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Sustainability funding in demand

New Zealand's scientists and researchers have shown strong interest in the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology's sustainable development funding on offer, worth $57.4 million per annum.

The Foundation, which invests in research, science and technology (RS&T) on behalf of the Government, has received 140 proposals, requesting a total of $151 million per annum for the reinvestment of sustainability research funding.

Sustainable development - or looking after resources for future generations while maintaining present or foreseen activities - is a significant part of the New Zealand RS&T investment.

Group Manager of Investment Operations, Peter Benfell, says: "New Zealand, more than many countries, relies on the use of environmental resources to create wealth and social well being. For us to meet the needs of today and to preserve the opportunities for future generations, we need to embrace the philosophy of sustainable development.

"The Foundation is seeking research that goes well beyond clean-up and a reactive search for ways to deal with yesterday's environmental problems.

"We expect research teams to make full use of international thinking on the subject but also acknowledge the economic, environmental, social and cultural factors in New Zealand, including Maori values and beliefs."

A significant portion of the $57.4 million available (around $24 million) will be allocated to research into sustainability issues around the animal, arable, fruits, forestry and vegetable sectors.

A similar level , about $25 million,, of the available funding is for research that will lead to beneficial outcomes for the environments in which people live (with the associated social benefits) and use for productive purposes.

Around $7 million will be available for research on increasing knowledge and awareness of the state of New Zealand's ecosystems, as well as improving the health, diversity and resilience of our environment.

The 140 proposals the Foundation has received for the funding came from both public and private researchers, including Crown Research Institutes, universities, individuals and research partnerships.

To be successful the applicants must demonstrate their research meets published criteria and address strategic factors that are aligned with national economic and environmental frameworks.

The larger number of proposals submitted for this round of sustainability funding means the Foundation will be turning down more applicants than it funds. Group Manager of Portfolio Management, John Smart, explains: "The high number of proposals is reflective of the increasing interest in RS&T in New Zealand. People are becoming more aware of the Foundation and the funding that we have available.

"The overbidding will inevitably result in a much greater range of projects for the Foundation's Board to choose from but, because we have a finite amount of funding to invest, it will also mean that more proposals will be turned down."

John Smart says the Foundation will be working hard, throughout its intense investment process, to ensure the successful proposals will be "the best candidates for creating a better and sustainable future for New Zealand."

The Foundation's sustainability reference group (an independent panel of experts) has already started making recommendations about which proposals will receive funding. The Foundation's Board Subcommittee will then consider the reference group's recommendations.

The Subcommittee's final decisions will be released in August 2003 and contracts will be confirmed in October 2003.

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