Regional Research Institutes Initiative background

In Budget 2015, the Government committed up to $25 million over 3 years to support the establishment of new privately-led Regional Research Institutes.

The purpose of this funding was to maximise the unique business, technology and economic growth opportunities by establishing research centres that helped build research and development intensity and lifted innovation in key regional industries.

In Budget 2016, the Government provided an additional $40 million to support the initiative, bringing the total funding to $65 million.

The government policy areas that drove this initiative were:

  • deepening our knowledge-based capital, and widening its impact, is critical for growth;
  • directing knowledge-based capital into the regions can improve their competitiveness;
  • industry-led institutes can meet unique needs and lift business innovation in regions.

The application and assessment process

The RRI initiative started with a series of workshops held around New Zealand in September and October 2015 to introduce the new programme.

We issued Calls for Proposals in 2015 and 2016  for the establishment of new regional research institutes. Applications had to respond to the following high-level criteria:

  • Eligible regions for hosting an institute are only those outside the main population centres of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.
  • New institutes must be established and maintained as private or private not-for-profit organisations with their own independent governance arrangements.
  • New institutes must perform relevant research in support of industry-led efforts to increase their R&D intensity.
  • New institutes should congregate and develop their own ‘in-house’ expertise, but are also expected to facilitate and integrate researchers from other NZ institutions, or from overseas, into their mix of activity.
  • New institutes are expected to bring new research activity into the regions whilst meeting industry demand in their host region and possibly across several regions due to the nature of their industry engagement.
  • Proposals for establishing (a) new institute(s) must make a clear business case that demonstrates ongoing financial sustainability beyond initial government support.

First call for proposals round

In 2015, we issued the first Call for Proposals. We received 24 concept proposals and after an evaluation process, a shortlist of applicants was invited into further business case development with us in April 2016. From this round, the 2 applications approved for funding were:

  • The Centre for Space Science Technology based in Central Otago (now known as Xerra Earth Observation Institute)
  • The New Zealand Research Institute of Viticulture and Oenology (now known as The New Zealand Winegrowers Research Centre) based in Marlborough.

Second call for proposals round

In 2016, we issued a second Call for Proposals which resulted in the establishment of 2 more institutes in 2017:

  • The New Zealand Institute for Minerals to Materials Research based the West Coast
  • The New Zealand Institute for Technology and Innovation in Premium Plant-based Value Chains (now known as PlantTech Research Institute) based in the Western Bay of Plenty.

The evaluation panel

The evaluation panels for the RRI initiative represented a range of expertise and experience across areas of science and research, technology, commercialisation, business, and economic development. Evaluation panel members included:

  • Dr Peter Crabtree (Chair), General Manager, Science, Innovation and International, Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (2016 and 2017)
  • Dr Tricia Harris, Consultant, New Zealand (2016 and 2017)
  • Tom Greally, Consultant, New Zealand (2016 and 2017)
  • Oren Gershtein, CEO, IdealityRoads Ltd., Israel (2016)
  • John D Grew, Managing Director, The BioAdvisory Group Pty Ltd, Australia (2017).