Opportunity to host the Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) Development Platform

We're inviting proposals to Host a Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) Development Platform that will ensure New Zealand has well-connected and world-class research capability to strengthen the use and commercialisation of RNA technology.

About this hosting opportunity

The RNA Development Platform will be funded through the Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF) programmes. It's a 2-stage process:

  • Stage 1: an open contestable round to select and contract a Host organisation for the Platform.
  • Stage 2: a negotiated process for the selected Host to lead the development of a Platform Plan, guided by an Establishment Steering Group. 

The role of the Host for the RNA Development Platform will be to:

  • bring together all the relevant research and industry partners and their skills and expertise to coordinate the development of a Platform Plan
  • lead a consultation of priority setting that meets the needs of the sector
  • if successful, implement and manage the Platform with guidance from the Platform Steering Group
  • ensure the Platform Plan aligns with and will deliver on the Platform mission, aims, principles, and outcomes, for the funding term available.

Oversight of the development of the Platform Plan and delivery of the Platform

The Host selection, Platform development, and eventual Platform operation will be overseen at all steps by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) as contract managers and guided by the Platform Establishment Steering Group and then the Platform Steering Group. Both Steering Groups will be convened by and accountable to MBIE. The Host organisation will attend these meetings. The role of the Steering Groups will be governed by the Terms of Reference approved by MBIE. 

The primary role of the Platform Establishment Steering Group is to oversee the development of an integrated research programme coordinated by the Platform Host, which will form a Platform Plan. The Platform Establishment Steering Group will give advice and oversight to the Host and participating members.

The primary role of the Platform Steering Group is to oversee the implementation of the Platform Plan. The Platform Steering Group will give advice and oversight to the Host and participating members.

Funding available

The total funding available is $70 million (excluding GST) over 7 years. The funding will be split in the following way:

  • Establishment of a Platform Host and development of a Platform Plan up to $500,000 (excluding GST) in an up-front payment of the full amount on signing of the Establishment Investment Contract.
  • Delivery of the approved Platform Plan up to a maximum of $69.5 million (excluding GST). 

Who can apply

Applicants must meet the eligibility criteria below for their proposal to be assessed. Applicants who do not meet these criteria will be declined funding on eligibility grounds. 

The Host must:

  • be a New Zealand-based Research Organisation or a New Zealand-based legal entity representing a New Zealand-based Research Organisation
  • not benefit a Russian state institution (including but not limited to support for Russian military or security activity) or an organisation outside government that may be perceived as contributing to the war effort
  • not be a department of the public service as listed in Schedule 2 of the Public Service Act 2020(external link)
  • meet any applicable timing, formatting, system, or other similar administrative requirements outlined in this Call for Proposals for a Host
  • agree to the terms and conditions of the funding set out in the draft Funding Agreement for an establishment of a Platform Host. This agreement will be available before the closing date for proposals. Email SSIF.investment@mbie.govt.nz for more information.

How the funding can be used

The establishment investment contract funding (up to $500,000 excluding GST) will be used to develop an integrated research programme coordinated by the Platform Host, which will form a Platform Plan.

Platform Plan — what is fundable

  • Research programmes with a primary focus or outcome related to the development, commercialisation, or deployment of RNA technology.
  • Research concentrating on developing emerging ideas, leading to ideas that can be leveraged, with some allowance for generating new ideas.
  • Research aligned to current projects, and technological capability supported elsewhere in the system, creating complementary research.
  • Collaborative programmes involving the best of New Zealand’s expertise, well-linked to international best practice research.
  • A first point of contact for external parties, with coordination of services across the Platform network.
  • Building a pipeline of researchers able to take part in mission-oriented research, including opportunities for early-career researchers/Māori and Pasifika.
  • Supporting the pipeline of RNA research and technology development capability.
  • Research programmes targeting inequities in New Zealand and ensuring representation from a diverse set of New Zealand’s communities.
  • Costs directly related to the research programme, and for connecting with industry, end-users, and communities for impact.
  • Technology is a key factor in the Outcomes Framework — MBIE will discuss future capital expenditure needs with the Host. Capital expenditure may be funded on an exceptional case-by-case basis.
  • Some costs may be directed to innovation related activities, such as supporting in-part early-stage clinical trials.  

Platform Plan — what is not fundable

  • Implementing only existing research that is close to being put into use (for example, close to application in the health system or commercial products or services).
  • Research that is funded through other New Zealand funding mechanisms or agencies.
  • Research programmes focused outside the outcomes framework.
  • A large part of the research portfolio sourced and funded through contestable processes.
  • A network which only acts as contracts for service or as a Platform for hire.
  • Projects that do not develop the workforce and researchers’ ability to interact with key stakeholders.
  • Discrete, unconnected projects.
  • Research that could result in entrenching inequities.
  • Costs not directly related to the research programme. 
  • Full costs to translate a developed technology into a commercial opportunity, and other steps in translation where industry could fund the activity. 

About the RNA Development Platform

Mission of the Platform

The mission statement of the RNA Development Platform is ‘to ensure New Zealand has well-connected and world-class research capability to strengthen the use and commercialisation of Ribonucleic Acid (RNA) technology’.

Investment aims of the Platform

The RNA Development Platform aims to:

  • significantly lift New Zealand’s capabilities in the use, deployment, and development of RNA technologies
  • provide coordination of key services to make it easier to develop new vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostics using RNA
  • support delivery through to pilot scale manufacturing, develop new manufacturing technologies, and lower technology transfer barriers
  • build international research and development (R&D) and commercial partnerships
  • increase New Zealand’s resilience to infectious disease threats and build on investments the government has already made in support of the COVID-19 response.

We expect the RNA Development Platform to work towards the mission statement and investment aims, operating in line with the purpose of the Strategic Science Investment Fund. 

Read more about the Strategic Science Investment Fund

Principles of the Platform

We've developed a set of principles that you need to consider for your application as the Host and development of the Platform Plan. These principles are tied to the performance areas used for SSIF programme investments.

Strategic intent

  • Address key gaps and create a cooperative and coordinated pipeline of activity.
  • Focus on major challenges and opportunities in priority areas for New Zealand, including those areas important for Māori and New Zealand Pacific populations.
  • Build sufficient capability that should prove necessary in an epidemic.
  • Support a strategic approach to intellectual property (IP) and areas of opportunity that maximise benefits to New Zealand.

Impact

  • Ensure that New Zealand is internationally participating in and leading in the rapidly developing field of RNA.
  • Support the translation of inter-disciplinary world class research into commercial applications in New Zealand.
  • Ensure novel approaches using RNA technologies are developed, commercialised, and deployed which will add to current capability and outputs, including technologies aimed at areas that disproportionately affect our Māori and New Zealand Pacific populations.

Science excellence

  • Demonstrate inter-disciplinary world-class research excellence that builds our capability in RNA research and research translation.

Horizons and co-funding/leverage

  • Span research horizons — generating new ideas, developing emerging ideas, and leveraging proven ideas.
  • Focus on transformative outcomes, which may involve high-risk/high-return research.
  • Boost New Zealand’s overall innovation capacity.
  • Co-funding is not mandatory but aligned funding may be realised through collaborations.

Vision Mātauranga

  • Give effect to Vision Mātauranga enabling the Government’s Tiriti obligations in research, science and innovation.
  • Enable opportunities for mātauranga Māori, Māori researchers and Māori-led research to deliver on Māori aspirations.

Investing in people

  • Build a diverse research and technology development capability with equitable opportunities.

Domestic and International Collaboration

  • Foster connections and be well-linked to current and potential manufacturing capability in New Zealand.
  • Contribute to international research and attract international commercial engagement and investment through collaborations.

Meeting the needs and aspirations of Māori

The RNA Development Platform is expected to give effect to Vision Mātauranga enabling the Government’s Tiriti obligations in research, science and innovation.

The Vision Mātauranga policy aims to enable the distinctive contribution of Māori communities, knowledge, and resources to the future of New Zealand through research, science and innovation. Vision Mātauranga encourages partnership and is designed to inspire researchers to find innovative responses to opportunities and solutions to issues and needs facing New Zealand. The policy applies across, and is integrated within, all MBIE science investment mechanisms.

Vision Mātauranga policy [PDF, 359 KB]

Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways signals that a future RSI system gives effect to Te Tiriti o Waitangi, is adaptable by design and connected for impact, and reflects Aotearoa New Zealand’s unique context and diverse population.

We expect the Platform to enable opportunities for mātauranga Māori, Māori researchers and Māori-led research to deliver on Māori aspirations.

The Platform will help fulfil the needs and aspirations of Māori, and the Government’s Tiriti obligations, through:

  • the Host engaging with Māori, including Māori researchers, as they work towards priority setting, and delivering on research outcomes consistent with Māori aspirations addressing New Zealand specific challenges
  • the Host ensuring development of a diverse set of researchers including Māori
  • providers being required to demonstrate how they propose to incorporate Te Ao Māori in their research, delivery of the proposed outreach, and impact
  • Vision Mātauranga being incorporated into the assessment criteria (this guides the incorporation of science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources, and people).

RNA Development Platform Outcomes Framework

We've developed an Outcomes Framework that you need to consider for your application to be the Host and in the development of the Platform Plan.

We expect the Platform to work towards delivering the outputs and demonstrate progress towards the outcomes in this framework. Eventual Platform Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will be consistent with objectives and outcomes outlined in the framework.

How to apply 

You're required to complete your proposal using the proposal template:

Attach your completed word document proposal and email it to SSIF.investment@mbie.govt.nz by 12pm (noon), 1 March 2023. 

Before developing your proposal, we encourage you to consider the eligibility criteria, assessment criteria and terms and conditions relating to this Call for Proposals.

The establishment investment contract template will be available online before the closing date. If you need more information, contact SSIF.investment@mbie.govt.nz.

An information session will be held with the sector in early 2023 to give an overview of:

  • the criteria for a Host
  • requirements for the Platform
  • the process for selecting a Host.

The session will encourage collaboration in developing a proposal for Platform Hosts and emphasising the need to have a ‘best team’ approach.

After a Host has been selected, they'll submit their Platform Plan to MBIE for negotiation. Guidance on preparing a Platform plan and assessment will be provided to the successful Host.

Key documents

When developing your application, we encourage you to consult the following key reference documents:

Any other government sector specific strategy documents as relevant to the research. For example:

Key dates

Key activity Dates
Host proposal submission period 17 January to 1 March 2023, 12pm (noon)
Online information session (details for this 1-hour session will be sent out in January) 30 January 2023
Assessment Panel meeting By mid-March 2023
Respondents advised of outcome and the guide to writing a Platform Plan published By the end of March 2023
Establishment Steering Group formed By mid-April 2023
Host and establishment phase contracting April to September 2023
Draft Platform Plan due End of May 2023
Final Platform Plan due End of July 2023
Final Platform Plan assessment and contracting August to September 2023

Dates are subject to change. We'll notify all date changes by email. To be added to the email notification list, email SSIF.investment@mbie.govt.nz

Assessment information

The Assessment Panel will assess proposals for the Host of the RNA Development Platform against the funding opportunity’s assessment criteria. 

Proposals for the RNA Development Platform hosting opportunity will be assessed on their fulfilment of the assessment criteria. If none represents the best of New Zealand, or other key criteria, the Assessment Panel may negotiate a revised Call.

The Host applicants will be invited to present their proposal to the Assessment Panel. The Panel will then deliberate on their recommendation.

Conflicts of interest 

If you're submitting a proposal for the RNA Development Platform hosting opportunity, check the list of Assessment Panel members on this page for any potential conflicts of interest.

If you identify an actual, potential, or perceived direct or indirect conflict of interest, you must notify us before the application closing date by emailing SIF.investment@mbie.govt.nz with the details for further discussion.

Conflicts of interest may happen on 2 levels:

Direct conflict of interest

An Assessor is either:

  • directly involved with a proposal (as a participant, manager, mentor or partner) or has a close personal relationship with the applicant — for example, family members
  • a collaborator or in some other way involved with an applicant’s proposal.

Indirect conflict of interest

An Assessor is either:

  • employed by an organisation involved in a proposal but is not part of the applicant’s proposal
  • has a personal and/or professional relationship with one of the applicants — for example, an acquaintance
  • assessing a proposal under discussion that may compete with their business interests.

Assessment Panel members

The Assessment Panel for the selection of a Host for the RNA Development Platform is:

  • Joanne Looyen, General Manager Science System Investment and Performance (Chair)
  • Dr Willy-John Martin, Director Māori Research Science and Innovation (MBIE)
  • Dr Trevor Drage, Manager Strategic Investments (MBIE)
  • Dr Jess Robertson, Manager Innovation Policy (MBIE)

We'll also invite up to 2 external assessors to provide input. We'll publish the names of these additional assessors on this page before the application closing date.

Assessment criteria

The Assessment Panel will assess proposals for the RNA Development Platform hosting opportunity on each of the criteria below and score them either:

  • Excellent
  • Good but some gaps
  • Insufficient

The Assessment Panel will assess the following criteria:

  • The proposed Host’s vision for the Platform that incorporates the mission, aims, principles and outcomes outlined in this Call.
  • The proposed Host’s track record in developing and maintaining collaborative relationships with research organisations, industry and government departments.
  • How the proposal demonstrates that the proposed Host can coordinate the development of a large-scale, integrated and collaborative programme of research, including:
    • the credibility of the proposed Host’s plan to carry out that coordination
    • the credibility of New Zealand-based research, business and regulatory partners identified by the proposed Host
    • the current and future capability the proposed Host brings to the Platform, and evidence of its commitment to the Platform
    • the credibility of the proposed Host’s plans to bring international partners into the Platform while maintaining benefit to New Zealand.
  • How the proposed Host will establish and foster close links with industry partners, with a focus on the potential commercialisation of relevant research and building resilience for New Zealand's production of RNA.
  • How the proposed Host will identify and appoint Platform Director(s) to develop the draft and final Platform Plan.
  • How the proposed Host will lead prioritisation of research activities and develop a programme of research by mid-2023 with its partners.
  • The extent to which the proposal demonstrates that the proposed Host can manage a contract that facilitates collaborative relationships, over the life of the Platform.
  • The extent to which the proposal demonstrates that the proposed Host can provide services over the life of the Platform including:
    • financial processing, IP management and administration of funds
    • contracting research providers to deliver Platform science
    • annual progress and performance reporting
    • secretariat of a Platform Steering Group.

The Assessment Panel may request more information from the applicant. For Stage 1 (selection of the Host) the Assessment Panel can seek resubmission of the proposal or proposals if none meet the criteria to an acceptable level. If multiple proposals are received, the Assessment Panel may encourage applicants to discuss creating a combined proposal.

Funding decisions

The Deputy Secretary for Labour, Science and Enterprise at MBIE will make funding decisions for Stages 1 and 2. Recommendations to the Deputy Secretary will be developed and approved by the Assessment Panel through its Chair, the General Manager of Science System Investments and Performance.

The decision and recommendations may also:

  • set pre-contract conditions which must be met before the investment is contracted
  • set special conditions in addition to the general terms and conditions set out in the Funding Agreement
  • vary the proposed term of a proposal
  • vary the funding allocated from that proposed and require that the proposed implementation plan be negotiated to MBIE’s satisfaction to reflect the changed funding
  • decline to fund any proposals.

Decisions on the Host will be publicly announced. We'll give applicants general feedback based on the Assessment Panel’s comments about the overall quality of proposals.

Reporting and monitoring

To capture and monitor success during the development of the Platform Plan, the Host will:

  • maintain open lines of communication with MBIE
  • meet with the Platform Establishment Steering Group at least once every 2 months.

No formal reporting is needed during the development of the Platform Plan.

On implementing the Platform, standard SSIF reporting and monitoring will allow MBIE to capture and monitor success, and monitor and report on the equity of outcome and diversity of MBIE-funded research. KPIs will be negotiated with the Host and used to monitor performance.

SSIF Performance Framework [PDF, 290 KB]

The Host will:

  • provide MBIE with an annual plan for the coming year which is due before the end of the financial year
  • report against the previous financial year’s progress against KPIs and aims, following the end of the financial year.

A Platform Steering Group will meet regularly to monitor the performance and strategy of the Platform and will provide strategic advice. The Platform Steering Group will include people from MBIE and external people with the appropriate science expertise.

Contact us about application queries

Email: SSIF.investment@mbie.govt.nz

Phone: 0800 693 778 (Monday to Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm) 

Last updated: 17 January 2023