Wellington, March 30 NZPA - A move to provide longer term funding for Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) will enable such institutes to unleash their potential, says Science New Zealand.
The Government yesterday announced its response to a taskforce's recommendations on getting the best out of the CRIs, and that involved giving them greater clarity about their roles and purposes with more strategic and longer term funding.
"The new long-term strategic funding in particular is a huge change which will enable CRIs to better align with sectors and produce better science," said Science Minister Wayne Mapp.
He said the changes were the most significant in the sector in 20 years.
Science New Zealand chairman John Morgan said the moves would enable CRIs to get on with the job of doing "great science and delivering economic and other benefits to New Zealand".
Mr Morgan said the CRI taskforce had concluded the institutes advanced New Zealand's economic, environmental and social wealth and wellbeing, but could do a better job still if certain areas were addressed.
"The taskforce proposed very sensible and constructive ideas, and we are delighted that the Government has given firm backing and urgency to the recommendations."
The moves were also welcomed by Labour's research, science and technology spokesman David Shearer, but he warned further steps needed to follow.
"Giving the CRIs a clear directive to strive for breakthroughs to benefit New Zealand will be a key part of our economic transformation," he said.
Mr Shearer said an increased collaboration with universities and businesses to make innovations commercially viable would help create jobs and get more money heading to our shores, but the National Government should be doing more.
"This is not the 'huge change' that the Government suggests, but positive first steps for science to be a major economic driver."
Mr Shearer said the Government needed to follow through and make a commitment to research and development in the upcoming budget.
"May's budget must see National making a serious commitment to innovation," he said.
The Government recently announced that the policy functions of the Ministry of Research, Science and Technology would be merged with the funding arm the Foundation for the Research, Science and Technology.
The National government of the 1990s created the CRIs and split up the science policy and funding role, forcing scientists to bid for funding.
The last government moved more funding to a longer term basis, but Dr Mapp said more should have be done as it was "obvious" reform was needed.