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Sustained investment in science supports wealth

Association of Crown Research Institutes

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
19 May 2005

Sustained investment in science supports wealth creation for New Zealand

Commenting on the Budget, Mr Nigel Kirkpatrick, President of the Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI) said:

"The Government is showing real commitment to the role science research and its application can play in creating new wealth for New Zealand.

"It is doing so in two ways:

"First by its own investment. Vote RS&T has had a significant increase for a second year in a row, with an additional $204 million over four years, of which $46 million is in the coming year. Science research is also a major component in Vote Education and some other departmental Votes.

"Second, by further encouraging private sector R&D investment. In the last two years, private sector R&D has increased by about 25 per cent. But this is from a low base, comprises only about 40 per cent of national expenditure, and is concentrated in areas such as computer services. We need it across all sectors.

"The $41 million to expand Technology New Zealand, additional $16.2 million into consortia, and nearly $15 million for Technology for Industry Fellowships will help deepen and spread R&D. That is vital.

"While acknowledging that GDP has been growing and that the RS&T trend is in the right direction, the national investment from government and private sectors is still less than the OECD average.

"New Zealand's R&D was 1per cent of GDP in 2000, 1.15 per cent in 2002 and 1.17 per cent ($1.601 billion) in 2004. Australia was 1.62 per cent. The OECD average is 2.26 per cent.

"So we need a society which demands RS&T investment in the same way as for education, health and social welfare. That is a critical task for all of us to work on.

"We are delighted that the Government has recognised that CRIs have a special responsibility in developing world class science and making it usable for New Zealand.

"To do that, we need world class people and facilities. The Capability Fund, at $43 million for 2005/06 is a great start. This is about 8 per cent of CRIs total revenue in 2003/04.

"Also welcome is continued attention to gaining, training and retaining talented people, via expansion of the Marsden Fund, the International Investment Opportunities fund and fellowships.

"We applaud moves to encourage greater alignment of RS&T investment across the whole of government and with the private sector.

"This gets to the heart of concerns such as wasteful processes, lack of confidence by existing scientists in their future and fears by parents and youngsters that a science education will be a costly mistake.

"We need well-trained researchers confident they can have careers, in CRIs or elsewhere, which can make a difference for our economy, environment and society.

"CRIs have been working with universities and research associations over the past two years on practical measures to help this, as well as talking with our end users such as industry. Government's support for this is very much welcome.

In conclusion Nigel Kirkpatrick said:

"This Budget delivers by treating RS&T as a national investment and not a cost; by the Government continuing to put some real money into the sector and encouraging additional private sector investment; but most of all by projecting RS&T as the heartbeat of our economic, environmental and social wealth."

ENDS

Notes to Editor The Association of Crown Research Institutes (ACRI) supports the common interests of the nine Crown-owned science enterprises.

CRIs contribute to the economic, environmental, social and knowledge wealth of New Zealand through blue-sky, applied and commercialised science and technology research for central and local government and private sector markets.

The nine CRIs were formed in 1992 under the CRI Act and Companies Act, as separate companies. In 2003/04, the combined gross revenues were $535 million, with more than 4,100 (FTE) staff across 50 sites around New Zealand.

The CRIs are: AgResearch, Crop & Food Research, ESR, Forest Research, GNS, HortResearch, Industrial Research, Landcare Research, NIWA.

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