The University of Otago has been selected to host a new
Centre of Research Excellence in physics and to co-host a brain
research centre, in a multimillion-dollar boost for science in
Detailed budgets for the six nationally-funded centres
selected have yet to be advised, but the move seems likely to
inject more than $40 million of extra funding into Dunedin
research over the next six years.
Otago University is one of the big winners in the latest
national Core selection process, with the Government
allocating nearly $210 million to the Cores.
When the new funding becomes available from January1,
Otago will host the Dodd-Walls Centre for Photonic and Quantum
Technologies, and co-host Brain Research New Zealand-Rangahau
Roro Aotearoa with Auckland University.
Yesterday's Government announcement significantly boosts
Otago University's academic reputation.
It ends a 12-year wait for Otago since the first Cores were
announced in 2002.
The university has not hosted its own Core despite being
highly successful in attracting other competitive research
Otago physicist Associate Prof David Hutchinson, who will
direct the Dodd-Walls centre, was ''delighted'' with the
And Otago psychologist Prof Cliff Abraham, who will co-direct
the Brain Research centre, with Distinguished Prof Richard
Faull, of Auckland University, was ''absolutely thrilled'' at
the funding news.
Three of the six centres centres are hosted, and another
co-hosted, by Auckland University, and one centre is hosted
by Victoria University of Wellington.
Otago vice-chancellor Prof Harlene Hayne said Otago
University was New Zealand's oldest and ''finest'' university
but was often also its ''shyest'' when it came to promoting
its own achievements.
Funding support for the two centres was ''particularly
exciting'' and provided important external validation of the
world-class research undertaken at Otago.
Otago University officials had long been baffled about why
Otago had not been selected to host a Core earlier, she said.
Brain research and neuroscience were subjects dear to the
hearts of Otago people, who had earlier fought to ensure
neurosurgery services were maintained in the South, she said.
It is understood Otago permanent staff will not sizeably
increase, but significantly more funding will support
increased numbers of postgraduate researchers.
Otago Museum director Dr Ian Griffin said the Dodd-Walls
centre outcome was ''fantastic news'', and said the museum
and centre had earlier signed a memorandum of understanding.
The centre will fund 0.5 of a museum educator position, and a
''centre of illumination'' involving educational outreach
from the research centre will be based at the museum.
Otago University deputy vice-chancellor, research and
enterprise, Prof Richard Blaikie, said Otago research would
receive a ''definite boost'', but it was too early to tell
exactly how much would be received.
Otago would gain a ''significant proportion'' of the nearly
$210 million available overall.
And the university would also be ''getting resources''
through its involvement in five out of the six selected
centres, and not just those it was hosting or co-hosting.
If Otago University received 20% of the overall funding,
which it did with the Performance-Based Research Fund
process, it would gain about $42 million, university
Prof Abraham said New Zealand had an ageing population, and
rapidly rising numbers of people were affected by
ageing-related brain disorders, including stroke and
Brain Research New Zealand aimed to enable people to age
well, with a healthy brain, he said.
At a glance
- The University of Otago will host a Centre of Research
Excellence in physics
- The university will co-host a brain research centre
- Likely more than $40m of extra funding into Dunedin
research over six years
- $210m allocated nationally as Core funding
- Funding becomes available from January 1
- Ends a 12-year wait for the university to be chosen to host