The government giveth, and the government taketh.
Two Ministry of Economic Development funds have been cancelled in the latest budget with both the Enterprising Partnerships Fund and the Transformational Initiatives Fund disestablished, bringing back $26.1 million over the next four years into the government fold.
Science and innovation minister Steven Joyce said the funds "had ambiguous aims and were established in another time".
“Funding applications need to move away from an ad-hoc basis and stand on their own merits when assessed against all other government priorities."
Science, innovation, and research is getting a boost, though, with $250 million of new operating funding and $76.1 million in capital funding over four years.
New funding over the next four years includes $90 million operating funding and $76.1 million capital funding to create the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) to work with the high-tech manufacturing and services sector; $60 million operating funding for National Science Challenges; and $100 million additional research funding by increasing the size of the Performance-Based Research Fund to $300 million by 2016.
The government’s total cross-portfolio funding for science, innovation, and research rises from $1.16 billion in 2011/12 to $1.24 billion in 2012/13.
AUT head of engineering Professor John Raine hoped the funding increases would encourage more R&D investment from the private sector.
"I would also like to see ongoing publicity around the National Sciences
Challenges," he said.
The MacDiarmid Institute's Professor Shaun Hendy said the challenges were an innovative way of funding science that would hopefully reduce the level of micromanagement by MSI in scientific research.
He also said the ATI would facilitate R&D that had not been possible in the contestable funding environment run by FRST and MSI.
Anthony Scott of Science New Zealand welcomed the timetable on the ATI but said both the science research and business community needed certainty around the ATI's form and function.
And Hans van der Voorn, executive chairman of high-tech company Izon, dampened the ATI proposal in its current state.
"The government would be better off bolting such an initiative onto the University of Auckland so it could take advantage of bright young students coming through the university with fresh ideas. A university based research institute would have a more dynamic culture, cost less, and is a model that at least has evidence of success."