Friday, July 8, 2022

Challenge goal to boost NZ export earnings

Four of the government’s selected 10 National Science Challenges are connected with the primary sector and have potential to boost export earnings, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce says.

However, the need to expand export earnings to the government’s target of 40% of GDP by 2025 was not a specific criterion for selection of the challenges.

Prime Minister John Key’s chief science adviser, Professor Sir Peter Gluckman, drew attention to challenge four, called high-value nutrition – developing high-value foods with validated health benefits – as an obvious area where commodities would be enhanced to earn much more.

Joyce then chipped in with numbers five, six and seven, concerning biodiversity and security, land and water, and the exploitation of marine resources.

“We already know the challenge which lies before us to improve our water quality while lifting primary-sector productivity,” he said.

“I think there is enough evidence to show that can be achieved as a win-win for science and the economy.”

The government has more than doubled the $60 million allocated in last year’s Budget to challenges in science, adding a further $73.5m over the next four years.

“The challenge research will assist NZ to become a bigger player in the identified areas of work and provide opportunities for innovation and business development on the world stage,” Joyce said.

The challenges vary in scale, so the total funding cannot just be divided by 10, and they are expected to remain national objectives for 10 years.

The objective is to align and focus NZ research on large and complex issues by drawing scientists together from different institutions and across disciplines to achieve a common goal through collaboration.

“We have a small and reasonably fragmented science system. Aligning and focusing research will help get better value from the government’s annual investment of $1.3 billion in science and innovation,” Joyce said.

More specifically, on challenge six – research to enhance primary-sector production and productivity while maintaining and improving our land and water quality for future generations – Gluckman’s 11-person “peak panel” said harnessing and developing smart technology would revolutionise our primary production.

This technology is in precision agriculture, plant and animal genetics, information and decision-making tools and systems modelling through the food chain.

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