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Science sector set for high-tech transformation

Science sector set for high-tech transformation

The Government will boost investment in the science sector to transform Industrial Research Limited (IRL) into an advanced technology institute, which will function as the 'high-tech HQ' for New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key announced today.

"New Zealand's world-leading performance in the primary sectors has been off the back of world-class science, much of which is publicly-funded," says Mr Key.

"The Government's number one priority, as recommended in the Powering Innovation report released today, is to transform and grow IRL by focusing it on supporting industry development.

"The high-tech manufacturing and services sectors have great potential to achieve the same cutting-edge reputation - but they need the support and expertise of technology-focused research to grow, to increase exports and ramp up productivity.

"High-tech sectors could contribute substantially more to the economy than they currently do. We already have successful companies in this sector, particularly in areas like ICT, biotechnology and medical technology, but we need more of them and we need them to be bigger," says Mr Key.

"Over the next five years, we will effectively double the size and capability of IRL, transforming it into an advanced technology institute with up to 700 staff and with a far greater reach than at present."

The institute will have a strong business-focused culture, will have a nation-wide remit and will be close to where the country's high-tech businesses are located. The institute will have facilities in Auckland and Christchurch, and will retain the existing Gracefield facility in Lower Hutt.

"The advanced technology institute will work in close partnership with industry," says Mr Key. "It will be a natural conduit for engineering and applied sciences graduates, meaning many of our best and brightest engineers and scientists will stay here in New Zealand."

The advanced technology institute will be developed over five years.

"Establishing the advanced technology institute doesn't add to any of the funding tracks in the Pre-Election Update," says Mr Key. "We won't have to take on extra debt to fund this, and our surplus and deficit forecasts remain the same."

Estimates show the establishment of the advanced technology institute will cost in the region of $120 to $150 million over five years, in addition to IRL's current funding.

"This is an average of $24 to $30 million a year of additional funding, which the Government will pay for out of the new operating allowance in next year's Budget.

"We will earmark up to $80 million from the Future Investment Fund for capital spending in areas like new buildings and equipment," says Mr Key.

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