Executive Summary

This Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways White Paper presents a high level vision for New Zealand’s public Research Science and Innovation (RSI) system, including key policy directions and actions, and provides a roadmap to implement the reform programme. It will function as an enduring policy reference point for the reform programme as detailed proposals are developed to deliver on the Te Ara Paerangi vision.

The vision and key policy directions were developed after extensive consultation on the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways Green Paper, released in 2021. We have taken into account feedback from 903 submissions and over 1,000 people attending workshops and seminars. Input from dedicated engagements with key stakeholders including Māori and Pacific researchers is included throughout.

Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways is focused on the design of the ‘public’ RSI system administered as part of the RSI ministerial portfolio. However, the changes proposed by this White Paper are pertinent to the entire RSI system including: the Crown Research Institutes, Callaghan Innovation, government departments, Crown Entities, tertiary education organisations, Independent Research Organisations, community and industry partners.


The Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways vision is for ‘An RSI system that supports wellbeing for all current and future New Zealanders, a high-wage low emissions economy, and a thriving, protected environment through excellent and impactful research, science and innovation’. The substantial reforms signalled in Te Ara Paerangi will create the uplifts required to grow health and social wellbeing, environmental sustainability, and economic productivity.

The key strategic shifts of the reform will support a high-wage, low-emissions economy, as called for under the Government’s economic plan:

  • Greater investment in innovation and knowledge mobilisation will support a more productive and diversified economy that favours value over volume.
  • The reforms will establish and grow connections between research, industry and other end-users to help take research through to impact.
  • An increased focus on investment in, and delivering impact for, Māori and Pacific people through the RSI system will help grow the pipeline for building innovative Māori and Pacific economies, improving the wealth and resilience of Māori and Pacific communities.
  • A strong, dynamic, and adaptable RSI system will attract international investment, promote collaboration with the global innovation ecosystem, and increase opportunities for innovative technologies in overseas markets.
  • A more agile, better resourced system will enhance New Zealand’s ability to attract and retain a skilled workforce, key to greater productivity and improved living standards.

Implementation approach

The Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways reforms signal large scale change that will have a significant impact for the RSI system and the people who work in it. Transformational change is required to enable the RSI system to deliver a better future for all New Zealanders.

Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways is a multi-year programme, with the key reforms implemented across three phases: immediate workforce and people support, strategic direction setting, and governance, funding, and institutional reforms where necessary to support the broader vision.

The phases of reform indicate periods where the main focus of our efforts will be. However, they do not imply exclusive focus. At any given time we may expect to be consulting, conducting analysis, releasing design documents, implementing changes, or evaluating results on all items in the programme. In reality, change processes on all aspects of the reform will take place over a number of months and years. We do not expect to wait until 2026 to start detailed conversations about the best structure for our public research organisations, or the best way to fund research.

Phase 1 of the reform will begin to make significant changes for the workforce and start embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the RSI system in 2023. A workforce package, eventually including an expansion of research fellowships, applied training schemes, and an international talent attraction scheme will ensure our RSI workforce is supported through the reform, beginning in 2023. The Government’s obligations, expectations and aspirations for the RSI system will be outlined in an RSI Te Tiriti o Waitangi statement. This will guide MBIE in its role as system steward and set expectations for research institutions across the sector.

Phase 2 of the reform, beginning in 2024, will provide strategic direction to the RSI system by establishing National Research Priorities. National Research Priorities will be government’s tool to direct research, science and innovation resources to meet the most important challenges and opportunities for New Zealand’s social, environmental and economic wellbeing. However, as noted above, we expect to begin a process to determine what those Priorities might be much sooner.

Phase 3 of the reform will implement any changes required to our public research organisations to achieve the vision of Te Ara Paerangi and will take place from 2026. This phase will also include changes to the governance and funding system to deliver stable, long-term funding for public good science services, and ensure we have fit-for-purpose investigator-led funding mechanisms that operate smoothly within the broader system changes.

Why these reforms, and why now

While our innovators and researchers have served New Zealand well over the past 30 years, our system is not set up for success. A well-functioning RSI system is essential to our economic, social, health, environmental and cultural wellbeing and is an important tool for government to support enduring improvements in living standards.

Our RSI system is too small, and resources are spread too thin. Our investment in research and development is well below the OECD average, with government expenditure stagnant over the last decade. Further, our investment is concentrated in traditional areas of strength, rather than being focused on all the things that will really matter to the country in the future. Achieving a resilient and low emissions economy will require us to diversify our industrial base and expand our investments into the innovations, including digital technologies, that can underpin future competitive advantage.

The current system is poorly placed to utilise increased funding to prepare us for this future. It lacks system-wide direction and can be slow to adapt to evolving national needs. Our researchers are not served well by a clutter of overlapping and confusing strategies that fail to effectively harness their often world-class capabilities towards the things that matter most to New Zealand.

Collaboration between researchers and with the wider economy and society is often hindered by institutional and funding structures. Competition between organisations can get in the way of collaboration, with negative outcomes for stakeholders. Links between New Zealand’s firms and research organisations are much weaker than in comparable small-advanced economies.

A clear message from the Green Paper consultation was that the current policy settings fail to give sufficient expression to Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Our RSI system must play its part in meeting the Crown’s obligations under Te Tiriti, and supporting Māori aspirations.

Māori and Pacific Peoples are under-represented at all levels in our research workforce, with women also being underrepresented in senior roles. A system that lacks diversity risks homogeneity, stifles creativity and has a tendency toward the status quo. Poor diversity, equity and inclusion outcomes are strongly linked to the instability of RSI careers. We need to develop new research career trajectories that enable more diverse pathways between academia and the industry, government and health and social sectors.

Reform objectives

Four key objectives provide the framework for how we will organise our efforts to achieve our vision for the RSI system and respond to the case for change. These are:

  • Creating New Futures
  • Embedding Te Tiriti
  • Valuing Our People
  • Building System Agility.

The objectives of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways emphasise a wellbeing approach to reform. As such, they reflect the four wellbeing principles of He Ara Waiora, a framework to understand a Māori perspective of wellbeing: Kotahitanga, Tikanga, Manaakitanga and Whanaungatanga.

By ‘Creating New Futures’ the RSI system will make an impact of national and global significance and continuously grow the adaptive capacity of society. A much greater focus on alignment and co-ordination (Kotahitanga) will be required to grow the impact we want and need from our RSI system. The key policy directions in this objective are to:

  • Establish National Research Priorities that will enable government to strategically focus resources to our most important economic, environmental, and social challenges and opportunities while acting as hubs of coordination, collaboration, and capability building.
  • Accelerate innovation and diversify and scale up the impact of our RSI system by supporting researchers to engage meaningfully and productively with industry, the health system, the environmental sector, and the wider community as well as establishing new ways to invest in high-potential innovation areas such as the Industry Transformation Plans.
  • Grow the global connectivity of our RSI system by supporting our talented researchers and innovators to engage with the world’s best, and take advantage of international opportunities.

Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways acknowledges and responds to a strong call from across the sector by ‘Embedding Te Tiriti’ in the design of the RSI system. The key policy directions in this objective are to:

  • Advance Māori aspirations in the RSI system by removing barriers to entry and promote Māori participation at all levels.
  • Address the low proportion of funding that directly supports Māori researchers, including through Māori-led National Research Priorities.
  • Invest in mātauranga Māori by partnering with Māori to explore development of a dedicated mātauranga Māori platform and through appropriate recognition of existing regional knowledge platforms such as marae and whare wānanga.
  • Have the Crown lead by example as a partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, including through an RSI Te Tiriti o Waitangi statement. This will signal to the RSI sector how we can honour our Tiriti obligations and opportunities in the context of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways.

The research workforce is central to the success of our RSI system, and ‘Valuing Our People’ is a key objective of the reforms. Our RSI system is, above all, an investment in people – those who seek to expand and apply our pool of knowledge to improve the wellbeing of all those in New Zealand. We must address issues raised in consultation, such as career precarity, limited diversity, and barriers to collaboration and mobility, that risk constraining both the wellbeing and performance of our workforce.  

The key policy directions in this objective are:

  • Attract, develop and retain talented people by expanding fellowship schemes, expand support for training our people and their access to development opportunities, address settings in the funding system that disincentivise secure employment, and co-ordinate international talent attraction schemes.
  • Support diversity at all levels and grow representation of women, Māori, and Pacific Peoples through dedicated fellowship schemes, and revised assessment processes that better recognise the diversity of skills needed for research success.
  • Provide sustainable career pathways for Pacific Peoples in the RSI system. This can be achieved by lifting the capability of Crown employees to engage with Pacific Peoples and, by applying a Pacific lens to RSI policy development.

The reforms set out an ambitious plan for ‘Building System Agility’ to deliver a sustainable, resilient and cohesive RSI system that adapts to new challenges and opportunities. To deliver its vision, Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways tackles pain points that hinder the effectiveness of New Zealand’s RSI system. The reform will address governance, systems, and public research organisations so that the sector can deliver relevant, excellent, transformative research in the medium to long-term. The key policy directions in this objective are:

  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities to deliver effective governance and ownership mechanisms that release greater value from government investment in RSI. This includes locating functions where they will be most effective and efficiently managed.
  • Co-ordinating investment in future-oriented infrastructure by developing a system-wide infrastructure map, consolidating building investments where appropriate, and establishing long-term funding envelopes for public-good science services.
  • Where necessary, undertake reform to design resilient and adaptable public research organisations so that our RSI institutions have the scope and scale to adapt to emerging challenges, support the delivery of the National Research Priorities, and support good workforce outcomes, and affirm and embed Te Tiriti in institutional practice.
  • Design funding mechanisms that support system goals by continuing to support excellent and impactful research, reducing transaction costs in funding contests, and improving transparency of overhead funding, including options for integration into international funding competitions. We are particularly interested in considering approaches to assessment of research that really less heavily on bibliometrics, in line with international trends. We will consider the interaction of the Performance Based Research Fund and Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways.

This White Paper marks the beginning of the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways reform process and lays out the key milestones for the programme. It is important that we get these changes right. To ensure this we are committed to consulting with the sector and working in partnership with Māori and Pacific Peoples as we develop and implement policies to deliver the vision of this White Paper. Change will be transparent and signalled well in advance through decision documents, with sufficient time for the sector to prepare. There will be a focus on maintaining capability and delivery throughout the reform.