Big Otago role in science challenges

Richard Blaikie.
Richard Blaikie.
The University of Otago is likely to gain ''significant resources'' for research after being named in an alliance to tackle the first of the Government's multimillion-dollar science challenges.

This challenge involves delivering cutting-edge research to help New Zealand companies take advantage of global demand for foods with health benefits.

The Government announced yesterday that Otago would team up in an Auckland University-administered alliance, which also included Massey University and Crown Research Institutes AgResearch and Plant and Food Research, to tackle the national food-related challenge.

This 10-year challenge has been approved with $30.6 million in funding, subject to finalisation of contract conditions.

A review after five years will mean another $53.2 million becomes available for a second five-year period.

Total funding for the ''high-value nutrition challenge'' was up to $180.8 million over 10 years.

Otago deputy vice-chancellor, research and enterprise, Prof Richard Blaikie, yesterday welcomed Otago University's ''keystone role'' in meeting the challenge.

The university was ''delighted'' the Government had embraced this ''collegial approach'' to research and Otago was ''determined to do our best to ensure this works'', he said.

Being part of the new challenge would allow Otago researchers to apply their world-class expertise to shared goals and research programmes, and bring in additional research income.

This benefited students, who would be ''exposed to multidisciplinary research with real industry applicability''.

Asked about Otago's likely funding share, Prof Blaikie noted contractual details were yet to be finalised but main participants in the partnership, including Otago, would gain ''significant resources''.

He noted the outcome of research applications involving two more of the Government's major science challenges was likely to be known in weeks.

These challenges involved , respectively, the ''deep south'', and the influence of the Antarctic and the Southern Ocean on New Zealand's climate; and ''resilience to nature's challenges'', including research into improving resilience to natural disasters.

Otago researchers were not only involved in bids involving those two further challenges, but were also seeking a role in helping to tackle seven other Government science challenges, applications for which would close late this month, he said.