Centres of Research Excellence Fund

The Centres of Research Excellence Fund (CoRE Fund) was set up by the Government in the 2001 Budget and is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand. Its purpose is to encourage world-class research in New Zealand by establishing Centres of Research Excellence to contribute to New Zealand’s development. Sufficient funding has been made available for two selection rounds to be held, the first being completed in March 2002 and the second in November 2002.

As a tertiary education sector initiative, all the selected Centres of Research Excellence are hosted by a university, but many have other tertiary education institutes and research providers as partners. They also have broad inter-institutional research networks. Centres of Research Excellence are expected to maintain high quality, innovative research and research training environments.

The initial funding for the Centres of Research Excellence consisted of operational funds of $2 million (2001/02), $10.225 million (2002/03), $12.475 million (2003/04), and $13.600 million ongoing (all including GST). There was also a contingency fund of $20 million for capital expenditure on strategic research assets (excluding buildings) for the selected Centres. With this funding, five Centres were chosen in March 2002 to begin operation in July 2002. These Centres will receive operational funding for up to six years.

A three-step evaluation process was established for the 53 applications received. The applications were first sent to international referees before being considered by six discipline-based panels consisting of 46 panellists. More than 50% of the panellists were from outside New Zealand. The panels short-listed 16 applications for final evaluation by the specially formed CoRE Fund Committee. The Committee was chaired by Sir Paul Reeves who was assisted by Dr Michael Dunbier, Dr Jean Fleming, Dr John Hay, Associate Professor Alison Jones, Associate Professor Pare Keiha, Ms Aroha Te Pareake Mead, Sir Neil Waters and Dr Andrew West.

The Committee further short listed down to eleven applications and, after making a series of site visits, selected the following five applications to be Centres of Research Excellence.

Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution

Host Institution: Massey University
Directors: Professors David Penny and Mike Hendy
Partners: University of Canterbury, The University of Auckland,
University of Otago, Victoria University of Wellington

The Allan Wilson Centre will undertake studies of the ecology and evolution of New Zealand plants, animals and microbes. Recent research, using new techniques such as sequencing of whole genomes and ancient DNA technologies, has revolutionised our understanding of New Zealand’s biodiversity. The simplistic view that New Zealand is a “Moa’s Ark” of relic species undergoing “ancient and slow ” changes over long periods of time has been overturned by the information obtained with these new techniques. The Centre will enable a dramatic acceleration in the progress of our understanding of the processes underpinning the ecology and evolution of our biota.

Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery

Host Institution: The University of Auckland
Directors: Professor Ted Baker

The Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery comprises a cluster of five leading research groups at The University of Auckland with complementary expertise in science, engineering and medicine. The Centre will focus on the use of new technology for genomic discovery and on the innovative development of new medicines for infectious disease, diabetes and cancer, based on new findings in molecular biology.

New Zealand Institute of Mathematics and its Applications

Host Institution: The University of Auckland
Directors: Professors Vaughan Jones and Marston Conder
Partners: New Zealand Mathematics Research Institute (Inc.)

This centre will focus on the use of high-level mathematical and computational techniques to solve problems in medicine, biology, engineering, industry and commerce, with particular emphasis in areas of emerging importance such as bio-engineering, bio-informatics, medical statistics, optimisation and risk assessment. The Institute will accelerate the use of mathematics across the spectrum of science and engineering through its research programmes and intensive periods of thematic activity.

Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (Horizons of Insight) – the National Institute of Research Excellence for Māori Development and Advancement

Host Institution: The University of Auckland
Directors: Professor Linda Smith and Associate Professor Michael Walker

The National Institute of Research Excellence for Māori Development and Advancement will focus and build on Māori strengths in education, health and science. It plans to bring together Māori and western intellectual traditions and experience to generate new knowledge that will lead to new technologies and significantly improve socio-economic outcomes for Māori. It will achieve this by (1) drawing on Māori and mainstream knowledge and thought to raise standards of research; (2) improving uptake of research through engagement with Māori social structures; and (3) expanding and deepening both Māori and national research capability.

The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology

Host Institution: Victoria University of Wellington
Directors: Professor Paul Callaghan
Partners: University of Canterbury, Industrial Research Ltd,
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences,
University of Otago

The MacDiarmid Institute will be the premier centre for innovation and knowledge creation in fundamental and applied materials science and technology in New Zealand. Strong international links coupled with a multi-disciplinary approach will enable the Institute to discover and understand new advanced materials and technologies to create new products, technologies and industries for New Zealand. Materials and technologies currently attracting world-wide attention that will be addressed by the Institute include: nano-engineered materials and devices, opto-electronics, superconductors, conducting polymers, functional materials and coatings, energy storage systems, soft materials, bio-materials and complex fluids.

In the 2002 Budget the Government increased the operational funds by $5.5 million (2002/03), $10.0 million (2003/04) and $11.0 million ongoing (all including GST). A provision for a further $20 million for capital has also been approved. The new funds are being used to establish a further two Centres as well as providing additional funding for the existing five Centres. The new Centres have been chosen from the six short-listed applications from the first round that were visited by the CoRE Fund Committee, but were not funded.

The two new Centres, which will also receive up to six year’s funding, are:

National Centre for Growth and Development

Host Institution: The University of Auckland
Directors: Professor Peter Gluckman
Partners: University of Otago and Massey University

The National Centre for Growth and Development will combine basic biomedical techniques with experimental and clinical physiology to develop new preventative and therapeutic approaches to human health and improve animal productivity in agriculture. The Centre’s research focuses on the early periods of life, such as the causes and consequences of low birth weight and prematurity. This focus also will see investigation into how genes and the environment interact to regulate growth, development and disease; how to prevent brain injury in newborn babies; and developmental biology therapies for neurological disease in adults.

National Centre for Advanced Bio-Protection Technologies

Host Institution: Lincoln University
Directors: Professor Alison Stewart
Partners: Massey University, New Zealand Crop and
Food Research Ltd and AgResearch Ltd

This Centre brings together a multidisciplinary group of researchers to meet the pest management and biosecurity needs of New Zealand. It aims to lead the world in biosecurity, developing state of the art sensor technologies, molecular identification systems and mathematical models to protect against pest and disease incursions. The Centre will also develop new generation biocontrol and superior crops with enhanced pesticide resistance. Another aim is to develop agricultural technologies that value and sustain matauranga and tikanga Māori. A unique feature of the Centre will be world’s third Biotron, a purpose-built facility that allows complex ecosystems to be modeled under precisely controlled environmental parameters.