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Simplification, collaboration key to research

Media Statement
For immediate release
Wednesday, 7 September 2005

Dunne: Simplification, collaboration key to enhancing research

Different funding mechanisms must be simplified if New Zealand is to enhance its performance in research, United Future leader Peter Dunne said today in launching his party's policy on research, science and technology.

"The funding pools have been allowed to develop in an ad hoc manner to fill perceived gaps over a period of time, but the result is a system that has become inefficient and difficult to navigate," Mr Dunne said.

United Future will reduce the proportion of research funding that is contestable, to increase certainty within the research community, maintain core competencies, improve recruitment and retention, allow for capital development, improve collegiality and collaboration, and allow more "blue sky" work to be done.

A reduction in the contestability of funds would also reduce the administrative burden faced by researchers, as well as cutting some of the expanding bureaucracies within institutions.

As part of the drive to simplify funding mechanisms, United Future will also review the operation of MRST and FRST with a particular emphasis on improving the effectiveness and coherence of the system.

"Researchers have watched with dismay as the proportion of science funding under the direct management of these agencies has reduced to 45%, yet they continue to grow in size."

United Future's goal is to increase government funding of RST from 0.54% of GDP to at least the OCED average (0.68%), and to increase the amount of privately-funded RST from 0.43% of GDP to at least the OECD average of 1.4% of GDP.

"Government policy is to reduce public funding of research that benefits industry, assuming that producers will contribute directly, but it can be difficult to attract industry funding for projects with a longer-term horizon from industry, when they often seek more immediate benefits in productivity."

"In addition, we'll make grants available to small or medium sized firms for private sector research and development, matching funding on a 1:1 basis, since businesses with a capital base of less than $10 million find it difficult to fund their own programmes."

United Future will also:

* Review the tax treatment of Research and Development, to generate incentives for an increase in private sector expenditure

* Review the scope and operation of the current range of CRIs, with particular regard to the balance between public good activity and commercial applications, and their relationship with other institutions such as universities.

* Increase the attractiveness of research as a career option by reducing the costs of study, through policies such as expanding access to student allowances, reducing course fees for those fields facing skills shortages, introducing bonding schemes that reduce student loan debt for those who are qualified in such fields in return for a continuous period of work in New Zealand, and by establishing a system of research scholarships between tertiary providers and the private sector.

* Encourage national research specialisation, bearing in mind New Zealand's size, as well as specialisation by institution.

* Support the Performance Based Research Fund, but seek greater efficiency in the collection, collation and review of performance indicators.

* Provide opportunities for researchers to gain knowledge of business practices and commercial applications.

* Reinstate research excellence as an important funding criterion by external peer review


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