Budget 2012: Science sector gets boost

One of the tasks for the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be to boost the country's science and research capabilities. Photo / Mark Mitchell
One of the tasks for the new Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment will be to boost the country's science and research capabilities. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The science sector is one of the few areas to see an increase in funding in the 2012 Budget but the industry has been reserved in its praise.

Steven Joyce, Minister of Science and Innovation today announced a $326 million boost for science, innovation, and research.

$250m will be spent on new operating funding and $76.1m on capital funding over the next four years

"The only way we can create jobs, pay for public services, and lift New Zealanders' living standards is through faster, sustainable economic growth,'' said Mr Joyce.

The funding increases includes; $90m operating funding and $76.1m capital funding to create the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) to work with the high-tech manufacturing and services sector, $60m operating funding for National Science Challenges and $100m additional research funding for the Performance-Based Research Fund.

"Science and technological innovation are major drivers of growth and international competitiveness, which is why we have continued to increase funding for them despite tight fiscal constraints,'' said Mr Joyce.

Professor Shaun Hendy, president of the New Zealand Association of Scientists said the new initiatives were welcome.

"The Advanced Technology Institute, which will build stronger links between science and industry, will give New Zealand back the kind of R&D capabilities that led to companies like Fisher & Paykel Healthcare.''

However, the total increase in science spending in Vote S&I is only about 3 per cent after inflation he said.

"This still falls far short of level of investment in science and technology made by other small countries like Singapore or Denmark.

"Our on-going unwillingness to invest in science and technology means that Kiwis work harder and earn less than almost any other people in the developed world,'' said Dr Hendy.

Hans van der Voorn, the executive chairman of particle analysis company Izon said the extra money for science was nice but the way it was being applied could be a lot more effective.

"One of the issues that needs to be addressed is the level of bureaucracy in science in New Zealand. The emphasis on cross-disciplinary research will only add to that, with no obvious benefit,'' he said.

- APNZ

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