Crown Research Institutes

Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) are Crown-owned companies that carry out scientific research for the benefit of New Zealand.

CRIs play a unique and important role supporting their sectors to innovate and grow. They strive to address New Zealand’s most pressing issues and achieve economic growth by improving sectors’ productivity and improving the sustainable use of natural resources.

There are 7 CRIs, each aligned with a productive sector of the economy or a grouping of natural resources. They are:

  • AgResearch
  • Institute of Environmental Science Research (ESR)
  • Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science (GNS Science)
  • Landcare Research
  • National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)
  • Plant and Food Research
  • Scion.

Each CRI's purpose

The purpose of each CRI is set out in the table below. For more information about the CRI go to their websites.

AgResearch(external link) AgResearch’s purpose is to enhance the value, productivity and profitability of New Zealand’s pastoral, agri-food and agri-technology sector value chains to contribute to economic growth and beneficial environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand.
Institute of Environmental Science Research (ESR)(external link) ESR’s purpose is to deliver world class knowledge, research and laboratory services to help New Zealand get the most out of its investment in science and innovation. ESR use the power of science to help its partners and clients solve complex problems and protect people and products in New Zealand, and around the world. ESR's science lies behind the decisions that safeguard people's health, protect our food-based economy, improve the safety of our freshwater and groundwater resources and provide the justice sector with expert forensic science.
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Science (GNS Science)(external link) GNS Science’s purpose is to undertake research that drives innovation and economic growth in New Zealand’s geologically-based energy and minerals industries, that develops industrial and environmental applications of nuclear science, that increases New Zealand’s resilience to natural hazards and that enhances understanding of geological and earth-system processes.
Landcare Research(external link) Landcare Research’s purpose is to drive innovation in New Zealand’s management of terrestrial biodiversity and land resources to both protect and enhance the terrestrial environment and grow New Zealand’s prosperity.
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA)(external link) NIWA’s purpose is to enhance the economic value and sustainable management of New Zealand’s aquatic resources and environments, to provide understanding of climate and the atmosphere, and increase resilience to weather and climate hazards to improve the safety and well-being of New Zealanders.
Plant and Food Research(external link) Plant & Food Research’s purpose is to enhance the value and productivity of New Zealand’s horticultural, arable, seafood and food and beverage industries to contribute to economic growth and the environmental and social prosperity of New Zealand.
Scion(external link) Scion’s purpose is to drive innovation and growth from New Zealand’s forestry, wood product and wood-derived materials and other biomaterial sectors, to create economic value and contribute to beneficial environmental and social outcomes for New Zealand.

Governance of CRIs

The CRIs have 2 shareholding ministers who act to protect the Crown’s investment in CRIs, the Minister of Science and Innovation(external link) and the Minister of Finance(external link).

The governance structure for all CRIs is the same — shareholding ministers appoint CRI boards of directors, who in turn appoint the chief executive in accordance with the Companies Act and the constitutions of each CRI.

Our relationship with CRIs

Our ownership and performance role is to monitor the Government’s investment in CRIs.

As part of this role we:

  • provide strategic ownership advice to the shareholding ministers on the financial and non-financial performance of the CRIs
  • work with CRIs to ensure they can deliver optimal outcomes for New Zealand
  • help appoint directors to CRI boards, in partnership with the Crown Ownership Monitoring Unit.

The CRI toolkit outlines the accountability and performance framework in which CRIs operate.

CRI toolkit

CRI core funding review

In 2015-16, the Government reviewed CRI core funding. Following this, CRI core funding was moved to form part of the new Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF).

Read the CRI core funding review report [PDF, 710 KB] 

Read more about the Strategic Science Investment Fund.

The CRI Taskforce recommendations

In February 2010 the CRI Taskforce presented its recommendations on how to enhance the value of New Zealand’s investment in CRIs.

Read the CRI Taskforce recommendations [PDF, 875 KB]

4-Year Rolling Reviews

The 4-year Rolling Reviews provide shareholding ministers with an independent assessment of each CRI’s current effectiveness and future potential in delivering on the purpose and outcomes set out in its Statement of Core Purpose.

The reviews provide insights on where performance can be improved and assurance on where the CRI is operating effectively in delivering outcomes that contribute to New Zealand’s economic, social and environmental well-being.

The reviews are an assessment of governance effectiveness, financial viability and sustainability. They also identify opportunities, barriers to success and alignment to government priorities.

What the reviews found

Findings from the reviews support CRI boards in their governance and decision-making roles. The reviews are conducted every 4 years and involve an independent panel working for up 15-20 days. The panel’s work includes document examination, interviews with the CRI board, management and staff; and interviews with major end-users and stakeholders.

The review panels have consistently found:

  • a strong commitment to science that benefits New Zealand
  • the organisations are underpinned by solid practices, processes and policies
  • good relationships with key customers.

They also found the CRIs would benefit from:

  • a clearer strategy
  • strengthened partnerships and interactions with Māori
  • delivery of future financial projections.

Review reports and action plans

For detail on each of the reviews that have been undertaken and the action plans that the boards have put in place to address the concerns, see the reports below.

AgResearch report [PDF, 1.7 MB] 

AgResearch action plan [PDF, 312 KB] 

ESR report [PDF, 1.2 MB] 

ESR action plan [PDF, 332 KB] 

GNS Science report [PDF, 1.3 MB] 

GNS Science action plan [PDF, 66 KB] 

Landcare research report [PDF, 875 KB] 

Landcare research action plan [PDF, 194 KB] 

NIWA report [PDF, 1.2 MB] 

NIWA action plan [PDF, 285 KB] 

Plant and Food report [PDF, 710 KB] 

Plant and Food action plan [PDF, 51 KB] 

Scion report [PDF, 865 KB] 

Scion action plan [PDF, 150 KB] 

In this section

Crown Research Institute Toolkit

The Crown Research Institute (CRI) Toolkit provides useful information, examples and frameworks to help CRIs in improving their performance, providing assurance and meeting accountability arrangements.