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$300 million allocated to sustain New Zealand’s productive future

Most of us think of New Zealand as a great place to live and visit, and a significant amount of research funding has just been allocated to ensure it stays that way. New research projects that will ensure our rural and urban areas prosper without damaging the environment have been allocated $57 million per annum (more than $300 million in total funding over the projects’ duration) from the Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

The results of the 2002/2003 ‘sustainable development’ investment process were announced recently and the Foundation has now entered into the contracting process with the successful programmes.

The Foundation concentrated funding on its priority research areas, set after wide consultation with stakeholders such as researchers, local and central government, and industry. Priority research included water resource management, enhancing land production systems without compromising environmental health, understanding the human and social aspects of sustainability, and the development of sustainable cities.

This year there has also been a substantial increase in biosecurity research funded, from $0.8 million per annum in 2001/02 to $4.7 million per annum. In addition, a new initiative in the ‘sustainable cities’ area saw $1.5 million per annum allocated to programmes that will minimise the impacts of urban development by identifying low-impact designs has been funded. The focus will be on Auckland though the results will be applicable to other urban centres.

The Foundation was extremely impressed with the quality of the individual proposals it received and was also pleased that the general characteristics of research it was seeking were attained.

Group Manager of Investment Operations, Peter Benfell, says the Foundation was particularly satisfied with the increase in collaboration amongst scientists.

“The new contracts we have funded showed a three-fold increase in levels of collaboration compared with previous research programmes. That statistic shows how well the researchers responded our investment signals which asked them to form more partnerships.”

The new contracts also contain a high proportion of large and long-term projects, with an average contract size of $1.2 million per annum and average duration of more than five years.

“The Foundation has made this commitment to these research teams so that they get the best chance to get the job done. This will achieve our objective of fully funding research and providing stability of funding,” says Peter.

The new research contracts were chosen on the grounds that they were the most likely to produce the greatest benefits to New Zealand, however the large number of high quality and important proposals submitted for this round meant the Foundation had to turn down more applicants than it funded.

Peter Benfell says: “The overbidding has resulted in a greater range of compelling projects for the Foundation to choose from but, because we have a finite amount of funding to invest, it also meant that more proposals had to be turned down.”

The Foundation worked hard, throughout its intense investment process, to ensure the successful proposals are the best candidates for creating a better and sustainable future for New Zealand.

The investment process included a nationwide review of sustainability research requirements involving researchers, industry sectors, government departments and other stakeholders.

The Request for Proposals was then released in November 2002 and applications seeking a total of $146 million per annum were received. The Foundation Board made the funding decisions on 29 July, 2003.

Key government stakeholders (such as MAF, DoC, MOT and MED) reviewed relevant proposals and provided feedback on the alignment of the proposals with their priorities. Eighty per cent of the proposals they rated as high priority have been funded.

The Foundation is currently preparing a case as part of its 2003 Performance and Achievement Report that will seek increased funding for research relating to sustainable development.

Says Peter: “Looking after our resources for future generations, whilst allowing New Zealand to flourish should become a significant part of the research, science and technology sector and there is certainly a lot of high quality research out there that can help us reach this goal.”




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