KiwiNet Commercialisation Awards Speech
Future Pathways White Paper Introduction Speech
Tēnā koutou e ngā mātāwaka
Ko Ayesha Verrall ahau, Minita o te Karauna.
Tēnā koutou i runga i te kaupapa o te ata
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā tatou katoa
It is a privilege to be here, to participate in the 10th annual KiwiNet Commercialisation Awards, honouring the collective success of the largest group of research commercialisation finalists KiwiNet has had over the past decade.
I want to acknowledge Will Barker, Chair of the KiwiNet Board, for his welcome and his work that supports New Zealand researchers to increase the scale and impact of their scientific and technology-based innovations.
I also acknowledge the collective success of all the finalists. Your curiosity, ability to challenge ideas, and hard work have led you here tonight. Your contributions to delivering cutting-edge research innovation for a better Aotearoa New Zealand do not go unnoticed.
Case for Change
The Government is focused on building a productive, sustainable and inclusive economy that will improve the wellbeing of all living in New Zealand. Our research science and innovation system plays a crucial part in achieving that vision. That’s why we have been working on science system reforms called the Te Ara Paerangi Future Pathways programme.
To achieve this, we will need to fully harness the collective capability and impact of our research, science and innovation system.
Our current RSI system, built on outdated foundations, fails to do this as well as it could.
Our greatest asset in meeting these challenges is you, our researchers and innovators. Tonight’s finalists demonstrate the crucial contributions our people are already making in developing and achieving impact from excellent research.
I have heard too often that such successes come despite the systems in which you operate, and not because of them.
In fact, in many cases, the system is holding you back.
Scant funding can lock people into frustrating grant application processes that have a low chance of success. Competition is not good when unproductive.
System responsiveness and engagement with Māori is weak.
Institutional structures are rigid and act as barriers to collaboration rather than enablers.
There is an overemphasis on short-term projects and publications that don’t give you the time and space to build those enduring relationships with industry and communities that you know are vital to turning great research into meaningful impact.
And a lack of direction and support from government on where your work can make the biggest difference for all New Zealanders.
These are all issues you face. We know this because you told us through the Te Ara Paerangi consultation. And it’s not even a complete list.
Now as we rebuild from the impacts of COVID-19, the Government is committed to growing our collective wellbeing through a future-focused and fit-for-purpose research, science and innovation system.
Our research system was set up in the 1990s, and many of its structures, such as our Crown Research Institutes, have served New Zealand well. But if you consider how much the world has changed in the past three years, let alone the past 30, it goes without saying that it is time to consider how we can best position our research system for the future.
We need to ensure our investments in research, science and innovation are actively contributing to improving the real-world outcomes for all New Zealanders and the wider world.
We launched Te Ara Paerangi Green Paper consultation last year to understand the challenges you face, and to hear your thoughts on the changes that would make a difference for your work, for the sector, and for New Zealand.
We received around 900 written submissions, and over 1,000 of you shared your thoughts with us in workshops and webinars.
I heard a strong desire for transformative change, for the system to better enable our researchers to collaborate instead of competing, and to honour Te Tiriti and its obligations and opportunities.
You told us to build a system that will enable us to solve the national health, social and environmental challenges that are becoming more and more important.
And to build a system that helps ensure that our next generations will thrive in a range of future industries which generate improved incomes and sustainable careers.
We heard from many submissions of the constrained opportunities for early to mid-career researchers and a challenging and precarious work environment. To meet the grand challenges facing our nation, we need our best and brightest to focus all their brainpower on what they do best, and not on whether they will have a job tomorrow.
A clear message from the Green Paper submissions was that the current RSI policies fail to give sufficient expression to Te Tiriti, and struggle to attract and retain Māori who face structural barriers in our system. We must address these barriers if we are to activate the full potential of our country’s distinctive talents.
We must strengthen the connections between research and innovation across the RSI system, and better value and support knowledge exchange. We must ensure that we can convert the excellence of our research into tangible products and services that will improve the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
This all happens in a global context that is increasingly complex and uncertain. So, we need to make sure that our system is well connected to the world’s best minds, institutions and businesses.
Successive governments have made various changes over the years to the research system to address these issues. However the system remains largely the same as the early 90s. Past reforms may have been successful within their scope, collectively they have not led to the system-level transformation needed to set our RSI sector up for success in the years and decades to come.
It is this system-level transformation we are seeking to achieve through Te Ara Paerangi. Fundamentally, we must ensure our research, science and innovation system is actively supporting you to improve real-world outcomes for all New Zealanders and the world.
This doesn’t mean starting from a clean slate.
While we heard a range of issues throughout consultation, as our finalists tonight have demonstrated we also heard of many promising and creative examples of people and organisations delivering improved outcomes for New Zealanders. Learning from and building on these successes will be a core part of our programme.
The White Paper
To carry this work forward, by the end of the year, I will be publishing the White Paper for Te Ara Paerangi, which will be just the beginning of this transformative process to respond to the issues you raised in consultation.
The White Paper will articulate the principles and direction for reforms through Te Ara Paerangi, lay out a plan and demonstrate how we will continue to work with you along the journey.
This is an opportunity to make lasting change in our RSI system.
So, we need to get it right, working alongside you, Te Tiriti partners, industry, and communities to address the challenges that hold our system back.
I now want to provide an update on our thinking on three key areas in the White Paper including; Research Priorities, Te Tiriti and the Research Workforce.
One of our key mechanisms for addressing some of the biggest issues facing us will be through the introduction of the National Research Priorities.
The RSI system has worked to address such objectives in the past, such as through vision led funds like the National Science Challenges.
However, the National Science Challenges have not always had the desired impact, perhaps due to inadequate resourcing, a competitive inception process that left some feeling excluded rather than welcomed, difficulties in establishing the right teams to deliver the desired outcomes or a failure to adequately include Māori from the beginning of the process meant that the.
This is why, through Te Ara Paerangi, we are developing a new framework for National Research Priorities. These Priorities will be a way to bring a much greater concentration of investment and talent than before.
They will be designed to ensure stronger connections with industry, which will enable National Research Priorities to mobilise researchers and innovators across the RSI system to identify the underlying questions, develop new solutions and deliver lasting impact and create positive change for communities, businesses, public services, government and wider society.
One model for how some of the National Research Priorities might be delivered is through ambitious missions with concrete, measurable success criteria that directly address specific societal challenges or aim to kickstart new industries through investment in an emerging field like AI or quantum computing..
An example of the former priority, a mission, might be to eliminate the life expectancy difference between Māori and non-Māori by 2050. This is a clear and tangible priority that will have a real impact and deliver meaningful outcomes for communities, families, and individuals.
Priorities like this will help drive a whole-of-government response and require us to effectively work and collaborate across disciplinary, sectoral, and institutional boundaries – exactly the kind of transdisciplinary work I know many of you are keen to embrace.
Iwi, hapu and Māori communities would be critical in determining the priority and its elements and bringing together community knowledge, networks and ways of working.
In our example mission health researchers would develop new treatments and clinical practices, social scientists would explore the best ways to connect health services and our communities, and experts in mātauranga Māori would ensure Māori health science is incorporated throughout the process. We will need to draw from expertise across many different disciplines to ensure the best outcomes from our communities.
End-users such as doctors, health providers, government agencies, and industry, like med-tech, would bring their understanding of how the research can be taken up and spun out to be used by people in their daily lives and inform policy change by supporting input and connections from the outset.
Government would bring its overarching, strategic view and support the collaboration, coordination and capability required to achieve the priority. A long-term commitment to the priority will facilitate the necessary investment to deliver significant impacts.
The priorities will form an essential part of the wider RSI system. And there will always be a place for dedicated investigator-led funds such as our R&D grants and Marsden.
I anticipate that we will start to run a process to determine National Research Priorities in 2023. We will communicate closely with you, the research community, throughout this process. We heard many outstanding ideas through the Green Paper, and there will be further opportunities for you all to contribute to this exciting process.
Te Tiriti and Māori aspirations in RSI
Embedding Te Tiriti into the Priorities will be essential to their success. Our RSI system cannot lift the wellbeing of all New Zealanders if it does not meet the obligations of Te Tiriti o Waitangi or support Māori aspirations.
I want to build a system that honours our commitments to Te Tiriti, which enables the distinctive talents of our country, and creates transformation for Māori and for all of Aotearoa New Zealand.
That builds dedicated opportunities for Māori to be at decision making tables so that RSI initiatives are fit for all and reflective of our nation’s living partnerships.
This doesn’t stop the work we already do in the system to support our Te Tiriti obligations. Rather, it helps us to think more about a future system that could be different to what we see today.
None of this will be possible without our research workforce. We must build a system that truly supports and enables workforce mobility, which enables people to move between different parts of the system as they progress their work through the vital pathway from research to impact and application.
I also see a strong opportunity for programmes such as applied PhDs to support training our workforce for a broader range of career pathways. Most of our research graduates now work outside of public institutions, and we need to ensure that we are preparing them for the wide range of career pathways in the research and innovation system.
New Innovation Grants
Te Ara Paerangi is an extensive and transformative programme, but that doesn’t mean that we’re pausing our work to support greater innovation in the RSI system.
We will soon be introducing two new research and development grants - The “Ārohia – Innovation Trailblazer Grant” to co-fund non-R&D innovation projects and the “New to R&D Grant” that will encourage businesses to establish R&D programmes and provide an easier on-ramp to the R&D Tax Incentive.
These funding supports are important, but they, in themselves, will not deliver the full ambition of the RSI system I mentioned earlier. That’s why the reforms are needed
I want to acknowledge again the vital contributions that our finalists tonight have played towards realising the impact of research, science and innovation.
The expertise and creativity you’ve demonstrated is a sign of the great things we can accomplish from RSI.
This is why we launched Te Ara Paerangi – to design a system that better supports you, our creators and innovators, in improving the wellbeing of all New Zealanders.
This is an opportunity for us, together, to deliver transformational change for our people, the wider RSI system, and all New Zealanders. I encourage you to continue making your voices heard.
Waiho i te toipoto, kaua i te toiroa
No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa