Christopher Adams

Christopher Adams is the Markets and Banking reporter for the New Zealand Herald

Budget changes to research tipped

Changes to policy expected to make it easier to recoup money when technology firms sold overseas.

The sale of New Zealand technology companies to foreign buyers has become a contentious subject. Photo / Thinkstock
The sale of New Zealand technology companies to foreign buyers has become a contentious subject. Photo / Thinkstock

Changes to Government research and development funding policy are expected to be unveiled in today's Budget, including provisions that will make it easier for funds to be recouped when local technology firms are sold to overseas buyers.

The Business Herald understands new R&D grant catagories - which will all be overseen by Callaghan Innovation, the high-tech development body - will be revealed.

The Government's Technology Development Grants are expected to be renamed Growth Grants.

Like the Technology Development Grants, they will fund 20 per cent of large, R&D intensive firms' research and development spending up to a cap.

But it's understood the Growth Grants will be less discretionary than the former scheme and more focused on ensuring R&D is taking place.

Project Grants, which are likely to be similar to those offered under the Technology Transfer Vouchers scheme, will be provided to companies operating smaller R&D programmes for specific projects.

Changes that will make it easier for the Government to claw back funds in the case of foreign takeovers are also expected to be announced.

It's understood that this provision, while it will apply to both, will be targeted more at the Project Grants than the Growth Grants and will make the rules more explicit that if a firm moves overseas then funding will have to be repaid.

The sale of New Zealand technology companies to foreign buyers has become a contentious subject.

In the past decade, more than 30 of our biggest and best high-tech companies - many of which received Government R&D support - have been acquired by overseas buyers, according to the TiN100 technology industry report.

Details on repayable funding - essentially loans - for start-ups are also expected to be announced today.

It's understood the loans will need to be matched with co-funding from business incubators.

Details on a new student grant programme will be announced, which will fund post-graduate and undergraduate students to undertake R&D internships at firms.

Student grants are offered by the Government and it's unclear how different the new grant system will be.

At the 2010 Budget $321 million in new R&D funding was unveiled, which was to be allocated between 2010 and 2014.

In last year's Budget the Government earmarked $178 million for the research and development of new materials, products and services for the manufacturing and technology industry.

- NZ Herald

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