People afflicted with painful circulation problems may soon find solace in a simple new Kiwi invention sourced from the trusty merino sheep.

Aspiring innovators beware though - the programme that funded this research is a thing of the past.

After four years, thousands of research hours and a not insignificant pile of wool, innovator Blythe Rees-Jones is helping to launch Encircle, a merino legging designed to relieve problems such as hypertension and deep-vein thrombosis.

Rees-Jones, product development manager at Mt Maunganui-based Locus Research, says merino wool is a clean alternative to synthetic fabrics and could stimulate a new wave of Kiwi ingenuity.

"Merino's got this way of managing moisture - it naturally resists odour in garments, which is particularly important in medical applications.

"It's also naturally anti-microbial, so bacteria and microbes don't inhabit the textile. People have been trying to create synthetic textiles to mimic these properties but synthetics need to be treated with a lot of artificial chemicals."

The invention was shown in clinical trials to increase blood flow in the legs of stationary people, such as office workers, who sit for long periods.

Rees-Jones says all research and development was carried out locally and the garments are being made in Levin.

The project involved seven institutions. Feedback also came from nurses, doctors and University of Otago researchers.

Rees-Jones says this was made possible by critical funding from the abolished Transform Initiative.

Transform was a partnership between industry group Textiles NZ and the defunct Foundation for Research, Science and Technology.

Textiles NZ chief executive Elizabeth Tennet says Transform was a successful system that coupled government funding with her agency's expertise in marketing, research, development and sales.

"The other good example you may remember was when the Chilean miners were pulled out of the ground," Tennet says. "A company called Zephyr Technology developed those harnesses as a result of funding from the Transform Initiative."

Tennet says innovators are now forced into working within narrow confines dictated by the new Ministry of Science and Innovation. MSI was formed in February from the merger of two government science agencies. "The Government decided they'd no longer fund what were called 'sector projects'. Now they focus on individual companies. They're not working with agencies and we're just not seeing the innovation we used to."

Tennet says ministry bureaucrats also forget the importance of turning Kiwi ingenuity into dollars.

"The second part of an innovation is actually to commercialise it. That's the difficult part. The Transform Initiative worked very well by helping promote commercialisation of that research and development."

Richard Bentley, from MSI's business and investment arm, says Transform was "a one-off scheme that was not repeated."

However, the Ministry says the Technology New Zealand scheme is available for any textile firm seeking help with technology development.

Rees-Jones says Encircle will launch in Australia this month.

"We're anticipating getting it into 200 pharmacies within the next year. In New Zealand, we're launching in August."

The leggings will retail for between $65 and $100.

This story has been corrected from an earlier version. This version says Rees-Jones is helping to launch Encircle, not that he is launching Encircle. The paragraph referring to the Technology NZ scheme has also been clarified to say the Ministry says it is available for any textile firm seeking help with technology development.