National Science Challenges

The National Science Challenges were established in 2014 and aim to tackle the biggest science-based issues and opportunities facing New Zealand. The Challenges bring together the country’s top scientists to work collaboratively across disciplines, institutions and borders to achieve their objectives.


A core part of our Government’s investment in science, just over $680 million of funding over ten years, will be invested in the Challenges.

The 11 Challenges

A Better Start | E Tipu e Rea 

Ageing Well | Kia eke kairangi ki te taikaumātuatanga

Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities | Ko ngā wā kāinga hei whakamāhorahora

Healthier Lives - He Oranga Hauora

High-Value Nutrition | Ko Ngā Kai Whai Painga

New Zealand's Biological Heritage | Ngā Koiora Tuku Iho

Our Land and Water | Toitū te Whenua, Toiora te Wai

Resilience to Nature's Challenges | Kia manawaroa - Ngā Ākina o Te Ao Tūroa

Science for Technological Innovation | Kia kotahi mai - Te Ao Pūtaiao me Te Ao Hangarau

Sustainable Seas | Ko ngā moana whakauka

The Deep South | Te Kōmata o Te Tonga

Challenge principles

The Challenges represent a new way of funding research, with 5 key principles that make them unique:

  1. Mission-led
    Each Challenge is mission led and focuses research on achieving the Challenge objective and outcomes. Each research plan provides a credible impact pathway of research and related activities to achieve the outcome of the Challenge.
  2. Science Quality
    Each Challenge is dynamic and includes mechanisms to bring in new ideas, researchers, and research providers to refresh the Challenge. Each research plan involves identifying and selecting the best science to address the Challenge. Critical research capabilities including Mātauranga knowledge need to remain dynamic and must continue to be built and evolve to maximise outcomes for New Zealand.
  3. Best research team collaboration
    Each Challenge involves purposeful collaboration between researchers, across a number of research providers. Each Challenge is clearly linked with international research activity that supports the achievement of the Challenge.
  4. Stakeholder engagement & public participation
    Each Challenge involves public outreach and exhibits strong engagement between researchers and intended end users of the research activity, including, in some cases, obtaining investment from end users in the Challenge’s research.
  5. Māori involvement and mātauranga
    All Challenge research gives effect to the Vision Mātauranga policy.

How the Challenges are governed

Sound governance and management arrangements are required for all research activities and are particularly important for the Challenges since there are so many different organisations involved, requiring careful co-ordination of the various research activities and organisations involved.

Each Challenge has established a governance entity that is responsible for managing the delivery of the research and funding to address the Challenge research goals. This entity is accountable for the fulfilment of contractual and performance requirements as agreed with the Science Board.

Funding is devolved. Each Challenge has information on their governance structure and supported research on their websites.