Catalyst: Strategic – New Zealand-China joint research partnerships 2020/2021

MBIE has announced the two successful proposals for the 2020/21 Catalyst: Strategic investment under the New Zealand–China Strategic Research Alliance.

About the Programme

The New Zealand – China Strategic Research Alliance (SRA) is an annual joint funding programme that helps to facilitate bilateral science, research and innovation collaborations between New Zealand and Chinese research organisations. It is a bilateral initiative with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology (MOST).

MBIE supports two joint research projects each year, one each in the bilateral priority areas of Food Science and Environmental Science. New Zealand research teams were able to apply for up to $300,000 (excluding GST) over three years, with their Chinese partners applying for their own funding through MOST.

Funded projects

Lead NZ organisation Project title
Massey University Packing a punch: Combining sustainability and nutrition in quinoa protein meat-analogues
The National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Deep-Sea biodiversity in the western Pacific Ocean: implications for managing human activities

The Health Research Council administers a separate Call for Proposals under the New Zealand-China SRA, on behalf of MBIE, in the third priority area of Health and Biomedical Science. The successful project has been announced on their website:

Public statements of funded projects

Packing a punch: Combining sustainability and nutrition in quinoa protein meat analogues

The global human population is expected to grow by a billion within the decade, reaching 10 billion by 2050. To ensure food security around the globe, agricultural practices need to change to produce food with lower environmental impact, less ethical concerns and with greater health benefits. The rise in consumer preference for plant-based meat analogues has fuelled the innovation of meat-analogues that have similar taste and texture to animal derived meat products e.g., meat-analogue burger patties from Beyond Meat and the Impossible Burger.

However, the nutritional quality of meat-analogues has received less attention. Compared to animal proteins, plant proteins lack specific essential amino acids and the process of turning them into analogue products can impact their digestibility and negatively impact the nutritional properties of the product.

The research team, a collaboration from Massey University and China Agricultural University, are experts in how processing of proteins affects their digestion and bioavailability. Together, they will develop a new generation meat-analogue from quinoa, a high-quality plant protein that delivers superior nutrition.

Quinoa is a native South American, seed-producing pseudo-cereal that can grow in many varieties of soils and is able to tolerate extremes of temperature and drought conditions. Quinoa seeds are relatively high in good quality protein (15%), fibre and minerals compared to other cereals; and contain all the essential amino acids in amounts sufficient to meet the needs of children and adults.

This research into the development of high-value novel products from quinoa will yield exciting opportunities for NZ growers and deliver superior nutritional options for the health conscious.

Deep-Sea biodiversity in the western Pacific Ocean: implications for managing human activities

The deep sea is a poorly studied environment but is recognised as vitally important for the productivity and sustainability of ocean ecosystems. New Zealand has been a world-leader in deep-sea research for many years, driven by the need to understand and manage our offshore fisheries and future effects of climate change. This expertise has led to recent links with Chinese research agencies to help develop their deep-sea science capability through several workshops and opportunistic exchange visits of scientists. Now, however, China has undertaken a number of deep-sea surveys in the central West Pacific Ocean, and this enables these linkages to develop to a more strategic and enduring level of collaboration through joint participation in research voyages, sharing of samples and data, and collaborative data collation and analysis to address major ecological questions and environmental management issues.

The Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (IOCAS) has undertaken deep-sea research on central Pacific seamounts which add to the more than 100 seamounts around New Zealand that have been surveyed by NIWA and partner agencies, especially those extending northwards along the Kermadec and Norfolk Ridges. This combined data set of seafloor images and direct specimen collection provides a rare opportunity to examine trends and patterns across large ocean-basin distances. Joint processing of seafloor images, consistent identification of fauna, and confirmation of species identification from specimens, will ensure a robust dataset for subsequent analyses of biodiversity.

New knowledge of the role of seamounts at regional scales has important international implications for understanding the distributions of biodiversity, its resilience and possible recovery if damaged by human activities and identifying areas that could be important for protection. Ultimately, outputs will improve the scientific knowledge base of deep-sea ecosystem structure and function, as well as be applicable to decision-making by environmental managers to reduce or mitigate environmental risk and balance exploitation and conservation.

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Last updated: 30 September 2022