This White Paper marks only the beginning of the change programme of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways. It is important that we get these changes right, so we are committed to engaging with the sector as we develop policy proposals to implement the actions in this White Paper.

This White Paper marks only the beginning of the change programme of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways. It is important that we get these changes right, so we are committed to engaging with the sector as we develop policy proposals to implement the actions in this White Paper.

We are also committed to working with the sector and in partnership with Māori and with Pacific Peoples in the implementation of the reforms.

Transition and wellbeing

The Government has signalled that it wants to embed a wellbeing approach across the public sector. The vision we have articulated for the RSI sector is a vision for improving the wellbeing of New Zealanders through research science and innovation. As we move forward, the wellbeing principles of He Ara Waiora (see Reform Principles and Objectives) will continue to inform not only what we do but how we go about implementing the change.

We acknowledge that the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways reforms signal large scale change that will have a significant impact for the system and the people who work in it. However, although difficult, transformational change is required for a better future for Research Science and Innovation in New Zealand.

These changes are being undertaken with the goal to grow the RSI system; we want to ensure that this growth is aligned to the new National Research Priorities.

We are committed to undertaking the necessary transitions with the sector so that we retain, support and grow our workforce, and ensure the ongoing delivery of research and science services through the transitions that will be needed.

The changes will be phased to enable a careful approach that is appropriately attuned to the complexities and inter-relationships within the system. This will include transitional funding arrangements to bridge gaps created by institutional changes and reprioritisation of funding.

Change will be transparent and signalled well in advance, with sufficient time for the sector to prepare.

Overview of Changes to the System

To illustrate the changes we will make, we compare the types of activities and funds in the existing and future systems. This model, of necessity, uses broadly characterised modes of activity or funding and does not reflect nuanced complexities. It relies on the following key concepts:

  1. Investigator-led research: This is a mode of research where the researcher instigates the research and defines the scope based on their own expertise. Investigator led research can include a range of research types from basic or fundamental research to applied research. Endeavour, Marsden, and the Health Research Council are the main funders of investigator led research in New Zealand.
  2. Mission-led research: This is a mode of research where the goals and direction are generally set by actors other than researchers or the research community. Direction, goals, or subject area are most usually set by government in consultation with researchers, Māori, businesses, and communities – as was the case with National Research Challenges.
  3. Applied research: This is a mode of research undertaken in response to a well-defined problem, usually with a specific type of solution in mind. It is best characterised by the type of research one might expect to find taking place in businesses, but could also be in response to social or environmental problems (e.g. clinical trials for a new surgical device or how to increase the effectiveness of a particular pest species trap).
  4. End-User-initiated research refers to research that that is initiated and funded by end-users to meet their specific needs. This will include business funded R&D programmes but also applied research funded by government agencies or other entities.
  5. Public good services and related infrastructure: These are activities adjacent to the research system, but which are not ‘research’ in and of themselves. These activities usually serve to support not only the research system, but also support New Zealand in general to be an advanced, resilient nation with high standards of living. Examples could be our seismic monitoring network, GeoNet, our forensic laboratories, or our weather monitoring and forecasting systems.

We characterise our current system in the following way according to this schema (Figure 7).

Figure 7 – Schematic Representation of current public RSI system funding and activities.

Full description in accordion text below

Our future system can be characterised in the following way (Figure 8):

Figure 8 – Schematic Representation of our future public RSI system funding and activities.

Full description in accordion text below

The key shifts in this system include:

  • a central process and funding mechanism for National Research Priorities
  • a more clearly defined role for our investigator led funds
  • dedicated funding for workforce initiatives
  • stable funding for public good services
  • dedicated funding for mātauranga Māori
  • strategic investment in critical Infrastructure.

In addition to the actions set out above, Policy Direction 4.4 notes the need to enhance the operation of funding contests to reduce transaction costs and wasteful competition. This is a more fundamental set of changes to how we fund, rather than what we fund, and will have implications across the funding system, including to the new funds we describe above. We also note our intention to consider the implications of Te Ara Paerangi for the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF).

Phasing of the Reform

Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways is a multi-year reform programme, which will see ongoing implementation throughout.  But there are key milestones around which the broader reform programme will take place.

The reform programme has been phased in such a way that it addresses immediate matters first (workforce issues and the first steps to affirm and embed Te Tiriti in the design of the RSI system), sets the strategic direction of the RSI system (National Research Priorities), and then makes the necessary adjustments to the system to ensure that it can best deliver on this direction for the benefit of all New Zealanders. These are the three central implementation phases of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways.

The phases of reform indicate periods where the main focus of our efforts will be on particular aspect of system transformation. 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.

Figure 9 – Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways high-level implementation phases

Full description in accordion text below

Phase 1 of the reform will begin to deliver two key changes in 2023 that begin to alleviate pain points for the workforce and start embedding Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the RSI system.

An RSI workforce policy package, including but not limited to an expansion of research fellowships, applied training schemes and an international talent attraction scheme will be an early initiative of the reform, which we will begin to implement in 2023. These initiatives demonstrate ways we can support our RSI workforce and their wellbeing in the short-term while we undertake the wider systemic reforms that will improve their wellbeing in the longer-term.

An RSI Te Tiriti o Waitangi statement that outlines the Government’s obligations, expectations and aspirations for the RSI system to reflect true partnership at all levels and support Māori researchers will be released in 2023.  The Statement will guide MBIE in its role as a steward, funder and administrator of RSI and set expectations for agencies with whom we work, and mark the first step toward embedding Te Tiriti in the design of the future RSI system.

Phase 2 of the reform will centre on establishing National Research Priorities. National Research Priorities will be government’s tool to direct research, science and innovation resources to the most important challenges and opportunities for New Zealand’s social, environmental and economic wellbeing. National Research Priorities will be a mechanism to proactively invest in those areas and act as locus of collaboration, coordination and capability across the RSI system.

High-level National Research Priorities will be agreed in 2024, organisational and operational structures to oversee the investments to support each Priority will be in place from 2025 onwards, and Priorities will start to operate as soon as they are ready.

During this phase, we will commence consultation with the sector on the scope and scale of institutional and other system reform required to achieve the vision of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways, in preparation of implementation in Phase 3.

Phase 3 of the reform will implement any institutional reforms required to achieve the vision of Te Ara Paerangi. During this period, we will also be implementing changes to the governance and funding system to deliver stable long-term funding for core public good services and reviewing the operation of investigator led funding to ensure these operate in a way that adds value for the system as a whole.

We expect to see continued growth across the RSI system, enabled by new funding and institutional structures. We expect that the changes we have implemented will be reflected in a shift in science outputs, growth of the RSI workforce and improvements in diversity and inclusion outcomes. Building capacity and growing diversity will take time to achieve but we expect to see solid evidence that the shifts we are seeking are being realised.

Implementation roadmap

To support the transition, and in line with calls made through the Green Paper submissions process, we are presenting an implementation roadmap that provides indicative timings for key milestones along the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways change journey.