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$20 million for two new Auckland Uni. projects

24 August 2004 Media Statement

Government announces $20 million for two new Auckland University projects

The government is to invest up to $10 million in Auckland University’s new Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology aimed at turning research ideas into business propositions.

In addition, Helen Clark and Associate Education Minister Steve Maharey also announced a second grant of up to $10 million for Auckland University‘s Starpath project, an innovative programme to encourage students to enrol in tertiary studies.

Funding for the Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology and the Starpath project comes from the government’s Partnerships for Excellence scheme – a public-private sector tertiary education investment scheme which enables tertiary institutions to seek matching funding from government for large-scale investment projects. The University is to seek matching funding from private sector donors.

Eleven proposals were received from tertiary education institutions in this funding round for Partnerships for Excellence. An assessment panel set up by the Tertiary Education Commission evaluated proposals against criteria set by education ministers, and Cabinet accepted the panel's recommendations.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said the government is supporting both projects because it wants to ensure the tertiary education sector makes a bigger contribution to New Zealand's economic and social development.

“The University of Auckland’s biotechnology institute will provide a centre for graduate training and research. Graduate students will be immersed in an entrepreneurial environment where research and its translation into commercial applications are co-located.

“Innovation in biotechnology is very important to New Zealand's future. The Institute for Innovation in Biotechnology will be equipped with state-of-the-art technology and will work closely with the commercial sector,” Helen Clark said.

Steve Maharey said the Starpath project aims to attract to university studies students who have the ability to succeed, but who have no role models or who face barriers in accessing university.

“Close working relationships between the university’s Starpath Advisors and local schools and other community organisations will be the key to making university study attractive and accessible to these students.

“Tertiary education and research are powerful development tools we have available. The Partnerships for Excellence programme enables tertiary institutions to seek significant new funding, matched by private investment, for world-leading projects.”

The government contributions for both projects will be offered as no-interest loans, which will be converted into a capital injection when the initiatives are up and running. The money will be paid in instalments over the next three to four years at a rate which matches the University’s fund raising with its private sector partners and donors.

Steve Maharey said the University of Auckland’s two projects would help to achieve the goals of the Tertiary Education Strategy.

“If we are to improve New Zealand's economic and social performance further, taking a “business as usual” approach will not achieve the transformation which is required."

“That is why the government is funding a range of specialist projects which support tertiary institutions breaking new ground. These include:
- the seven centres of research excellence;
- funding for industry-institution partnership projects in the biotechnology, ICT and design industries;
- the University of Otago’s Leading Thinkers project and Auckland University's Business School, and
- the new funding for research being distributed through the Performance-Based Research Fund,” Steve Maharey said.


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