MBIE is leading a major review of Aotearoa’s RSI system

Current funding mechanisms direct only limited funding to Māori RSI, but reform is underway

Each year the government awards billions of dollars of funding to support research, science, and innovation (RSI).

A small amount of this funding is specifically allocated to Māori RSI and to develop capacity and capability for Māori participation in science and innovation. In addition, most government RSI funding mechanisms have embedded the MBIE's Vision Mātauranga policy framework, usually through recognition of the policy’s themes or principles. The policy was developed in the early 2000s to:

“unlock the innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources and people to assist New Zealanders to create a better future.” [1

The Vision Mātauranga policy framework was developed to provide strategic direction for research of relevance to Māori.

4 themes provide guidance to funders, researchers, and research users:

  • indigenous innovation
  • taiao
  • hauora/oranga
  • mātauranga.

It was launched in 2003, following a recommendation by the Māori Economic Development Panel, and incorporated into the government's National Science Strategy in 2007.

It is supported through Vote Business, Science and Technology (previously Vote Research, Science and Technology). Budget 2020 included $33m for expanding its impact.

Te Ara Paerangi | Future Pathways (Te Ara Paerangi) is a multi-year reform programme led by MBIE on the future of Aotearoa New Zealand’s RSI system. The reform is intended to support a shift to a high-wage, low-emissions economy. 

There is a strong case for Te Ara Paerangi to provide stronger support and direction for Māori RSI than is currently given by Vision Mātauranga.

Submissions from Māori on the Green Paper for Te Ara Paerangi envisioned a modern, future-focused Tiriti-led research system.

Submissions highlighted [2]: ­

  • the need for research priorities that would deliver equitable outcomes, to be delivered in true partnership­
  • the importance of mātauranga Māori being recognised alongside other knowledge systems­
  • that the Vision Mātauranga framework is seen as outdated and needs to be replaced­
  • a need for targeted kaupapa Māori funding
  • a need for more substantive roles for Māori and greater prominence of Te Tiriti in RSI policies and structures.

Our scoping interviews with MBIE officials confirmed the issues raised in submissions, and emphasised specific issues with Vision Mātauranga from the Ministry’s perspective:

  • while the policy has good intent it has its origins in ‘deficit’ thinking, and puts Māori RSI to the side of Western science
  • the framing of the policy around themes rather than outcomes has incentivised box-ticking by researchers seeking funding, rather than inclusion of Māori and a focus on positive outcomes for Māori
  • implementation has been let down by MBIE’s lack of te Ao Māori knowledge and capability (for example using non-Māori to assess kaupapa Māori research applications)
  • failure of the policy to meet Te Tiriti obligations, in particular the ability of Māori to fully participate in and benefit from the RSI system. 

The White Paper for Te Ara Paerangi, released at the end of 2022, outlines an overall direction for the RSI system and highlights the need (amongst other strategic shifts) for increased focus on investment in, and delivering impact for, Māori and Pacific people through RSI. It includes a high-level design and vision for an RSI system that will give effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. The paper presents 4 reform objectives, including Te Tāmau i Te Tiriti | Embedding Te Tiriti. This objective involves:

  • advancing Māori aspirations in the RSI system­ including through increasing the proportion of research funding supporting Māori aspirations, and ensuring appropriate Māori-led representation at all levels of the RSI system
  • investing in mātauranga Māori and Māori knowledge
  • the Crown to lead by example. 

Reform needs to be informed by better information about the current state: how much goes to Māori RSI and what for?

In response to submissions on the earlier Green Paper, MBIE asked MartinJenkins to explore how much RSI funding is going to Māori, what it is being used for, what Māori researchers' experiences are, and how to improve the monitoring of RSI funding allocation.

We explored administrative data for 8 RSI funds to identify and better understand Māori-led projects, distinctively kaupapa Māori projects, and projects designed to have a positive impact for Māori.

  • The funds were the Vision Mātauranga Capability Fund (VMCF), Endeavour, the National Science Challenges (NSC), the Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF), Marsden, Catalyst, Callaghan Innovation Project Grants, and Callaghan Innovation Student Grants.­ The funds were selected for their significance in the RSI system, the opportunity they offered to explore impact for Māori, and data availability.
  • Analysis focused on the 2018, 2019, and 2020 investment funding rounds to give the most up to date insights across funds, while still having the fullest datasets possible available.
  • We also included summary data for several Health Research Council (HRC) funds as comparative examples; HRC awards a significant proportion of funding to advance Māori health research, researchers and outcomes.

To build a deeper picture, we followed the administrative data analysis with qualitative interviews with funding recipients to better understand their experiences, and talked to a small number of other government departments to get insight to how they allocate funding to and for Māori.

We found only a small proportion of RSI funding projects had an explicit focus on producing benefit for Māori

For the 8 funds in scope (2018, 2019, and 2020 funding rounds) [3]:

  • 52% of funding was awarded to projects aligned to Māori RSI or Vision Mātauranga
  • only 2% of funding was awarded to projects that said they were ‘kaupapa Māori’ [4].

Data on researcher ethnicity is limited. Ethnicity data was only captured for VMCF, Endeavour and Catalyst funds in 2019 and 2020: only 9% of key researchers on these projects identified as Māori.

Full findings from the analysis of administrative data are found at:

Appendix: Use of RSI funding by and for Māori

The appendix includes:

  • a snapshot of funding being awarded to Māori
  • focus on kaupapa Māori research – information available for the NSC, Endeavour, and VMCF
  • focus on kaupapa Māori research and Vision Mātauranga alignment – information available for SSIF and Marsden
  • exploration of the VMCF
  • insights to the wider RSI funding landscape – Callaghan Innovation and HRC funds
  • an overview of our methodology.

We also provided a narrative slide pack to accompany the appendix for internal MBIE use, which:

  • explains the limitations of the administrative data analysis
  • includes recommendations to improve data collection and monitoring for each of the 8 funds
  • provides further information about RSI funds in and out of scope.

This short report provides additional information to supplement our analysis of the administrative data

The purpose of this report is to provide additional information and context to our main deliverable:

Appendix: Use of RSI funding by and for Māori

It is intended to inform MBIE’s ongoing policy development for Te Ara Paerangi | Future Pathways review and to inform improvements to the monitoring of administrative data.


  1. Mission statement from Vision Mātauranga: Unlocking the Innovation Potential of Māori Knowledge, Resources and People, Ministry of Research, Science and Technology, July 2007. [Back to text
  2. Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways 2022 - Summary of Submissions - Part II - a report summarising Māori submissions and engagements — a full summary of Māori engagements and submissions (accessed February 2023). [Back to text
  3. Note that the analysis reports on amounts awarded from 2018 to 2020 – projects will have spent funding across different time periods. [Back to text
  4. Applications ask if projects fit a list of categories, including kaupapa Māori. [Back to text
Last updated: 19 April 2023