By Maggie Tait of NZPA
Wellington, March 4 NZPA - Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) are pleased with a report calling for them to get more direct funding and work under clearer accountability.
A taskforce today reported the CRIs, Crown-owned research companies, were funded wrongly, lacked direction and were short-term focused because of their reliance on contracts.
The taskforce chaired by Neville Jordan looked into how better results could be achieved and considered the purpose, governance and funding of CRIs, which were established in 1992.
It recommended that CRIs get a significant proportion of their funding directly allocated so they did not have to rely on income from short-term contracts.
The taskforce wanted the CRIs to be more focused on their core purposes and be in a position to work collaboratively for the country's good, rather than compete with organisations they could work with.
John Morgan, chairman of Science New Zealand and chief executive of the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (Niwa), welcomed the recommendations.
"The result will be less time spent in excessive and complex bidding, monitoring and evaluation and more time spent on science," he said.
Scion chief executive Dr Tom Richardson said the funding changes would mean CRIs were far better placed to "contribute more effectively to New Zealand's future growth and wellbeing by enabling our talented people to focus on doing science and transferring our ideas, insights and technologies for national benefit."
Business NZ chief executive Phil O'Reilly said business would be pleased by opportunities to collaborate.
"We believe the Government should now move forward with a real sense of purpose to put these proposed changes in place," he said.
The Public Service Association said it represented about 2500 CRI staff and recommendations would allow CRIs to focus on research, rather than turning a profit for the Crown.
Mr Jordan said increasing funding was not the top priority and the first focus should be on getting the fundamentals right.
"We have had very productive and informative discussions with CRIs and other stakeholders. There is an appetite for change in the science sector and broad support for the changes we have suggested. CRIs have made many important contributions to New Zealand's economic, social and environmental wellbeing. We have a unique chance to build on their strengths and successes."
Research, Science and Techonology Minister Wayne Mapp said the report would be a "vital tool" and recommendations would be considered carefully.
The report said there was no problem with the number of CRIs, but with delivery of services.
"It is our opinion that the main factors impeding CRI performance relate to their funding, ownership and government arrangements," the report said.
Labour's science spokesman David Shearer said the report was just a first step and more had to be done to ensure collaboration between universities and businesses while encouraging more business investment in research.
Recommendations for change included:
* Clarifying CRIs' roles.
* Remove unnecessary compliance from an excessive number of contracts.
* Emphasis to change from allocating funding against promises of delivery, to delivering core purpose benefits.
* Set aside some funding for national collaborative work.
* The Government to set up one entity to manage contestable funds and funding infrastructure.