Our research, science and innovation system has served Aotearoa New Zealand exceptionally well: from supporting our economy and society, to enhancing understanding of our natural world, helping us solve environmental challenges, and underpinning our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We now need to consider how we best position our system for the future.

Through the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways Programme, we want to create a modern, future-focussed research system for New Zealand. It needs to be adaptable for a rapidly changing future, resilient to changes, and connected; to itself, to industry, to public sector users of research, and internationally.

Such a system should reflect New Zealand’s unique opportunities and challenges. It will embed Te Tiriti across the design and delivery attributes of the system, and enable opportunities for mātauranga Māori. It will also recognise that research is a global undertaking and seek to stand alongside the best systems in the world.

Case for change

New Zealand’s research system was designed nearly 30 years ago, and some parts of the system are not working as well as they should be.

Recent reports make a compelling case for change and present various recommendations for a future state.

Te Pae Kahurangi: Positioning Crown Research Institutes to collectively and respectively meet New Zealand’s current and future needs [PDF, 714 KB]

New Zealand Firms: Reaching for the frontier [PDF, 5.4 MB](external link) — New Zealand Productivity Commission.

In addition, throughout 2018 and 2019, we consulted extensively on a new RSI strategy, the development of which was interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Have your say: RSI strategy

Consultation revealed strong views that the current research system suffers from weak connectivity. Researchers found it challenging to connect with researchers from different organisations; research organisations found it hard to connect with each other; businesses found it challenging to engage productively with the public research sector; and data showed that the RSI system continues to struggle to connect effectively internationally. This is similar to feedback received during engagement on the Health Research Strategy in 2017.

Additionally, responsiveness to Māori was noted to be weak and models of engagement poor. Stakeholders noted much work needed to be done to improve the way the system interacts with Māori at multiple levels.

The 2020 Te Pae Kahurangi review echoed many themes from the RSI strategy consultation.

It found a lack of role clarity exists for institutions, unproductive competition occurs between institutions and integration is lacking between universities, CRIs and other parts of the research system. It repeated findings from the RSI strategy about the system’s weak responsiveness to Māori.

Te Pae Kahurangi also noted difficulties the research system has in adapting to changing national needs and building capabilities necessary for future resilience and transformation. It found a proliferation of governance and a large number of competing strategies and priorities, which struggle to be given effect.

Areas of focus

The Future Pathways programme looks to better understand and resolve these issues and create a research, science and innovation system that continues to be critical to New Zealand’s success.

We have framed potential responses through 6 main areas:

  1. Exploring the role that whole-of-system priorities could play in focusing research activities and concentrating resources towards achieving national goals.
  2. Exploring how the research system can best honour Te Tiriti obligations and opportunities, give life to Māori research aspirations and enable mātauranga Māori.
  3. Exploring potential ways to reshape the RSI funding system for the future. It covers how funding can be used to give effect to national priorities, reduce unproductive competition, and ensure our institutions can respond to emerging opportunities.
  4. Re-examining how we design and shape public research institutions (focussing onCRIs and Callaghan) to enable them to give effect to national priorities, encourage greater connectivity, and be adaptable in a fast changing world.
  5. Exploring how we best develop our workforce, ensure the RSI workforce is connected, diverse and dynamic and they are offered attractive and flexible careers and career pathways.
  6. Exploring effective funding, governance and ownership arrangements for national research infrastructures and how we should support sustainable, efficient and enabling investment in research infrastructure.
Video from Ministers

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Last updated: 10 November 2022