall

Much further down in the statement, the PM says:

“Dr Ayesha Verrall has played a critical role in our ongoing COVID-19 management this term. Having moved from the emergency to the ongoing response now is the right time for her to pick up the COVID-19 Response portfolio. She also picks up Research, Science and Innovation.”

The statement makes no mention of Megan Woods losing – or surrendering – the science portfolio to concentrate on housing responsibilities.

Source:  Prime Minister’s Office  

Government invests in scientific research to boost economy, address climate change and enhance wellbeing

Research, Science and Innovation Minister  Megan Woods has announced the recipients of this year’s Endeavour Fund to help tackle issues such as boosting economic performance, climate change, transport infrastructure and wellbeing.

Sixty-nine new scientific research projects were awarded over $244 million, through New Zealand’s largest contestable research fund.

This year the Government has invested over $13 million to help New Zealand transition to a low-carbon future.

Over $11 million is being invested in research to address climate change related risks, including the Scion led ‘Extreme wildfire: Our new reality – are we ready?’ and ‘Fish futures: preparing for novel freshwater ecosystems, led by Cawthron Institute.

“It’s also key that a te ao Māori worldview is integrated into our research. Manaaki Whenua’s ‘Te Weu o te Kaitiaki – Indigenous regeneration pathways’ project is a great example of this. It uses whakapapa frameworks to re-imagine biocultural solutions to restore ecological systems, reconnect people to place, and deliver sustainable economic growth for communities,” Megan Woods said. Continue reading

PM joins global leaders on climate warming while another step is taken to measure methane emissions

Two statements from the Beehive have drawn attention to the government’s aims to tackle climate change, reducing emissions and paving the way for a carbon-free New Zealand.

One of the statements reminded us that the US is back in the business of joining other countries in efforts to combat climate change.

This came from Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said she had joined President Biden at a virtual Leaders’ Summit on Climate hosted by the United States overnight.

The summit, held for Earth Day, brought world leaders together to galvanise efforts to reduce emissions this decade and keep the shared goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels within reach.

“New Zealand welcomes the United States’ international leadership on climate change and sees this summit as an important opportunity to work collectively to drive effective global action on climate change,” Jacinda Ardern said.

New Zealand was asked to specifically participate in the climate finance session of the Summit. Continue reading

Ministers announce changes to climate change committee’s terms of reference

Changes to the Terms of Reference for the Interim Climate Change Committee are intended to better prepare the Government to initiate meaningful change to key legislation, addressing the implications of a changing climate.

The changes were announced today by the Minister for Climate Change, James Shaw, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods.

When the interim committee was established in April last year it was intended findings would be delivered to the Independent Climate Change Commission.
Continue reading

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 

Government ramps up R&D tax incentive

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods and Revenue Minister Stuart Nash today announced the design of the research and development (R&D) tax incentive after extensive consultation with businesses.

The consultation process prompted significant changes to the tax incentive originally proposed. The rate will be higher, the threshold lower, and the definition more inclusive.

The key changes include:

  • A credit rate of 15 per cent, a $120 million cap on eligible expenditure, and a minimum R&D expenditure threshold of $50,000 per year
  • The inclusion of State Owned Enterprises, industry research cooperatives (including levy bodies), and minority-owned subsidiaries of Crown Research Institutes, Tertiary Education Organisations and District Health Boards
  • A definition of R&D that ensures the credit can be accessed more easily across all sectors, including the technology sector
  • A limited form of refundable tax credits which will mirror the R&D tax-loss cash-out scheme run by Inland Revenue.

The Ministers said the Government had set aside $1 billion for this incentive.

Work to increase R&D spending to 2 per cent of GDP over 10 years was part of the Coalition Agreement between Labour and New Zealand First.

Revenue Minister Stuart Nash said a balance has been struck between including as many businesses as possible in the scheme, and “upholding the integrity of New Zealand’s tax system”.

“We have learned from international best practice how to incentivise R&D expenditure and retain trust and confidence in the tax system. The new policy meets the rigour of international schemes, and will support businesses to undertake genuine R&D.

“We received a lot of feedback from businesses that it was particularly important to include a form of refundable tax credits for start-ups and loss making businesses in the first year of the tax incentive. This is why we have introduced a temporary measure that will mirror the current R&D tax-loss cash-out scheme.”

Mr Nash assured all businesses that having a more comprehensive form of refunds in the R&D tax incentive is a high priority to have in place for the 2020 tax year.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s website provides further information  HERE. 

$249m for new research projects through the Endeavour Fund

The Government is investing $249 million in ambitious research projects that will improve the lives of New Zealanders and address some of the challenges facing the country, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods announced today.

The 69 new research projects were awarded funding through the 2018 round of the Endeavour Fund. This is New Zealand’s largest and most prestigious research and science contestable fund.

“The Endeavour Fund invests in excellent research that makes a vital contribution to New Zealand’s future economic performance, the sustainability and integrity of our environment, and the strength of our society,

“This year the Endeavour Fund is investing in improving our resilience to climate change, our transition to a low-emissions economy, monitoring of natural disasters, and protecting our biodiversity.”

Some of the successful proposals receiving funding include:

Beyond myrtle rust: Next-generation tools to ‘engineer’ forest ecosystem resilience to plant pathogens (Landcare, $13,000,000 over five years).

Advancing New Zealand’s carbon inventory: forest, grassland, and urban environments and ecoservices (NIWA, $11,455,000 over five years).

Impacts of microplastics on New Zealand’s bioheritage systems, environments and ecoservices (ESR, $12,536,205 over five years).

Addressing the need for magnetic memory to enable superconducting computing(Victoria University of Wellington, $5,971,120 over five years).

Titanium Foam Thermal Shielding, Returning Small Payloads from Space(University of Auckland, $999,714 over three years)

Proposals are assessed and approved for funding by the Science Board, an independent board responsible for making decisions to allocate funding appropriated for research, science, technology and related activities, Woods said.

The full list of successful projects is available HERE.

MBIE’s website provides more details HERE.

New appointments to Crown Research Institute boards

Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods has announced eight new appointments to the boards of five Crown Research Institutes (CRIs).

The percentage of women on these boards has increased from 35.4% to 44.7%.

The new board members are:

  • Rukumoana Schaafhausen as a Director of AgResearch (with Dr Paul Reynolds temporarily acting as the Chair)
  • Kate Thomson as a Director of the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR)
  • Felicity Evans as a Director of the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences (GNS)
  • Barry Harris as Chair, and Mary-Anne Macleod and Dr Tracey Batten as Directors, of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
  • Dr Parmjot Bains and Wendy Venter as Directors of the NZ Institute for Plant & Food Research.

New member bios


Deputy Chair, Dr Paul Reynolds will act as Chair until the appointment process for a new Chair is completed.

Mrs Rukumoana Schaafhausen has been appointed as a Director. She is Chair of Waikato-Tainui Te Kauhanganui Incorporated and a previous Director of Genesis Energy.

Institute of Environmental Science and Research  

Ms Kate Thomson has been appointed as a Director. She is the Chief Financial Officer of the Australian Road Research Board and a previous Chief Financial Officer of NIWA.

Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences  

Ms Felicity Evans has been appointed as a Director. She is General Manager, Human Resources, at the ANZ Bank, and serves on the Board of Global Women and is a past trustee of the Equal Employment Opportunities Trust.

National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research  

Mr Barry Harris has been appointed as the Chair. He is the Chair of the Waikato Institute of Technology and OSPRI,  a director of DairyNZ and a previous Deputy Chair of AgResearch.

Ms Mary-Anne Macleod and Dr Tracey Batten have been appointed as Directors.  Ms Macleod is the outgoing Chief Executive of Bay of Plenty Regional Council and was a senior manager at the Ministry for the Environment.  Dr Batten is a professional director who currently serves on the Boards of Medibank in Australia and Abano Health Care in New Zealand.

New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research

Dr Parmjot Bains and Ms Wendy Venter have been appointed as Directors.  Dr Bains is the Senior Director of Global Access for Pfizer Inc and a previous Advisor and Senior Fellow of The George Institute of Global Health.  Ms Venter is a previous Assistant Auditor-General and partner of EY.

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.

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.