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Industrial Research to morph into advanced technology institute

Thursday 3rd November 2011

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Industrial Research, the crown research institute with concentrated chemistry, physics, mathematics and applied engineering skills, is to receive a $150 million cash injection over five years to boost its science output. 

IRL is to be transformed by the additional investment into an advanced technology institute (ATI) which will act as a “high-tech HQ” for New Zealand, Prime Minister John Key said.

An additional $80 million is to be earmarked from the Future Investment Fund for capital spending on new buildings and equipment in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch.

The creation of an ATI was recommended in a ‘Powering Innovation’ report released today, written by John Raine, Mina Teicher and Phil O’Reilly following their independent review of the nation’s high-value manufacturing sector.

The report said the sector has great potential, but needs the support and expertise of technology-focused research to grow, ramp up productivity and increase exports.

“High-tech sectors could contribute substantially more to the economy than they currently do,” said Key. “We already have successful companies in this sector, particularly in areas like ICT, biotechnology and medical technology, but we need more of them and we need them to be bigger.”

The move will effectively double IRL’s size and capability to up to 700 staff, with the ATI to have a strong business-focused culture.  

Its remit is to be close to where the country’s high-tech businesses are located, though whether this means the construction of a new Gracefield campus is still to be determined by the creation of more detailed business plans. 

Key said the ATI will be a natural conduit for engineering and applied science graduates, “meaning many of our best and brightest engineers and scientists will stay here in New Zealand.”

The additional investment doesn’t add to any of the funding tracks in the Pre-Election Update, there is no extra debt and surplus and deficit forecasts remain the same said Key. The estimated $30 million a year of additional research funding will be paid out of the new operating allowance in next year’s Budget he said.


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