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PM: Partnerships for Excellence at Akld University

Partnerships for Excellence at Auckland University

Today I am announcing funding for two important projects at the University of Auckland under the government's Partnerships for Excellence programme.

The Partnerships for Excellence programme was established in 2003 to build tertiary sector capability. It aims to enable clear "step ups" in capability for individual tertiary institutions and for the sector as a whole which would not occur without new funding. These "step ups" need to be aligned to the Tertiary Education Strategy; and they should develop better links between tertiary institutions and industry. They should also leverage private sector contributions of up to fifty per cent of the total cost.

The government has just made decisions on the latest contestable funding round for Partnerships for Excellence. Forty million dollars were available for allocation, and the competition was intense. The two projects based at Auckland University which are being announced today are:

- the Centre for Plastics Innovation and Technology.

- the Institute for Health Innovation.

The government is committing $5 million to enable Auckland University, in partnership with Plastics New Zealand, to establish the Centre for Plastics Innovation and Technology at its Tamaki campus.

The plastics and polymer composites industries form important sectors of New Zealand manufacturing, with many medium and small-scale industries being particularly successful in niche markets. The plastics industry's current annual turnover is around $2 billion with more than 8000 people employed, while the total turnover including the polymeric composites sector exceeds $3 billion.

With the advent of new technologies, the range of application for plastics is broadening traditional plastics usage, as well as enhancing niche areas in which New Zealand can compete internationally.

Plastics New Zealand has set the industry a goal to double the size of its turnover to $4 billion within the next decade. To do so, it predicts that it will need to add another four thousand process operators, technicians, and engineers to the sector's workforce.

To achieve the industry's goal it is essential both to maintain existing manufacturing capabilities and to expand the knowledge base in the fast-changing areas of expertise. This requires increased tertiary sector capability in a number of areas, particularly for design innovation, development of new manufacturing techniques, and training highly skilled personnel at all levels.

This new 'Plastics Centre' on the Tamaki Campus will:

- provide for specific research in industry-identified areas,

- facilitate the development and application of leading edge technologies,

- upskill 'on-the-job' technicians, engineers and chemists and

- create long-term training/education facilities.

It will build on the expertise developed by Auckland University in the areas of advanced composites, conducting polymers and polymer electronics. The University has extensive international links with research organisations around the world.

Manukau Institute of Technology, Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki, Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, and the University of Waikato will be among other institutions to be associated with the Plastics Centre.

The government's $5 million funding will assist to develop an existing building at the Tamaki Campus and to establish an endowment fund for academic positions and scholarships.

The close connection between industry and the work of the Centre will be enhanced by the relocation of the industry body, Plastics New Zealand, onto the Tamaki Campus alongside the Centre.

The second project is the establishment of the Institute for Health Innovation as part of the University's Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences, in partnership with a diverse range of private sector companies.

The Institute has been awarded government funding of $7 million to be invested in:

- a purpose-built building to house the Institute and co-locate the collaborative partnership;

- an endowment for a Chair for the position of Director of the Institute for Health Innovation.

Private sector partners including Enigma Publishing, iSoft, Procare, Southern Cross, Phonak Orion, and Vodafone have collectively committed over $9 million to the Institute.

This project has come about as a growing proportion of New Zealand's GDP is being spent on healthcare, health promotion and prevention of diseases. It aims to make sure that future health innovations remain accessible and affordable to all those who need them.

The Institute will look at new technologies which have the potential to improve health outcomes without necessarily increasing health expenditure in general or the cost to individuals. It is important to my government that healthcare innovations are available to all New Zealanders on the basis of need and not on the basis of ability to pay.

An example used in the proposal for this Institute is the Predict system developed here at Auckland University. It guides doctors in their assessment of the risks of cardiovascular disease. As well as improving the health of those at risk, this innovative system has the potential to create substantial savings through avoiding pharmaceutical treatment of those with low risk.

I congratulate Auckland University on recognising the opportunities to work collaboratively through Partnerships for Excellence, and for putting together these worthwhile projects.

The government is pleased to support such exciting projects, which will improve the tertiary education sector's ability to link with the broader economy and society.

A key to the progress we have seen in New Zealand in recent years has been the proactive approach government has taken to economic and social development.

We know that what makes our economy strong today can easily be superseded by technological change and competition from others. Social policy, including health policy, must be dynamic too. For the future New Zealand must be continually upskilling and innovating to stay ahead. Building partnerships and collaboration with industry, education, and research institutions are crucial elements in moving New Zealand.


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