Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Agricultural science funding in NZ

Recent job cuts at AgResearch have focused attention on the money that kiwi taxpayers spend on scientific research and its allocation. 

The CRIs get about $400m of public money each year and AgResearch is the biggest of them. Here are its sources of revenue for the last two financial years for which records are available ($m).

This chart strongly suggests that private funders are calling the shots at AgResearch. That hypothesis is reinforced by statements from AgResearch that cite "customer demand" as the motivation for the sackings. I could ask questions about this all night, but let's just try a few. 

  1. Why can't these commercial customers fund their own research without taxpayers subsidising them to the tune of $60m/year?  
  2. How exactly are farmers expected to benefit from this research?
  3. Which (if any) AgResearch programmes are entirely motivated by a desire to explore farming systems that might reduce the earnings of input (fertiliser, seed, pesticides) suppliers? 

1 comment:

  1. Much of the commercial revenue will be linked as co-funding to govt PGP, MBIE, SFF .... grants. And yes there are big projects to explore reducing pesticides. For example, the Next Generation Biopesticides (http://bioprotection.org.nz/research/programme/next-generation-biopesticides) has a focus on biopesticides. It's a 6 year $2M per year project, I'm not sure what the funding split is between govt/commercial. You might be surprised when you see who the partners are on this project; fertiliser and seed companies!

    The ministers recent comments suggest to me that his focus is on the D side of R&D, almost to the exclusion of the R side. The problem is that without R you don't get the next D. Also focusing on D means infrastructure, capability .... for R isn't being maintained - and hasn't been for decades. Ideally R&D should receive equal attention, but sadly it's been r&D for a long time in NZ and now I think it's become just _&D.

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