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Better balance in science investment regime

Association of Crown Research Institutes

8 April 2004

Better balance in science investment regime welcomed

Today's announcement by the Minister of Research, Science & Technology that he will increase stable long-term funding to maintain key research capabilities is very welcome news says the Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI).

"We will need to wait until Budget day, 27 May to learn the detail of how much and how it will be applied," says Anthony Scott, executive director of ACRI.

"But we warmly welcome the Minister's acceptance that there needs to be better balance between contestable project-based bidding and investment in underlying science platforms of current and future importance."

"The Minister has clearly been listening to science enterprises, scientists themselves and to sector and industry groups reliant upon science for economic, environmental or social wealth creation.

"The consensus is that excessive reliance upon contestable project based bidding has not been building - and in some instances, has been actually undermining - the very science platforms upon which projects are reliant.

"If a project is not funded, then it may not be possible for the science enterprise to keep the people - regardless of how important they are to the nation's underlying science strength and breadth. Lose the people and we also lose the vital global linkages of information and knowledge flowing into our country, and the ability to meet future national needs.

"In practice, this has most affected the CRIs. CRIs overall get about half their revenue from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and other central purchase agencies in contestable bidding processes. CRIs have been increasing investment from private sector and other sources to minimize this exposure.

"The Minister indicates that more discretion can be given to science enterprises. This acknowledges that their global and national knowledge, connectedness and insight makes them uniquely placed to identify science and business opportunities and needs which may not be so clear to centralized purchase agencies.

"The better balance establishes a truly complementary relationship between science enterprises and those agencies, which will benefit the nation's strategic investment in science.

"Science enterprises are now working more collaboratively with each other and their sectors. There is clear accountability to deliver for the good of New Zealand, with chief executives having responsibility to manage change and allocate investment internally. More money makes this discretion more meaningful.

"This may well include challenging current ways of doing things, with new ideas, products and processes. Discretionary investment is required to allow that step-change science research to be done.

"The better balance will also allow science students and staff to see a long term future for themselves in New Zealand. The value of this cannot be overestimated.

"A working group of CRIs, research associations and universities over the past year have identified the importance of better balance in science investment processes. More work is being done on how to implement that, and this announcement will not affect that process.

"The Minister is to be congratulated for showing with practical action that he, too, backs better balance and for taking this action now."


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