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May 17, 2010 | by  | in News | [ssba]

Budget Boosts Innovation

Key reveals the government’s key to economic growth

Prime Minister John Key’s announcement last week, revealing that research, science and technology would see a significant boost in funding as a part of the upcoming Budget 2010 has been welcomed across the board.

Key says “The budget will focus squarely on building faster and sustainable economic growth, (and) research, science and technology will help us achieve that goal.”

The announcement backed up claims Key made in February that science and innovation would be a key priority of the government looking forward.

Minister of Research, Science and Technology Wayne Mapp explained, “We are taking steps to improve New Zealand’s science system, empower the people working within it, get better returns from public investment and direct government support where it can make the most difference.”

Mapp claims the changes indicated in a document entitled Igniting Potential: New Zealand’s Science and Innovation Pathway, released to accompany Key’s announcement last week, “are the most significant our science system has seen in almost two decades”.

Dr Garth Carnaby, President of the Royal Society of New Zealand, sees the announcement as “hugely empowering” for scientists.

Carnaby says the government funding will allow scientists to contribute to the economy, and was pleased that John Key has taken “personal ownership of the importance of science’s place in industry”.

University of Auckland Vice-Chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon has similarly welcomed the increased funding, and is especially impressed by the new $200,000 Rutherford Discovery Fellowships, designed to support young scientists early in their careers.

“The Fellowships will allow young scientists who might otherwise be lost to this country, to explore areas that excite them and to establish their career in New Zealand. It is critical to keep supporting the country’s scientists and attracting them back home.”

Labour’s Research, Science and Technology spokesperson David Shearer says that while “any new funding for R&D (Research and Development) is welcome… the announcement is less than half of what the Labour Government was spending through the R&D tax credit and Fast Forward Fund.”

Shearer has accused the National Party of breaking an election promise, alleging that National has only invested half of what they originally pledged on an annual basis.

“John Key’s commitment to innovation should be treated with scepticism. The government has neglected R&D since it came to power. Today’s sudden enthusiasm is little comfort for Kiwi firms who needed help 18 months ago when times were tough.”

Green Party co-leader Russell Norman agrees that the increased funding is a step in the right direction, but called for specific targeting of “green tech and clean tech solutions to sustaining our prosperity”.

“The next economic wave is the green economic wave and, if New Zealand wishes to prosper, it needs to prioritise research, science and technology spending accordingly.”

Norman accused the National Government of “heading in the opposite direction with its dumb extractive approach to mining in our most precious conservation lands”.

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