One of New Zealand's most distinguished science bodies has formed an alliance with Wanganui's Te Hononga Marae Trust.

The director of the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, Kate McGrath, said the two signed a memorandum of understanding three weeks ago at Patiarero Marae on the Whanganui River.

A former student of the institute, Keoni Mahelona, will be working between the two until Christmas, to figure out what projects they could best work on first.

The institute is a government-funded centre of research excellence, with 80 researchers based at most universities across the country.

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They work to find new materials and use minute particles to perform new functions.

The institute's broader aim is more science education, and using science to create new businesses.

The link between the trust and the institute came when Ron Hough and Nihi Houia, from the trust, met Desi Ramoo from the institute at Creative HQ in Wellington. Creative HQ is a business incubator and Dr McGrath said the trust wanted to create something similar in Wanganui.

Mr Ramoo and Creative HQ's Richard Taurima liked the trust's aims.

It wants to create sustainable change for its people, through community or land-based businesses.

It's made a good start. It has the contract to receive all the city's green waste, leaves from roadsides, and paunch waste from local meatworks.

It's using that to make and sell a range of compost products.

It also has the contract to deal with Wanganui's clean fill - waste concrete, asphalt and roading base course - and is working with Downer to investigate whether the waste material can be reprocessed and recycled for road making and repair.

Another project is rejuvenating the mushroom farm at Belmont Rd to the point where it can again employ 50 people.

And another is purchasing a franchise to build high quality affordable homes across Manawatu, Wanganui and Taranaki.

Many of them would be on Maori land, trustee David Towers said.

The trust is looking for more front-end investment.

Trustees want their base, upstairs at 249 Victoria Ave, to become a community business development hub, where people can bring their business ideas for testing.

"Our Maori people haven't got a place to test and validate their ideas," Mr Houia said.

Asked what the trust and institute might do together, Dr McGrath said they would first look for some quick results from one or two projects. Early starters could be using science to create special purpose composts, and to validate them.