'Good to be recognised as a path to the future'

The University of Otago and Dunedin will benefit significantly from a $326 million boost for science, innovation and research announced in the Budget, university sciences pro-chancellor Prof Keith Hunter says.

"It's good to be recognised as a path to the future." In yesterday's Budget, the Science and Innovation Minister, Steven Joyce, announced the Government's total cross-portfolio funding for science, innovation and research was rising from $1.16 billion this financial year to $1.24 billion in the2012-13 year.

"It's more than we expected," given tight Government spending, Prof Hunter said.

The university was a "really important part" of Dunedin and both university and city would benefit from the extra science and research funding provided.

He had not yet fully analysed all the proposed funding moves and the "devil is in the details", he said.

Mr Joyce said $90 million in operating funding and $76.1 million in capital funding to develop the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI) by expanding and transforming a Crown Research Institute, Industrial Research Ltd (IRL), and $60 million in operating funds for the National Science Challenges programme would "help boost the economy and improve New Zealand's health, society and environment".

Prof Hunter praised the holistic approach taken, including a strong focus on health, sustainability and environment, and believed this also reflected the positive influence of Prof Sir Peter Gluckman, the Prime Minister's chief science adviser.

Otago University researchers were happy "to compete on quality".

If the best collaborative research groupings were brought together, Otago researchers could be confident they would be playing a part.

New ATI centres are to be established in Auckland and Christchurch, but he said the Ministry of Science and Innovation had given an assurance that Otago scientists would also have a significant role to play in research involving the new, expanded institute.

Otago University had a strong research "package", including expertise in environmental, food, and health sciences, as well as in exercise-related studies through the School of Physical Education.

The university was accordingly well positioned to contribute to the Government's research goals, including environmental and agricultural sustainability, he said.

The funding
• $326 million boost for science, innovation and research - $250 million of new operating funds and $76.1 million in capital funding over the next four years.
• Funding includes $90 million operating funds and $76.1 million capital funds to create the Advanced Technology Institute, transforming and expanding a Crown Research Institute, Industrial Research Ltd.
• $60 million operating funds for national science challenges programme.
• $100 million extra research funding, increasing Performance-Based Research Fund to $300 million by 2016.

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