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Picking up the pace on science and innovation

Hon Steve Maharey
Minister of Research, Science and Technology

2 September 2005 Media Statement

Picking up the pace on science and innovation

Labour will step up the pace of its work to put science and innovation at the heart of New Zealand's economy in a third term, Research, Science and Technology Minister Steve Maharey said today.

"The policy we are launching today recognises the importance of science to our economy and to the health and wellbeing of our nation," Steve Maharey said.

"Labour in a third term will continue its drive to build New Zealand's economy by accelerating the growth of innovation and knowledge-based industries.

"We will pick up the pace by moving a greater proportion of research funding into longer-term arrangements, reducing compliance costs for researchers, and identifying national priorities in areas where we have established an international reputation or have a natural advantage.

"The policy also includes a new Science and Society programme designed to ensure every New Zealander understands the importance of science to the future success of New Zealand. This could include initiatives such as an annual Ideas Festival in centres where there is a strong research and education focus."

Other key initiatives include:

- Introducing a system of long-term, high-value awards to support the New Zealand research system’s top-performing individuals and teams

- Increasing funding for Technology New Zealand

- Investigating a new researcher's grant providing outstanding young researchers with up to 5 years of funding support to kick-start their research career

Steve Maharey said that unlike National, Labour would maintain strong spending in the research, science and technology sector.

"National will have no money to invest further in science and innovation over the next three years. By the time they have paid for their existing spending commitments plus standing commitments, they will be in a position of borrowing to keep the country running. This is hardly a vision for growing an innovative, high skill, high growth economy.

"Labour will invest an additional $204 million in science over the next four years. The increase brings the total public spending on science to just on $600 million for 2005/06, a boost of over 56 per cent since 1999."

ENDS

SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

LABOUR’S VISION

Labour believes that we need to make science and innovation the backbone of our economy if we are to be a successful and prosperous society in this new century.

Over the last six years we have increased the funding and the profile of research, science and technology. We have also made changes to the science system to encourage collaboration and improve certainty.

Over the next three years, we need to pick up the pace on both the funding – public and private – and the policy changes, in order to position science and innovation as the cornerstone of a knowledge society for all New Zealanders.

LABOUR'S ACHIEVEMENTS

Labour has:

- Increased Research, Science and Technology funding by 65% percent over six years

- Funded strong growth in the basic sciences through the Marsden Fund and the New Economy Research Fund

- Provided the biggest boost for health research funding in a decade

- Made changes to the science funding system to provide more stable long-term funding to maintain or build strategically valuable research capability through:

o a Capability Fund for Crown Research Institutes, to increase their ability to make independent decisions about maintaining research capacity, including by the recruitment or retention of top researchers, in areas where the Foundation is unable to support funding bids

o a new mixed funding system where some areas of research are supported over a longer term at the institution best able to achieve the outcomes sought, rather than tied to specific research projects

- Set up the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund of $100 million to address the gap in the seed capital end of the venture capital spectrum

- Contributed, through the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund, to a $100 million BioPacificVentures fund, the largest life sciences fund ever promoted in New Zealand

- Made record increases in public/private partnership R&D funding through the Grants for Private Sector R&D fund and Technology New Zealand

- Enhanced the development of business incubators to commercialise good ideas

- Secured a quarter of a billion dollars of public and private investment by putting in place consortium funding, to support research projects developed by science providers working cooperatively with the private sector

- Created the Pre-Seed Accelerator Fund to accelerate the commercial development of innovations in publicly funded research by investing in projects that fall between grant-funded research and the seed stage of development (where venture capital and other sources of private sector funding cut in)

- Eased the tax treatment of R&D so that it is all now immediately tax deductible

- Developed a Biotechnology Strategy, based on the recommendations of a Biotechnology Industry Taskforce, to enable New Zealand to reap the benefits of biotechnology in a responsible and sustainable way, through robust regulation that safeguards people and the environment, and active engagement between the sector and the community

- Supported trans-Tasman joint ventures in biotechnology through partnership funding to New Zealand and Australian companies working together on biotechnology development, manufacturing and marketing

- Funded research into the impacts of genetically modified organisms and biotechnology

- Enhanced Science, Mathematics and Technology Teacher Fellowships

- Supported the establishment of a new forum of future science leaders, known as the Oxygen Group, to provide a fresh perspective on the needs and direction of New Zealand's research community.

- Increased the 'Graduates in Industry Fund'.

- Increased support for talented New Zealanders through a range of new fellowships and scholarships, and doubled the number of Fulbright Scholarships

- Invested in strengthening strategically important international linkages, particularly New Zealand's science presence in the European Union and the United States

- Signed a biotechnology collaboration arrangement with the State of Victoria and agreed to strengthened scientific relations and cooperation in biotechnology with the State of Iowa

- Helped New Zealand scientists to capture a bigger share of the global market for international research funding, by giving them the chance to bring some matching funds to the deal

- Committed funding towards the Advanced Network, a super high speed internet 'backbone' linking universities and research organisations in New Zealand and overseas

- Increased tertiary funding, including the Centres of Research Excellence programme and the Performance-Based Research Fund

LONG TERM SUSTAINABLE FUNDING

Labour will:

- Continue to increase overall research and science funding. In particular, increase the amount of funding available for both:

o Pure ‘blue skies’ research supported through the Marsden Fund; and

o The development of new industries for tomorrow’s economy, through the New Economy Research Fund.

- Develop a multi-year funding pathway for research, science & technology funding in the Budget process, similar to that for Health. This funding pathway will give a clear idea of how much additional funding will be provided and which areas it will go into. That will make planning easier for both research organisations and funding bodies.

At the same time we expect those in business (and the community) who benefit from research to play their part in boosting our national investment.

Labour will:

- Work with business and investment to encourage a greater willingness to invest in research and development.

- Continually review the taxation system to address any impediments to the emergence of a vibrant, internationally focused innovation system.

A STABLE FUNDING ENVIRONMENT

The current system for funding research has many strong features, but it does need to continue to evolve to meet new challenges and opportunities.

We need to provide more career security for researchers, rather than making them live ‘from grant to grant’.

Labour will:

- Move a greater proportion of research investment into longer-term funding arrangements.

We also need to reduce compliance costs, and we can do this by acknowledging the trust that research organisations with proven track records have earned. In areas where we have clear research priorities and proven centres of expertise, we will also:

- Move to fund an overall research programme rather than asking the research organisation to finance themselves by winning a multitude of smaller research grants. This will entrust the research organisation with more responsibility for making decisions about individual projects within the work programme, while maintaining clear accountability on the organisation to produce high-quality relevant research.

- Continue to provide scope for research teams to win new or expanded research funding through success in a competitive grants process.

SUPPORT FOR THE SCIENCE & INNOVATION WORKFORCE

Creative researchers are primarily motivated by a job that gives them intellectual challenge and the freedom to explore scientific ideas. We need to ensure that our research system
Science and Innovation Forward. Together 4

provides this, and is seen to do so, in order to retain our best minds and encourage young people into the profession.

Labour will:

- Free high-performing researchers and research teams from the constant cycle of grant applications that can sap their energy and undermine their job security, through our move to funding broader research programmes and longer-term contracts.

- Introduce a system of long-term, high-value awards to support the New Zealand research system’s top-performing individuals and teams. These will be designed and implemented in consultation with research organisations, with the aim of giving our top research talent greater freedom and security to pursue their research interests. A certain proportion of these awards will be set-aside for promising emerging scientists.

- Investigate establishing a new researchers grant providing outstanding young researchers with up to 5 years of funding support to kickstart their research career.

We need to take a more strategic approach to our research workforce.

Labour will:

- Work with all parts of the research sector to identify trends in the research workforce, and ways to deal with recruitment and retention issues.

- Continue the Science, Technology and Mathematics Teacher Fellowships to allow teachers to have time away from the classroom, to update their knowledge by working in industry or research organisations.

- Maintain and extend the successful Step-Up scholarships for school-leavers enrolling in areas of skill shortage, such as science and engineering.

- Ensure that international PhD students studying in New Zealand who are supervised by leading researchers pay no more than domestic tuition fees.

CLEAR RESEARCH PRIORITIES

Labour has put in place a framework for the transformation of New Zealand’s society and economy that is based upon growth through innovation. Over the next three years, we need to accelerate our rate of progress by focussing on the drivers of that innovation – research, science and technology.

New Zealand is a small country but we ‘punch above our weight’ in science and innovation. Nonetheless, if we are going to foot it against the best in the world, we’re going to have to focus on a few key areas in which we can ensure that New Zealand is seen as ‘the place to go’, while maintaining credibility across the board.

Labour will:

- Clearly identify key areas of national research excellence where New Zealand already has an established scientific reputation or a natural comparative advantage, such as the research of biologically based systems and areas of nanotechnology.

- For each area, set out how we intend to maintain and develop our long-term research capability.

- Continue to maintain our research capability in other areas, as called for by features unique to New Zealand that need to be understood, or by requirements such as risk and hazard management that need to be met.

COLLABORATION, NETWORKING AND KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER

The natural urge of researchers is to collaborate. We need to ensure that the system supports and encourages that impulse, rather than getting in the way.

Labour will:

- Reduce, through our reform of the funding system, the amount of time that research organisations spend bidding against one another.

- Require close collaboration between Crown Research Institutes and universities.

- Be prepared to respond to requests for funding support for major research infrastructure that is too large for any one research organisation to support, on their individual merits.

New Zealanders are very good at coming up with innovative ideas. Historically, what we haven’t been as good at is translating those ideas into something that enjoys widespread use. This is true not only in the commercialisation of research, but also in making sure we get practical benefit from social and environmental research.

Labour will:

- Assist with the successful commercialisation of research ideas, by both supporting research organisations and helping to develop the investment market.

- Direct the Ministry of Research, Science & Technology to work with other agencies to examine ways that the process of commercialisation of ideas within public research organisations can be accelerated.

- Provide increased funding for Technology New Zealand and support at the seed and ‘pre-seed’ stages will help research organisations prepare a concept for market.

- Identify and address remaining capital market or funding gaps in the innovation system, including venture capital, issues concerning stock options and the like.

- Continue to support research consortia, in partnership with the private sector. This will help both to improve the level and strategic quality of industry research, and promote increased private research at the sector or industry level.

Our research community has a particular contribution to make in tackling social issues and environmental issues, and providing a strong evidence base for good public policy.

Labour will:

- Building on the efforts of the new Aotearoa New Zealand Social Sciences Research Network, work with the social science community to develop ways for researchers in this area to collaborate further and strengthen the effectiveness of social science as an evidence-base for social policy.

- Increase the amount of funding available for strategic research to help us manage and understand our environment.

ENCOURAGING THE PUBLIC TO VALUE AND SUPPORT SCIENCE AND INNOVATION

This science and innovation agenda will need an ongoing commitment both from the government and from the private sector. But, more than this, we as a society are going to have to change the way we relate to science and innovation, and embrace the fact that they are increasingly going to become part and parcel of our everyday life.

Labour will:

- Launch a Science and Society programme, designed to reach out into schools, workplaces, communities and homes, to ensure that every New Zealander understands the importance of science to the future success of New Zealand, and which could include the establishment of an annual event called an Ideas Festival, to be located in centres where there is a strong research and education focus.

- Look at ways to celebrate and honour scientists, encourage young people into science and innovation fields, and support and respect science teachers.

RESEARCH AND THE EDUCATION SYSTEM

Labour will:

- Continue to invest in the Performance Based Research Fund, lifting the total value of the fund from its present level of $193 million per year to $250 million per year by 2010.

- Invest around $8 million in new funding to strengthen areas of university research that are important to New Zealand's society and economy, in response to priorities identified in the 2003 PBRF evaluation.

- Increase support for Centres of Research Excellence.

THE ROLE OF CROWN RESEARCH INSTITUTES

The Crown Research Institutes have a unique role within the overall research system, as the only public organisations solely focussed on research. We need to help them define a clear role for themselves and reconcile scientific objectives with financial ones.

Labour will:

- Set out a clear statement of the role of Crown Research Institutes within the overall system, and how that interacts in a complementary way with universities and research associations.

- Work with Crown Research Institutes to develop performance measures that focus on scientific performance and other non-financial measures, alongside the financial performance measures.

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