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Idealog—in the ideas business

National science challenges’ on the cards

The government is certainly keen to prove its commitment to science and technological innovation – its newest policy will involve pumping $60 million into a series of 'National Science Challenges' to stimulate R&D.

As part of its economic development plan, National wants to invest in public challenges over the next four years to find solutions in anywhere from four to eight key areas.

These will be proposed by the new Minister of Science and Innovation, after consultation with industry stakeholders and the science community, including the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor.

"We have previously announced our plan for an advanced technology institute, and today I am announcing the creation of National Science Challenges, which will find solutions to some of the most fundamental issues New Zealand faces in its future development," Prime Minister John Key said.

Science minister Wayne Mapp said the challenges might include how New Zealand can intensify primary industries in an environmentally sustainable way; new and cost-effective technologies for sustainable energy production; or producing a new generation of high-value foods.

In its policy documents, the government said it had already piloted such an approach in the area of greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.

"The government set out the overarching challenge – how can we reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture while sustaining our vitally important agricultural production?

"A committee of experts translated this challenge into scientific questions, and there has been a competitive process under which a range of innovative proposals have been put forward for a share of the $16 million research funding on offer this year.

"National intends to use this approach in other areas where science can address some of the most important longer-term challenges to New Zealand’s development."

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