Regulation in the research, science and innovation system

This page describes the research, science and innovation system, its objectives and the role of regulation in the system. It lists the main statutes and changes to regulation either planned or in progress.

System description and objectives

Research, Science and Innovation (RSI) are activities in which the Government has a variety of interests. A broad characterisation of these activities as a system would encompass people (around 20,000 researchers), institutions – most notably Universities, Crown Research Institutes and firms – and about $3.5 billion of funding, just under 50% of which is provided by Government. The common factor of the diverse components within this system is that they all in some way relate to the production or utilisation of knowledge.

The production and utilisation of knowledge are critical inputs into almost all Government goals of any significance, including a diverse and productive economy, transition to a low emissions economy, addressing child poverty, improving health and wellbeing, and safeguarding our natural environment.

Government works in this system through setting overall strategy and direction, investing, ownership of some institutions, and creating enabling regulatory frameworks. 

The RSI legislation and regulation for which MBIE is responsible relate only to certain functions within this system, and do not describe its entirety or, for the most part, seek to regulate the activity which takes place. The legislation in place most importantly enables MBIE to carry out its functions as a funder, or delegate those functions to other entities. Other pieces of legislation establish related organisations and Crown entities, with minor pieces of legislation dealing with some of New Zealand’s industry levy organisations.

These instruments taken together are too disparate and specialised to constitute a regulatory system; rather they enable certain elements and functions of a much broader set of activity which is driven primarily through strategy and funding. The Government is currently refreshing its RSI strategy, and final publication is targeted for late 2019.  This has involved public consultation and targeted consultation with the RSI sector. 

A large number of New Zealand’s regulatory systems have the ability to influence levels of innovation, and to a lesser extent, research. For example, the building and standards and conformance systems.  These are not dealt with in this system as these related systems do not have the primary function of increasing or regulating innovation.

Ministerial portfolio and key statutes

Portfolio Key statutes

Research, Science and Innovation

  • Crown Research Institutes Act 1992
  • Research, Science, and Technology Act 2010
  • Callaghan Innovation Act 2012
  • Building Research Levy Act 1969
  • Heavy Engineering Research Levy Act 1978
  • Wheat Industry Research Levies Act 1989

System agencies and their roles

Agency Role


MBIE stewards the RSI system, advises on strategy and develops policy. MBIE also funds RSI activities and delegates funding activity to other entities.

Agencies and statutory entities created by MBIE-owned legislation

  • Callaghan Innovation. Callaghan Innovation's main objective is to support science and technology-based innovation and its commercialisation by businesses, primarily in the manufacturing and services sectors, in order to improve their growth and competitiveness.

  • Crown Research Institutes, which undertake research for the benefit of New Zealand.

  • The Royal Society of New Zealand. The object of the Society is the advancement and promotion in New Zealand of science, technology, and the humanities.

  • The Science Board is constituted under the Research, Science and Technology Act 2010. It is the independent decision-making body for some funds administered by MBIE.


  • The Health Research Council is funded by MBIE under legislation owned by the Ministry of Health. Its main function is to improve human health by promoting and funding health research.

  • Inland Revenue will implement the R&D Tax Incentive under policy led by MBIE.

  • Legislation establishing Universities is owned by the Ministry of Education, which also administers the Performance Based Research Fund and Centres of Research Excellence (University research funding mechanisms).

  • Numerous other Government entities fund or perform research, and many have a broad-based interest in innovation, eg Ministry for the Environment, Ministry of Health.

Collaboration and information-sharing between system agencies

A memorandum of understanding (MOU) exists between the Ministers of Health and Research, Science and Innovation concerning the Health Research Council. This sets out how Ministers will cooperate on decisions concerning health research structures and funding.

An MOU is being developed between MBIE, Inland Revenue and Callaghan Innovation concerning the R&D Tax Incentive. It will set out the roles and responsibilities of the agencies, and how the agencies will cooperate on policy and operational management of the Incentive.

MBIE is currently leading the development of the New Zealand Research Information System (NZRIS) in collaboration with the RSI sector. This national system will hold information and data about research funding, resources and activities in New Zealand. A first version will be available in early 2020.

Numerous informal mechanisms exist to exchange information and collaborate on policy between agencies with an interest in RSI.

Regulated parties and main stakeholders

The purpose of the RSI legislation administered by MBIE is not to regulate parties – it is enabling legislation which establishes several organisations in the RSI sector, and enables the funding of RSI activities and the collection of some industry research levies.

Key stakeholders include:

  • Firms
  • Researchers
  • Peak sector bodies
  • Research organisations
  • Providers of innovation support services.

Processes for engagement with stakeholders

MBIE follows best practice for strategy and policy development and publishes consultation documents and holds public meetings to seek feedback on proposals. We also engage extensively with RSI stakeholders, through both regular forums and ad hoc meetings.

Last updated: 05 November 2019