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UPDATE: Winners and losers in latest govt science funding

UPDATE: Winners and losers in the latest government science funding round

(Adds comment, detail throughout)

By Fiona Rotherham

Sept. 11 (BusinessDesk) - The University of Canterbury plans to build the world’s first human colour x-ray scanner, with the help of a six-year $12 million Government funding announcement made today.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce announced today $139 million over six years will be invested in 48 new science research programmes out of 208 applications.

University of Canterbury Associate Professor Anthony Butler said the funding would help build the world's first full spectral CT colour x-ray scanner designed for human clinical trials which would be a revolution in medical imaging. The MARS scanner will enable medical researchers to measure the components of human tissues and some drugs to improve medical diagnosis and disease management.

``To date, New Zealand universities have worked with local industry to sell pre-clinical scanners to medical researchers around the world. This will provide health benefits, cutting-edge medical training and key international links," he said.

Auckland and Waikato universities were the other big winners in the government's latest round of science research funding.

Around a third of the funding in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's 2014 science investment round went to the University of Auckland. It attracted more than $47 million for a number of projects including one that received the single biggest funding under the High Value Manufacturing and Services Research Fund - $13.1 million for The Biocide Tool Box.

The University of Waikato got two major grants - $12.6 million for Titanium Technologies New Zealand's long-standing national collaboration on developing titanium products and $10.6 million for new research into cloud security at the country' first cyber security lab.

Associate vice-chancellor Professor Alister Jones said the university was pleased to get 22 per cent of this year's available funding which is hotly contested but it reflected the university's collaborative approach to research involving other universities, crown entities and industry where possible and a strong focus on the end user.

The titanium project which is a world leader in developing titanium powder metallurgy was a good example of that, he said, with a plant built in Tauranga and the various partners working on different products. Waikato University is currently focusing on diving knives and components for deep seat diving apparatus out of titanium which is lighter and stronger than other materials.

Most of this year's funding fell under the high-value manufacturing and services sector, with $95.24 million invested over the next six years.

The University of Otago won $10.15 million in funding for six research proposals: a mathematical model for New Zealand policy-makers that assesses the benefits and cost effectiveness of a range of health interventions; improved titanium implants that amplify bone growth to reduce complications and implant failure; protein from lower grade wool as a premium food ingredient; medical technology that allows neurochemicals to be non-invasively delivered to the brain to treat diseases such as Parkinson’s; highly accurate portable gravity-measuring devices using atomic optics for geo-science and other field applications; and compounds for infant formula that stimulate growth of healthy bowel bacteria in a similar way that breast milk does.

Plant & Food got $1.68 million in funding for two of the five projects it applied for. CEO Peter Landon-Lane said that hit rate was slightly better than previous years. "Everyone would like to get 100 per cent but there is not an unlimited amount of money," he said.

Massey University also said it was satisfied with the funding it received despite receiving only $3 million for three projects, one of which is researching the participation of older people that will include a survey of 500 people aged over 65 years to determine how their life experiences have impacted their retirement. It is involved in a number of other collaborative projects that won funding.

The new research contracts will commence from Oct 1.


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