The Budget pledge to commit $25 million to developing up to three new privately led regional research centres is drawing close scrutiny from local opinion leaders who would like to see the Bay of Plenty take one of the slots.
Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said he wanted to create more private-public organisations in the regions, along the lines of Nelson's Cawthron Institute.
"Regional Research Institutes would focus on scientific research relevant to a particular region, with a strong emphasis on the effective transfer of research into new technologies, new firms, and new products and services," the minister said.
It's particularly exciting, relevant and promising as we build our marine sciences capability and accelerate the 'blue biotech' opportunities such as pharmaceutical and agrichemical development.
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Local business leaders cited the favourable precedent of Tauranga's WNT Ventures being selected last year as one of only three new technology business incubators in a Government-backed network to get more high-growth start-ups off the ground. WNT Ventures was the only one of the selected incubators to be based outside the main centres and is tapping into tertiary research developments to identify potential new technology start-ups.
Tauranga City Council chief executive Garry Poole said it was interesting the Budget proposal specifically excluded Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
"We have a particular opportunity in this space, which builds on the WNT Ventures technology incubator work," said Mr Poole.
Priority One strategic projects manager Greg Simmonds said he welcomed the proposal.
"It's particularly exciting, relevant and promising as we build our marine sciences capability and accelerate the 'blue biotech' opportunities such as pharmaceutical and agrichemical development," he said.
"We're definitely interested and it's great to see an initiative which recognises the expertise that resides in the regions."
It was also good to see the public-private partnership approach, said Mr Simmonds, who is involved in helping implement the recently released BoP Regional Growth Study, which he said flagged the Bay's areas of expertise.
The study noted the importance of the Bay of Plenty Tertiary Intentions Strategy, released last year, which recommends developing a business case for creating a global centre for primary sector research and education, initially focused on horticulture.
"This would build on Plant and Food Research in Te Puke and the Newnham Innovation Park in Te Puna, and support the development of Maori management and governance capability," the study said.
Peter Wren-Hilton, chief executive of Wharf42, which is one of the three core partners in WNT Ventures, along with Newnham Innovation Park and TiDA (Titanium Industry Development Association), welcomed the budget announcement.
"My view is clearly the Bay of Plenty should seriously engage with the ministry on this," he said. "The Bay of Plenty's regional strengths were clearly identified by Minister Joyce when he released the Regional Growth Study."
* The Government has pledged $25 million to launch between one and three new regionally based research institutes over the next four to five years, depending on demand.
* The Government says it will be working with regional stakeholders to identify the best