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Major science funding decisions announced

Major science funding decisions announced

An exciting selection of research programmes, including the development of new biomedical and manufacturing industries, additional varieties of sauvignon blanc wine for export, and a system to reduce the impact of flooding, feature in an $80m per annum package of research investment announced today by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

The Foundation says the 67 new research programmes are the result of long-term investment strategies, to provide economic benefits to all New Zealanders.

Since September last year, expert panels have been working hard with the Foundation to select the best proposals for reinvestment in the research areas of innovative foods, natural physical hazards, and manufacturing and service industries.

The successful programmes will be led by organisations that have established research and development capability, such as Crown Research Institutes, universities, research organisations and private sector groups.

The Foundation's Group Manager of Investment Operations, Peter Benfell, says: "An excellent range of high quality projects were submitted for consideration and the Foundation has worked through an intense investment process to ensure the successful proposals are those most likely to result in benefits for New Zealand.

"The expert panels that assess proposals were very impressed with the overall quality of the applications. They looked at aspects such as science quality, engagement with users and expected benefits to New Zealand - and would have liked to have recommended more programmes for investment if additional funding had been available."

In the Manufacturing and Service Industries area, the Foundation will invest around $44m per annum to research that has the potential to generate new export business or expand existing business.

Approximately $22m per annum will go to Innovative Foods research that assists New Zealand companies grow exports from added value foods and beverages.

In Natural Physical Hazards around $14m per annum will be invested in research that aims to increase our ability to be prepared for natural hazards and recover more quickly from their consequences.

A number of the new programmes involve exciting partnerships between research and industry.

Peter Benfell explains: "In all the research areas, the proposals have shown a higher level of industry and end-user participation, showing that organisations are taking practical measures to ensure their research is well-targeted.

"We are delighted with the proposals we have funded and look forward to seeing the programmes develop and prosper over the next four to six years."

In this investment round the high quality of proposals has led to changes in funding for some research organisations. Three Crown Research Institutes (HortResearch, Crop and Food and Forest Research) and several universities including Auckland, Massey and Otago will receive significant increases in funding.

Three organisations - Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), the Institute of Geological & Nuclear Sciences Ltd (GNS) and Canesis - will face reductions in their overall funding. The Foundation will be providing transition funding to assist these three organisations retain capable research teams and bridge to other funding opportunities. With this transition assistance the reduction in funding for 2004/05 will be less than $1m per annum for GNS and Canesis and less than $1.5m for IRL.

The recent reinvestment process included a nationwide review of research requirements involving researchers, industry sectors, government departments and other stakeholders. The Request for Proposals for each area were then released and 188 applications were received in September 2003. After reviewing recommendations from the expert panels in each research area, the Foundation Board made the final investment decisions.

Today's announcement of funding is part of the final year of the Foundation's three year reinvestment process. Over this time the Foundation has reinvested approximately $1.55 billion across a wide range of research.

A key aim of this process is to reinvest the funds into longer term contracts, mostly four to six years, in order to provide scientists with more financial stability in their research.

The Ecosystems portfolio will be the final research area to undergo the current reinvestment process, due to be completed in July 2005.

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