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Exciting export products on their way

Exciting export products on their way

Innovative research that aims to increase the economic impact of New Zealand's manufactured goods and services on the global export market is to receive significant investment from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Eighteen projects will share a total of $22m per annum to carry out important research to generate exports in the manufacturing and service industries area, as part of the final year of a three year reinvestment process run by the Foundation.

The successful research projects include the development of innovative building products, 'smart' food packaging and the production of high value chemicals from New Zealand's renewable materials.

Pat Garden, who chaired the panel of experts that made the funding recommendations, says the Foundation received many more proposals than it could fund, but is certain the contestable investment process has resulted in the selection of the projects that are of the greatest benefit to New Zealand.

"It was a highly competitive round with very strong overbidding, which meant a lot of good projects that the Foundation would have liked to fund could not be included. However, the Foundation had very clear expectations about what the research must offer - and I'm confident the process has resulted in a very high quality selection of programmes.

A big positive change the panel noted in its decision-making process was the increase of researchers' involvement with end-users in the manufacturing and services industries. For example, the level co-funding from industry has increased from 3.8% to 33% since the last investment round in this area.

Pat Garden says: "This increase in involvement with stakeholders and industry means the research outcomes will be much more effective.

"Firstly, industry involvement ensures the research is needed, and secondly it means that the Foundation - as an investor - can be really confident that the research being undertaken will be economically successful, thanks to the integration of scientific and business skills."

* The Heavy Engineering Research Association (HERA) will receive $5.8m from the Foundation over the next six years to develop a suite of innovative new building products for the export market. Composite Structural Assemblies (CSAs) combine a base of light gauge steel with other building materials to achieve performance standards well above those of their individual components. Buildings with CSA systems will have increased energy efficiency and better performance for the same or lower cost in terms of acoustics, fire resistance, weather-tightness and seismic performance. The researchers have raised more than $5m in co-funding from industry partners NZ Steel, Dimond, Winstone Wallboards, Grayson Engineering, and Tandarra Engineering. They will also be collaborating with the Universities of Waikato and Auckland.

The HERA programme will develop the knowledge platform to produce CSA systems for export as well as an industry-driven range of products, starting with a wall and a floor system. In parallel, it will coordinate an industry sector to achieve ongoing development and sale of new systems beyond the contract period.

* Strong end-user linkages are also evident within a unique research programme that aims to unlock profitable markets for high value fresh foods through the development of new functional packaging technologies.

Forest Research and its partners in this programme, Canesis Network Ltd, Crop and Food Research, Massey University, the University of Auckland and Victoria University of Wellington, will receive $5.6m over four years from the Foundation to develop novel packaging solutions that will improve the shelf life and quality of exported fresh foods.

Forest Research has developed extensive relationships with packaging manufacturers, food producers and exporters to carry out this programme.

Initially, the research will target niche horticultural and chilled seafood sectors that offer substantial growth potential. Developed technologies may then be adapted to high volume meat, dairy and floriculture exports. Forest Research estimates economic benefits of $171m in just the two target sectors are attainable after five years, if the objectives of this programme are achieved.

* A new programme led by the Biopolymer Network - a grouping of Forest Research, Canesis Network Ltd, Crop and Food Research and the University of Auckland, will receive $10m over six years in order to develop a new industry in New Zealand creating polymers from biological materials to serve an increasing global demand for chemicals from renewable materials, as an alternative to petrochemicals.

The scientists will produce valuable chemicals from New Zealand's natural materials such as bark, wool and industrial crops, for the domestic and global market. Spin- off benefits will be economic through reducing reliance on petrochemicals, environmental, through reducing wastes, and social through job creation.

For a full list of programmes funded in this investment round go to after 10.30am today.

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