Reform Objectives

Creating New Futures

The RSI system makes an impact of national and global significance and continuously grows the adaptive capacity of society.

The Government’s vision for New Zealand’s future RSI system is for it to make a greater impact on New Zealand’s productivity and wellbeing at a time when our country faces significant and growing challenges, such as adapting to a changing climate.

The Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways Green Paper identified that there is no clear government direction about the most important things for research to address. This has resulted in a cluttered landscape that lacks consistency and clarity. There is a proliferation of investment signals, ineffective resource allocation, unclear roles and responsibilities, and a lack of responsiveness and underinvestment in areas of transformational change and research that supports Māori aspirations.

To reach our full potential, we must address how difficult it is for the current system to focus on what matters, venture into new areas to help diversify the economy, enhance overall connectivity, translate excellent research into impact on health, social and environmental wellbeing, and fund the basics (see Policy Direction 4.1).

The future RSI system must focus on unlocking our innovative potential (including our capacity to apply and use innovations and digital technologies to make a greater impact) while retaining strong foundations in open, basic and investigator-led science to improve our ability as a society to successfully understand and apply knowledge.

To this end, we must shift the system to:

  • Focus on what is most important – align and prioritise resources (e.g., significant long-term public funding), and encourage collaboration and use of vehicles for collective action (collaboration and capability building platforms) to address major opportunities and societal challenges to make an impact on what matters most, at national or global scales; and
  • Enhance our adaptive capacity as a society – improve how we create, absorb, use and benefit from knowledge and technology, translate discoveries into new products, services, jobs and harness research to improve health and social wellbeing outcomes.
Full description in accordion text below

Policy Direction 1.1: Establish National Research Priorities

Establish a national priority-setting framework to align resources and focus collective action on areas of critical importance.

Our RSI system needs to address what matters most to New Zealand. Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways will establish a mechanism for determining National Research Priorities (Priorities) in areas that will have the most impact for people’s lives and their wider environments.

Priorities will bring a far higher degree of future focus to our RSI system than is currently evident. Existing prioritisation mechanisms are patchy in their ability to connect with other researchers and users of research, including Māori, communities, government agencies and industry. This is critical for research to be relevant to next-user and end-user needs, to be taken up and have impact.

Having a larger proportion of research activities in the RSI system be directed by Priorities provides a strategic approach to investment. Priorities will reshape mission-focused research activity in the future RSI system by complementing investigator-led and applied research mechanisms (see Structural Change). Funding for Priorities will be significant enough to drive measurable activity in the RSI system. At the same time, investigation and knowledge generation outside of government-set Priorities will contribute to a balanced RSI system and investment portfolio.

Setting Priorities will provide opportunities for long-term career pathways in areas of priority that will bring new researchers through their early- and mid-career stages into established research careers.

Priorities will function as hubs of coordination, collaboration and capability for priority areas across the RSI system. This is intended to facilitate transdisciplinary connections and collaborations between researchers across all parts of the RSI system, and with users of research (industry, Māori, communities, central and local government agencies), in part by leveraging the increasing digitalisation of research. They will also form a locus for sufficient long-term funding to support research, capability building, critical infrastructure and technical services relevant to Priorities.

The Priority-setting mechanism will provide opportunities for researchers and research providers, end-users and industry to help shape and deliver Priorities, and will allow for Māori-focused and Māori-led Priorities. We expect the future RSI system to:

  • Provide a stable source of funding to Priorities, which will contribute to the reduction of unproductive competition and career precarity.
  • Provide Māori, iwi and hapū with a forum in which to address their most important aspirations through science.
  • Connect with industry, the health system, the environmental sector, research next-users and other end-users so that Priorities align with opportunities in new and existing sectors.
  • Focus on areas where New Zealand has emerging strengths or opportunities, for example those highlighted by the Industry Transformation Plan programme.
  • Enable researchers and research providers to bring their expertise and knowledge to bear on the opportunities where research can have the most impact.
  • Enable government to exercise stronger leadership to align the RSI system with transformative opportunities and industries that do not yet exist.

We will:

  • Develop a system of National Research Priorities that will provide clear direction from government, reduce fragmentation, and promote collaboration over unproductive competition.
  • Honour Te Tiriti o Waitangi and support Māori aspirations through the inclusion of Māori-focused and Māori-led Priorities.
  • Enable government to direct a critical mass of RSI resources towards the most important challenges and opportunities for Aotearoa’s social, environmental, and economic wellbeing (that research can address), and facilitate researchers to address the challenges within them.
  • Create impact through mission focus and strengthened connection and engagement between government, researchers, industry, iwi and Māori leaders, end users and communities.
  • Establish a funding mechanism to proactively invest in the determined priority research areas, which will also support networks of collaboration and capability for those areas across the system.

Policy Direction 1.2: Accelerate innovation, diversify and scale up impact

Design for and incentivise collaboration, connectivity and knowledge exchange between research organisations, end-users, health agencies, social enterprise and government to accelerate innovation and generate greater social, economic, community and environmental impact from research, including increased commercialisation and industry transformation.

Research-led and research-intensive innovation relies on ideas, data, people and technology circulating between universities, public research institutes and research users. Such exchanges are interactive, collaborative and not linear. The seamless mobilisation of knowledge between research organisations, research partners, next-users and end-users is key to ensuring our RSI system can innovate and enable outcomes and impact for New Zealand and internationally. Researchers undertake many activities to ensure that the knowledge they generate can be used for the benefit of the economy and society. Research next-users and end users may include policy makers, practitioners (public, private, NGOs), communities, and other researchers (working on other projects and at other institutions). The increasing use of digital systems within research and the wider economy has a significant role to play in dynamically bringing together these diverse stakeholders.

One route to research impact is through the private sector, which plays an important role in research and development (R&D) because it translates and mobilises new knowledge for end-users through the process of innovation and commercialisation.

Policies are already in place to accelerate innovation from research and to increase business expenditure on research and development. The effects of current policies can be seen in the growing involvement of industry and business in the RSI system. Business expenditure on R&D has increased substantially from $971 Million in 2010 to $2,709 Million in 2020, with an 18 per cent increase relative to GDP between 2019 and 2021 alone[27]. Business expenditure has also been the primary contribution to increases in overall investment in R&D in New Zealand[28].  

However, more is needed to deliver transformative change. Public and private R&D expenditure rates remain among the lowest in the OECD. This low investment in R&D is a key contributor to New Zealand’s poor productivity performance. It is estimated to account for up to 40 per-cent of our productivity gap[29].

More targeted support and incentives are needed to increase the free flow of ideas between the public RSI system and the private sector to maximise the impact that can be generated from research.  At the same time, we expect the private sector to commensurably spend more on R&D as the benefits of commercialisation increasingly accrue to businesses and industry. This ensures government maintains an appropriate role as enabler and investor proportionate to the impact of research being publicly shared or captured by the private sector.

While there are pockets of excellence within the system where the generation of impact from research and collaboration with existing industries works well, we need this to be happening more broadly and consistently. We need system settings that incentivise and enable impact generation from research across the whole RSI system.

To achieve this, we must build on initiatives already underway and address incentives in a more systemic way. We will consider where the public sector can be more effective, especially in how it connects and collaborates with industry, to better support the change that is to be accelerated by the reforms.

We expect transformative change will require:

  • Support for new and leading innovation from research – meeting the cost of shifting to a more open system of knowledge exchange, mobilisation and uptake that would benefit New Zealand at a much greater order.
  • Deliberate investment in focused innovation systems through National Research Priorities – to enable high-potential areas of the economy to transform and scale up and drive the diversification of our economy, including through the adoption and uptake of global innovation and increasing digitalisation.
  • Support for future industries and revolutionary innovation – to embrace disruptive innovations of the future, which are driven by new technologies and increasing digitalisation, and support new entrants who promote the emergence of new areas of capability and novel technological capabilities that help us prepare for the future.

The reforms will need to speak to, and be supported by, wider government efforts, such as the Industry Transformation Plans (ITPs) and the Digital Strategy for Aotearoa. ITPs are a mechanism by which government and industry partner to drive transformation in key sectors of the economy. They may involve shifting an existing industry to higher value; shifting the performance of large and interconnected industries; or scaling up high potential industries to be a larger part of our future economy. The ITP Programme specifically recognises the importance of coordination between the RSI system and the individual ITPs. The National Research Priorities will be instrumental in enabling the intensity of research required in individual focus areas to support sustained growth[30].

We will:

  • Promote knowledge mobilisation to accelerate innovation, by incentivising transdisciplinary research teams (drawing expertise from CRIs, Universities and research partners, like the health and environmental sectors, and leveraging new digital and data tools) to intentionally plan and deliberately resource the impact pathway from idea to impact. Collaborating beyond institutional boundaries drives the innovation needed to address large complex challenges, and planning to meet the needs of next-users and end-users from the outset maximises research impact.
  • Grow existing connections between research, industry and other end-users to help take research through to impact for example, by better leveraging existing entities and networks (e.g., Product Accelerator, HealthTech Activator and KiwiNet), and designing for new ones, drawing from the RSI sector’s wide range of partners and stakeholders.
  • Increase the mobility of the RSI workforce so that knowledge and skills more readily transfer between research institutions and end-users, enabled by support for a broader range of careers, including higher workforce mobility with industry more broadly. For example, careers in commercialisation could be enabled by supporting researchers to take sabbaticals from research for the purpose of working in industry, and then enable them to return to their research careers. This includes refreshing what is recognised and valued in research career pathways, including recognising the increasing digitalisation of research.
  • Establish new ways to develop and deliberately invest in focused innovation systems around areas of the economy with rich potential for innovation and scale, and to address challenges for the benefit of New Zealand industry and society, for example, by leveraging National Research Priorities.
  • Better utilise our knowledge assets by creating more open intellectual property and technology settings in RSI institutions that reduce barriers to impact generation.
  • Increase public expenditure on R&D beyond historic rates to better match business-led R&D expenditure increases and improve our absorptive capacity of overseas-generated knowledge.

Policy Direction 1.3: Grow global connectivity

Facilitate and foster global connectivity and purposeful international partnerships to enhance our ability to take onboard new innovations, attract overseas investment and establish routes to international markets.

Our RSI system is situated within the context of the wider, global science system. New Zealand is more often than not a knowledge follower, rather than a leader, and therefore reliant on adoption of knowledge from overseas and diffusion of global technology and digitalisation trends.

Importing knowledge critically depends on our ability to understand knowledge, adapt it, apply it and spread it. Mobilising knowledge to innovate in a global context also means collaborating internationally to create and utilise knowledge and transfer our own domestically generated technologies, products and services globally. As we move to a high-wage, low-emissions economy, digital ways of collaborating and connecting will have an increasing role to play.

While our RSI system is already well connected and respected globally, we need to build on this through more favourable funding and institutional settings that better support how knowledge is transferred and mobilised to innovate at an international scale. This will enable our researchers, innovators and institutions to engage with the world’s best and take advantage of international opportunities. Growing our global connectivity will result in more global recognition of our research and researchers, enhanced access to international research infrastructure, and increased international funding.

A key step will be completing New Zealand’s association with Horizon Europe. Pillar Two of Horizon focuses on Clusters and Missions that closely align with the National Research Priorities framework and Association will represent a meaningful investment in the international research cooperation necessary to optimise delivery and impact of the Priorities.

We will:

  • Better facilitate global cooperation and collaboration through more favourable funding settings that make it easier for researchers to make use of overseas funding and resources.
  • Complete Association with Horizon Europe Under the terms of Association, New Zealand research organisations (including businesses conducting research) will be able to bid for and receive Horizon Europe funding on essentially the same terms as their European counterparts. They will be able to lead research programmes and retain possession of the intellectual property they bring to, and create within, their collaborative projects.
  • Provide more proactive government leadership through National Research Priorities in creating opportunities for global cooperation, accessing multi-national/global research infrastructures and participating in global research communities at more optimal scale.

Embedding Te Tiriti

The RSI system embeds Te Tiriti o Waitangi in its design.

Each objective of Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways, and therefore each chapter in Part II of this White Paper, contributes to our commitment to affirm and embed Te Tiriti in the design of the RSI system, support Māori aspirations and improve the lives of Māori and all New Zealanders through our investments in RSI and mātauranga Māori. This chapter focuses on the system-wide policy directions and actions we will take to deliver this transformative change.

Embedding Te Tiriti is vital to ensuring that the system is more responsive to the interests and values of Māori across the country. Te Ara Paerangi acknowledges and responds to a strong call from across the sector to better honour Te Tiriti obligations and opportunities, and address marginalisation of Māori by the RSI system.

Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways seeks to place Te Tiriti o Waitangi at the centre of the reform process to build an RSI system that provides equitable opportunities for Māori to pursue their values and interests. Through this reform, we will strengthen the role of Māori and increase Māori representation and capability across the RSI system; support kaitiaki to protect and develop mātauranga Māori; and improve outcomes for Māori achieved through the RSI system.

An RSI system that affirms and embeds Te Tiriti would mark a step change in honouring Te Tiriti obligations that would support Māori within the RSI system and be more responsive to the needs and values of Māori across the country.

Full description in accordion text below

Policy Direction 2.1: Advancing Māori Aspirations in the RSI system

Reflect partnership at all levels and invest in growing Māori researcher capacity.

Te Tiriti o Waitangi envisages equal rights will be afforded to all New Zealanders, yet reports convey that Māori are often marginalised or excluded from governance and decision-making in the public research system. Overwhelmingly, Māori respondents to the Green Paper advocated for greater Māori representation in governance of the RSI sector.  In addition, the system must provide for Māori to exercise tino rangatiratanga over taonga Māori including mātauranga Māori.

Removing barriers to entry and advancement and reforming the funding system to address the low proportion of funds that directly support Māori researchers will increase Māori representation in the RSI system. These actions will have a long-term impact on the ability of system to meet the interests and aspirations of Māori communities.

We will:

  • Increase the proportion of research funding directly supporting Māori aspirations by creating new funds or ring-fencing portions of existing funding.
  • Ensure appropriate Māori representation at all levels so that the RSI system better reflects Māori values and tikanga.
  • Include Māori-led Priorities in National Research Priorities to grow Māori-led RSI (see policy direction 1.2), and increase connection and value for Māori, iwi and hapū.

Policy Direction 2.2: Investing in mātauranga Māori, Māori knowledge

Invest in mātauranga Māori as a key part of the RSI knowledge ecosystem.

Mātauranga Māori is a knowledge base that is distinctive to Aotearoa New Zealand’s and of great importance to Māori and Māori wellbeing.

Te Tiriti underpins a commitment that Māori aspirations in research science and innovation be equitably accommodated[31]. The knowledge and tools to enable those aspirations are a key to realising this commitment. Submissions on the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways Green Paper have called for a Māori-led, government-enabled platform that will bring together mātauranga Māori expertise in RSI and deliver to matters of Māori RSI interests in mātauranga Māori. The design of such a platform would depend on its function. We propose to support Māori to consider the form, function and design of such a platform.

Further, Te Pūtahitanga[32] and other reports have sought stronger investment of research system resources to meet the interests and RSI potential in the regions. This was reinforced in Green Paper submissions. Māori submissions overwhelmingly supported the establishment of research platforms that centre the regions and strengthen the research activities and outcomes in regions where mātauranga Māori is practiced and where mātauranga Māori experts and practitioners live and work. These regional platforms would allow Māori across the motu to draw on local knowledge, as well as link to national and international expertise, and ensure the benefits flow back to the communities from which that knowledge and research was sourced.

Mātauranga Māori is also a taonga Māori, which means that the Government has obligations of active protection under Te Tiriti[33]. Explicit tools are needed to ensure the right approaches are available for Māori to exercise the appropriate protections of mātauranga Māori in RSI, where these rights exist. These will be explored and developed as a part of Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways.

We will:

  • Partner with Māori to explore development of a dedicated platform for mātauranga Māori expertise in RSI.
  • Support the stronger deployment of RSI system resources to the regions, potentially through supporting Māori to establish regional research platforms or through leveraging improvements in digital connectivity, with appropriate recognition and engagement with existing regional knowledge platforms, such as marae and whare wānanga.
  • Encourage and support RSI institutions to develop standards and guidelines to ensure researchers have the competency to engage with Māori and te ao Māori, and vice versa.

Policy Direction 2.3: Crown to lead by example

MBIE and Crown-funded RSI institutions must lead by example in honouring Tiriti obligations and giving life to Tiriti opportunities.

In its role, as a partner to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, the Crown needs to take the lead in driving change across the RSI system, particularly in our RSI institutions. As part of this change, we must embed Tiriti obligations and opportunities throughout our institutions who are at the interface of RSI with our communities.

As a first step we want to develop a statement outlining our obligations, expectations and aspirations for Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the RSI system. Such a statement will provide a high-level indication and signal of intent to the RSI sector as to how we can honour our Tiriti obligations and opportunities in the context of Te Ara Paerangi - Future Pathways.

We expect such a statement will clearly set out how government intends to support and embed Te Tiriti in a future RSI system. The statement would guide for example, MBIE in its role as a steward, funder and administrator of RSI. This statement will guide and inform how Te Tiriti may be recognised in any new RSI legislation.

We will:

  • Publish a Tiriti Statement that outlines how MBIE will honour Tiriti obligations and give life to Tiriti opportunities.
  • Lift the capability of Crown employees to engage with and partner with Māori.

Valuing Our People

The RSI system attracts, retains and develops an excellent and diverse workforce at all levels.

Our people are our greatest asset. 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 therefore ensure that we have the systems, structures and culture in place to attract, retain and develop great people. In an internationally competitive market for research talent, we need to be more intentional in how we develop the strengths and capabilities of our people to ensure that our RSI system is at the global frontier, now and into the future.

We must value the essential professional skills of our researchers, recognise the capabilities that are transferrable across disciplines and expand our view of excellence to recognise the diversity and impact of Aotearoa’s knowledge systems. This includes initiatives to support our Māori and Pacific researchers and Māori and Pacific knowledge systems (see policy directions 2.1. 2.2), consideration of a broader recognition of skills and excellence (policy direction 4.4), and good workforce outcomes (policy direction 4.3).

Achieving these objectives will require partnerships between government, RSI employers, the RSI workforce and our communities.

Through Te Ara Paerangi we will empower and support our RSI workforce to make the greatest possible contribution to the economic, social and environmental wellbeing of New Zealand and all New Zealanders.

Full description in accordion text below

Policy Direction 3.1: Attract, develop, and retain talented people

The New Zealand RSI system provides diverse, fulfilling and stable career pathways.

The success of New Zealand’s RSI system depends on its people and its ability to develop, attract and retain the best talent. Our ability to do so is critical to the performance and sustainability of our RSI system.

We must therefore act to increase opportunities for diverse and fulfilling career pathways, improve workforce wellbeing, and address presenting issues such as career precarity. We will begin by expanding people-focused initiatives such as fellowships and schemes to attract and build connections with international researchers.

However, we recognise that these initiatives will have an important but limited reach and we also need to address systemic causes of precarity. The wider initiatives in the reform, which will invest in National Research Priorities, grow connections with users such as industry and communities, and create long term funding for public good service functions and national infrastructure, will provide better incentives for long-term employment in many areas. Reducing workforce precarity and creating opportunities for researchers to move between institutions will also be a key consideration for the design of funding and institutional settings, including the National Research Priorities.

Our future research workforce needs improved opportunities to be prepared for a broad range of possible careers in addition to academia, including technical, private sector, community-led and entrepreneurial occupations. Doing so will expand career opportunities, support our organisations in accessing the skills they need, and reduce the risk of staff becoming trapped in precarious positions. This will include development and retraining in response to new opportunities and skill requirements, particularly those necessary to operate in our increasingly digital world.

We will:

  • Expand fellowship schemes to support leading talent, to reduce precarity, improve equity and diversity and strengthen pathways through the public research system.
  • Address settings in the funding system that disincentivise permanent or longer-term employment contracts to reduce contract 'churn' and so improve workforce productivity.
  • Establish clear capability development expectations within the design of the upcoming National Research Priorities. The Priorities will also serve as connection hubs, both physical and digital, to better enable partnerships between people from different parts of the RSI system.
  • Expand support for training our people and access to development opportunities for a broader range of research careers through programmes such as as applied training schemes (e.g applied or industry PhDs) and support for cross-sector partnerships (such as co-location).
  • Co-ordinate international talent attraction schemes to strengthen links between New Zealand and world leading knowledge and incentivise returning New Zealanders.

Policy Direction 3.2: Supporting diversity at all levels

The workforce is representative of and embraces Aotearoa New Zealand’s diversity.

The RSI workforce must reflect and respect the diversity of New Zealand. The diversity, equity and inclusiveness of our workforce is vital to a thriving RSI system that contributes to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. A lack of these characteristics risks homogeneity, stifles creativity and has a tendency toward the status quo.

We must therefore recognise and support the breadth of skills needed for the RSI system to succeed. We rely not only on our researchers, but also the technicians, project managers, administrators and people in many other skilled roles, who all work together to create new knowledge, understanding, and applications.

We must also be ambitious in our efforts to eliminate barriers to entry or advancement for women, Māori, Pacific Peoples, ethnic communities, disabled people, and members of LGBTQI+ communities.

We will:

  • Grow representation of women, Māori and Pacific Peoples, particularly for senior staff and management roles in public research organisations and tertiary education organisations.
  • Introduce dedicated fellowships for Māori and Pacific Peoples to reduce underrepresentation in the RSI system.
  • Review funding assessment processes to better recognise the diversity of skills needed for research success, through measures such as narrative CVs.

Policy Direction 3.3: Empowering Pacific Peoples

Invest in research, science and innovation by and for Pacific Peoples in New Zealand and across the Pacific.

There are many different Pacific Peoples in Aotearoa and across Te Moana Nui a Kiwa (the Pacific Ocean), who all have varied relationships with New Zealand and our RSI system. Our special relationship with Pacific Peoples in New Zealand and across the Pacific region is underpinned by policy and legislative commitments, particularly with Realm Entities and Samoa. Furthermore, Pacific Peoples also have whanaunga relationships to Māori.

New Zealand supports research, science and innovation from Pacific Peoples in New Zealand and further across the Pacific region. We have a considerable RSI footprint in the region (our CRIs have participated in over 100 projects across Pacific nations since 2018) and should be more intentional in how we promote the development of people and skills in the Pacific, including mobility between New Zealand and other Pacific nations for training or collaboration.

Pacific researchers are well positioned to lead and extend research into our Pacific communities in New Zealand and across the Pacific region. There are many different knowledges held by and within these Pacific communities, which can enrich Pacific communities and the knowledge base and innovative potential of the RSI system. While Pacific Peoples will benefit from wider access to the RSI system, the RSI system will also benefit from Pacific Peoples’ increased involvement, through respectful access to Pacific knowledges of the moana that may be more regionally relevant and specific than other knowledges that are more embedded in the RSI system.

This potential is limited by the severe underrepresentation of Pacific Peoples in the RSI sector. According to the Workforce Survey of Individuals there are only 40 Pacific Peoples across all the CRIs. We have also heard through consultation that Pacific Peoples are also underrepresented as system- and end-users of research and do not have equitable access to the system.

Our talanoa with Pacific researchers and research users identified key shifts for Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways to ensure the RSI system lifts the wellbeing of our Pacific communities:

  • increase the visibility of, and the integration of Pacific researchers and research-users into the RSI system
  • rethink how Pacific research excellence is defined and celebrated
  • apply a Pacific lens to how research impact is acknowledged and celebrated
  • genuinely integrate Pacific methodologies, research practices and cultural protocols in the RSI system
  • grow the Pacific research pipeline and support Pacific researchers within the RSI system
  • recognise the value and contribution of Pacific communities to the RSI system
  • design research funding models to grow, enable and advance the Pacific research workforce
  • explore new opportunities for a Pacific-led function of the RSI system
  • commit resource to ongoing and regular engagement with Pacific researchers and research users.

We will:

  • Work across government and with Pacific researchers to design a definition and framework for ‘Pacific research’ and ‘Pacific research excellence’
  • Grow sustainable pathways for Pacific People across the RSI workforce through funding of Pacific Research fellowships and supporting access to workforce development opportunities
  • Lift the capability to Crown employees to engage with Pacific Peoples and apply a Pacific lens to policy development, including through regular engagement with Pacific researchers and communities. Enhancing this capacity will enable more intentional and mutually beneficial engagement with Pacific communities and build links for collaboration, domestically and across the Pacific region.

Building System Agility

A sustainable, resilient and cohesive RSI system that adapts to new challenges and opportunities.

The Government has indicated its intention to grow Research and Development to two per cent of GDP. Increased funding, especially to priority areas, will enable more effective delivery across the RSI system, enabling it to compete globally in areas of strength, improving career opportunities for researchers, and ensuring delivery of essential functions and research infrastructure. However, increased funding alone is inadequate to ensure that the institutions and funding mechanisms will meet future requirements. We also need to invest in new capabilities and public research organisations that will accelerate emerging knowledge and technology-driven sectors.

To deliver its vision, Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways will tackle pain points in the system that hinder the effectiveness of New Zealand’s RSI system. The reform will address governance, systems and institutions so that the sector can deliver relevant, excellent, transformative research in the medium to long-term.

Full description in accordion text below

Policy Direction 4.1: Clarify roles and responsibilities

Effective governance and ownership mechanisms release greater value from government investment in research, science and innovation.

The RSI system is characterised by a plethora of governance mechanisms and priorities that are at times contradictory and confusing. This complexity means that the system struggles to gain traction to respond to new and emerging needs and priorities. At the same time, some public good science functions are not sustainably funded, because responsibilities for funding and ongoing development are dispersed or unclear.

Research and public good science services such as environmental and natural hazard monitoring, biosecurity capability and forensic services are key enablers of the functions of government through the generation of knowledge and innovation to inform policy and through contributions to regulatory systems. Ensuring that the system continues to deliver public good science services that support the regulatory and monitoring functions of government is therefore vital.

To deliver the vision we must enhance government levers to steward and set direction for the system while enabling expert input at the points where this can most benefit the quality and impact of RSI investment and funding. The reform will clarify roles and responsibilities and streamline governance and funding arrangements across the system. The National Research Priorities will provide a single co-ordinating mechanism for mission-oriented research, while investigator-led research will continue to be funded through Endeavour, Marsden and Health Research Council funding (See Overview of Changes to the System). Together these changes will provide more coherent signals to support institutions to make medium to long-term investments in staff and capability.

We want responsibility for public good science services, applied research and end-user-initiated research to sit with the entity best placed to commission it and support its uptake, and to make decisions about resource trade-offs – in some cases this will be sector-oriented government agencies.

These changes will ensure that ongoing investment in research programmes, infrastructure and institutions is clearly linked to cross-government goals and priorities for the RSI system.

We will:

  • Clarify the roles of government agencies in owning and funding some public good RSI functions and applied research. Some sectors and agencies require public good research and science related services to meet their enduring regulatory and strategic policy requirements. Ensuring the ongoing provision of such services will be best served through expert engagement in the commissioning and funding of these important services.
  • Locate functions that currently sit in government entities where they will be most effective and most efficiently managed.
  • We expect to see:
  • An expanded role for a range of government agencies in funding science services and applied research, especially where there is strong alignment to agency goals and expertise. This will mean closer links between policy agencies and research institutions.
  • Long-term stable funding for public good science services and related infrastructures. This will mean:
    • An ongoing role for central co-ordination of public good functions that have multiple users and beneficiaries. This will ensure that science functions that are used widely are co-ordinated and deliver the best value and outcomes for everyone needing them.
    • Clarity of ownership and clearer signals from government agencies about requirements for critical research functions, high priority scientific services and national databases and collections, and measurement and monitoring services. This will support the ongoing capability building connected to these functions, including workforce planning and basic science research investments.
  • More effective and nuanced expressions of Te Tiriti partnership in the oversight and prioritisation of research, science and innovation resources and services.

Policy Direction 4.2: Co-ordinating investment in future-oriented infrastructure

Supporting future capabilities with national investment in cross-cutting infrastructure.

A more consistent and coherent approach to priority setting and strategic planning will be supported by a coordinated approach to investment in long-term and cross-connecting infrastructure, both physical and digital, that will support capacity and connectivity across the system. This includes making sure that researchers have access to the digital technologies and capabilities that underpin a modern data-rich research sector. Coordinated research infrastructure investment also offers the opportunity for greater connectivity across the system, creating natural hubs of activity and knowledge exchange and capability building.

A portfolio of complementary funding mechanisms offers the opportunity to shift incentives in the funding system to ensure that medium to long-term horizons and system benefits inform institutional research strategies without compromising organisational autonomy. Having a sufficiently stable funding horizon can also de-risk investments in high-risk high-potential research and encourage strategic workforce planning.

We will:

  • Develop a system-wide infrastructure roadmap to coordinate investment and, where appropriate, consolidate infrastructure ownership, to better reflect user requirements and enhance visibility and access for the entire sector. The roadmap will complement the existing Kitmap initiative that will provide information to the sector about significant pieces of kit located within research institutions.
  • Consider opportunities for consolidation of building investments to support co-location of functions where this offers synergies that will enhance collaboration and the quality and effectiveness of public investment.
  • Shift the mix and scale of funding mechanisms towards more long-term funding approaches aimed at growing capability and addressing long-term challenges.
  • Establish long-term funding envelopes for public good science services to ensure ongoing planning and resourcing for services that are required for government regulatory and monitoring functions.

Policy Direction 4.3: Designing resilient and adaptable public research organisations

Our public research organisations have the scope and scale to respond and adapt to new and emerging challenges.

To be responsive to evolving priorities and opportunities, while remaining financial sustainable, our research organisations require the scale and scope to redirect their resources, adapt and invest in new areas of scientific endeavour and pursue new opportunities while maintaining core capabilities and public good service functions. Within these parameters we want our public research organisations to provide viable and exciting opportunities for a diverse workforce.

The Government will consider what institutional reform may be required to deliver greater impact and enhance capabilities across the system. Our public research organisations will continue to have an important role to play in the research landscape, distinct from that of universities.

Our public research organisations need to:

  • be more responsive to government priorities and funding signals
  • deliver enhanced knowledge mobilisation and impact from RSI activities, that reaches beyond the current areas of strength to new and emerging sectors
  • undertake stable, high quality and transparent delivery of core government public good functions and services
  • create greater exchange of ideas and workforce to help cross-seed innovative thinking and technical expertise
  • strengthen international connections beyond current areas of strength
  • increase capability to engage with emerging sectors, industry, and communities
  • be financially resilient and able to plan for medium to long term horizons
  • support movement of the workforce between institutions and between research institutions and industry to strengthen knowledge mobilisation.
  • attract, develop, and support a diverse and skilled workforce
  • confidently engage and partner with Māori and Pacific communities and researchers.

We will:

  • Consider institutional reforms to ensure that our public research organisations have the scope and scale to adapt to emerging priorities and better contribute to the wellbeing of diverse communities for current and future generations. In particular we want to look at how to encourage collaborative and multidisciplinary research within and across institutional boundaries, and how different operating models (including the removal of the Company model of operations) might support delivery of public good research and services.
  • grow the capacity of our public research organisations through increased funding aligned closely to National Research Priorities and the delivery of public good science services.
  • strengthen the requirements on our institutions to support good workforce outcomes and affirm and embed Te Tiriti into institutional practice.
  • ensure that our public research organisations are resourced to deliver the public good services that we require from them. This will mean ensuring a clear distinction between activity taking place towards the public good, which should not attract commercial revenue, and private or industry good activity, which should be supported with appropriate funding from the private sector.
  • work closely with the sector through any changes to ensure our workforce are supported and to carefully manage the continuity of our important research and science activities.

Policy Direction 4.4: Funding mechanisms that support system goals

A balanced portfolio of complementary funding mechanisms enhances system performance.

Funding is a major source of concern for both institutions and researchers.

Widespread dissatisfaction with the funding system, including how funding decisions are made, was expressed through the Green Paper submissions. These identified concerns with the overall level of funding and the impact of the current system of funding for career precarity, as a source of reduced productivity and unnecessary stress due to uncertainties created by the ongoing requirement to compete for small buckets of relatively short-term money.  Addressing concerns about the funding system cannot be done in isolation from reforms to address institutional agility and initiatives to attract, develop and grow a diverse workforce.

We also need to respond to international trends, such as the Declaration on Research Assessment, that are moving away from funding settings that incentivise bibliometric measures of research excellence at the expense of other vital activities such as knowledge exchange, patenting and commercialisation, and community engagement.

We have indicated already that the reforms will direct funding to:

  • support the Government’s goal to increase overall investment in research and development to 2% of GDP by 2030
  • increase research funding directly supporting Māori aspirations
  • direct investment in mission-led research using National Research Priorities
  • co-ordinate investment in national research infrastructure
  • increase emphasis on people-focused funding and support career transitions and mobility
  • grow international connectivity and attract international talent
  • fund the public good science services and critical infrastructure permanently whilst retaining the contestability of great ideas.

The programme of change will also address settings in funding mechanisms to:

  • Enhance the operation of funding contests to reduce transaction costs and unhelpful competition whilst retaining the ability to invest in the best novel, high risk or investigator-led research.
  • Consider options to fund participation in international funding competitions to improve access to these for New Zealand researchers.
  • Continue to support excellent research, ensuring that the settings provide opportunities for our new and mid-career researchers to successfully compete for research funding.
  • Encourage investment in workforce development and reduce career precarity.
  • Introduce, where appropriate new funding approaches to support the wider goals of the reform, such as stable long-term funding for public good science services.
  • Improve transparency of overhead funding and expenses to address information asymmetry between researchers, institutions, and funders about the cost of research and the use of government funds.
  • Consider modes of assessment and funding that place less weight on bibliometric measures of research excellence.
  • Consider the implications of Te Ara Paerangi for the Performance Based Research Fund (PBRF).

We expect to see:

  • Increased investment in areas that are vital to New Zealand’s economic, social, and environmental wellbeing.
  • Settings within our funding mechanisms that give greater weight to workforce development, employment conditions and diversity.
  • Changes to the way funding contests operate to reduce unhelpful competition and administrative burden, which may include novel approaches to funding allocations.
  • New approaches to support New Zealand’s competitiveness in international research funding contests.


[27] R&D Survey, Stats NZ, 2021

[28] Ibid

[29] An International Perspective on the New Zealand Productivity Paradox, New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2014

[30] New Zealand firms: Reaching for the frontier, New Zealand Productivity Commission, 2021

[31] As outlined in Cabinet Office Guidance (CO (19) 5) Te Tiriti o Waitangi Guidance. This relates to Article three of Te Tiriti which simply refers that – the Crown promises that its obligations to New Zealand citizens are owed equally to Māori

[32] Te Pūtahitanga A Tiriti–led Science-Policy Approach for Aotearoa New Zealand(external link), Kuktai, Tahu et al., 2021

[33] As outlined in Cabinet Office Guidance (CO (19) 5) Te Tiriti o Waitangi Guidance. This relates to Article two of Te Tiriti which simply refers that – the Crown promises that Māori will have the right to make decisions over resources and taonga which they wish to retain.