The Government is pumping $25m into new innovation projects targeted at Covid-19 – including one that aims to be able to roll out 100 ventilators each day.
But scientists have questioned why it's come at the cost of a popular research fund that's been temporarily axed.
In announcing the spend this afternoon, Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods said the funds would help innovators to get cutting-edge products and services to market quickly.
The new fund, set up in March, has already distributed around $6.75m on projects ranging from tech to detect Covid-19 antibodies in blood, to early stage research for developing a potential vaccine.
Up to $500,000 was going toward the mass-production of point-of-care diagnostics for Covid-19 and blood-based bio-markers; $914,500 for a thermal screening device; $500,000 and $650,000 for two other projects aimed at rapid detection; and $457,000 for developing ventilators at a potential rate of 100 units each day.
Up to $100,000 was also ear-marked for "addressing security of supply" for a SARS-CoV-2 prophylactic vaccine for Kiwis.
"We are working across government to develop a vaccine strategy with the research and science community, and potential vaccine manufacturers," Woods said.
"While that strategy is being developed, I'm proud to say that we've been able to support researchers with part-funding through this fund to allow them to start getting on with this important work."
But the investment wasn't coming without impacts elsewhere in the sector.
Scientists were just informed that the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's Smart Ideas fund – totalling nearly $50m over the next three years - would be cancelled this year.
More than $11m of that money was being redeployed toward the new Covid-19 fund, along with funding extensions for existing Endeavour Fund research projects disrupted by the lockdown ($15.2m) and providing extra support for science in areas critical to the response ($26.5m).
An MBIE spokesperson said reprioritising the Smart Ideas round wouldn't affect existing projects, as the money would have gone toward brand new ones.
"The Covid environment makes it difficult to run a fair and transparent process to develop and select new projects, which is why the round is cancelled," they said.
"The proposed extensions to existing Endeavour projects scheduled to finish in September this year will make it easier for these existing projects to complete."
The spokesperson said no other streams of funding were affected at this stage.
New Zealand's principal fund for "blue skies" research – the Royal Society Te Apārangi-administered Marsden Fund – had projected an $80m pool for this year and that wasn't expected to change.
New Zealand Association of Scientists president Professor Troy Baisden said supporting research that was about to finish would help considerably with "the most urgent crises" facing PhD students and early career researchers.
"It is good triage in a crisis, yet nearly all current projects will have been affected by the crisis, and providing funding to only those about to finish is a partial measure," he said.
"The reallocation of Smart Ideas to much more immediate purposes will have significant consequences for researchers focussed on longer term problems.
"That research pays off in the end, and there is concern that New Zealand is unique in a low level of support for such work and suffers the consequences in areas where our economy, society and environment are unique."
Baisden said the decision effectively meant losing the equivalent of perhaps 60 full-time researchers who would have been funded for up to three years to get ahead of long-term problems.
"The work funded seems important, but why couldn't it have been supported separately next week's budget?"
Grants allocated under the government's Covid-19 Innovation Acceleration Fund, launched on May 6. Allocations are ongoing.
$264,124, for Auckland UniServices, for an innovative remote body temperature monitoring solution to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Up to $100,000, for Avalia Immunotherapies Limited, for addressing security of supply for a Sars-CoV-2 prophylactic vaccine for New Zealanders, now and in the future.
$500,000, for Digital Sensing Ltd, for mass-production of Point-of-Care Diagnostics for Covid-19 and Blood Based Biomarkers.
$200,000, for Elbaware, for haptic technology to reduce face-touching and risk of Covid-19 transmission.
$457,000, for ES Plastics Ltd, for mechanical ventilator development ready for manufacture of 100 units per day.
$828,000, for Orion Health, for a "national algorithm management solution" for Covid-19.
$500,000, for Pictor Ltd, for development of a multiplex immunoassay for detection of Covid-19 infection in less than an hour.
$396,000, for SaferMe Limited, business-focused Covid-19 management solutions.
$914,500, for The Cacaphony Project Ltd, for Te Kahu Ora "The cloak of health" – a thermal camera human screening device and supporting monitoring platform.
$650,000, for Trinity Bioactives Ltd, for development of novel lateral flow devices for the rapid detection of infection.
$528,927, for Ubiquitome Limited, for enabling and maintaining a Covid-19 free New Zealand with rapidly deployable, community-level Sars-COV2 testing.