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$25 million was allocated in the 2015 Budget to support the establishment of one or more new, privately led, Regional Research Institutes (RRIs). The aim is for these to perform relevant research in support of industry-led efforts to increase their research and development intensity. There is an expectation these new institutes will bring new research activity into the regions in addition to meeting industry demand in their host region and possibly more widely across New Zealand and overseas.

Three out of the 24 proposals that were submitted have been selected for detailed analysis and business case development. One of these is Venture Southland’s Earth + Vantage proposal. This would use real-time satellite and ground based data to lift primary industry productivity across New Zealand in areas such as precision farming, forestry and marine management.

Another is the Alexandra-based Centre for Space Science Technology. The Centre plans to use space-based measurements, and satellite imagery sourced from New Zealand-developed and launched cubesats, to develop solutions tailored to regions and key sectors such as water resource management, tourism and regional planning.

Otago Southland Employers Association applauds this Government initiative to support economic growth in our regions and the achievements of the Bodeker Scientific consortium and Venture Southland in reaching the business-case development stage of a demanding selection process. That both proposals are based on applying leading edge satellite technology to address key aspects of New Zealand’s regional economies says much about the strength of knowledge-based research and development in the South.

The Cabinet will in due course make its final decision on which new institutes will be established. Otago Southland Employers Association hopes both the Earth+Vantage and the Centre for Space Science and Technology regional research institutes are successful. Their establishment will endorse and foster the scientific capability that exists in our part of the country. New Zealand businesses must be able to tap this expertise and the technology these projects will make available in order to achieve the targets of the Government’s Business Growth Agenda.