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Building international research collaborations

Media Statement
7 February 2005

Building international research collaborations

Understanding the internal signals that drive a cell, monitoring bio-toxins in seafood and understanding carbon flux using satellites are three of the international research collaborations to receive investment from the new International Investment Opportunities Fund.

Six proposals will receive a total investment of $1.4 million per annum.

The fund, administered by the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology and the Health Research Council of New Zealand, was set up last July with the aim of supporting participation in international research programmes with a high relevance to New Zealand's economy.

It will allow New Zealand to have access to equipment or technologies not available in New Zealand, thus expanding New Zealand's knowledge base and capability.

The Foundation's Director for International Investments, Paul Atkins, says the six successful applicants came from a pool of 30.

"We were impressed with the quality of the proposals and the level of international collaboration already operating. The total value of bids was well in excess of the funds available but it has been very encouraging that in this first round of the International Investments Opportunity Fund we have received so many good bids featuring strong international partnerships.

"We are expecting significant benefits to New Zealand from the programmes we have invested in, not only through the quality of science of the successful applications but also from the opportunities they present for developing, enhancing and extending international linkages and knowledge transfer."

The successful proposal by NIWA (National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research) allows New Zealand to join the United States, Australia and Germany in the newly established Total Carbon Column Observing Network (TCCON).

By measuring the density of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, from ground level to high up in the atmosphere, collaborating scientists will be able to better measure the amount of these gases entering the atmosphere.

This will allow future predictions of greenhouse gas concentrations and ultimately a better understanding of the timing and severity of climate warming.

Project leader Dr Brian Connor says the technique of carbon column observations is in its infancy and only recently have scientists been able to make the measurements with the required precision.

By participating in the network, New Zealand not only brings world-class observation sites but a great deal of experience in interpreting measurements, especially in understanding how the distribution of gases changes with altitude.

Receiving the IIOF investment has been crucial to New Zealand's involvement.

"The funding will make the international collaboration not only possible but will allow us to pursue and be a full partner in the project, which we would not have had the resources to do otherwise."

Having New Zealand scientists participating in the project will bring wider benefits, says Dr Connor.

"Our contribution will give New Zealand the ability to speak with authority in international climate negotiations."

ENDS

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