Te Pūrongo Rangahau Pūtaiao me te Auahatanga — 2021
The Research, Science and
Innovation Report — 2021
Te Whakatutukinga o te Pūnaha Rangahau Pūtaiao me te Auahatanga o Aotearoa

Performance of the New Zealand RSI system

LeoLabs' Kiwi Space Radar in Naseby, Central Otago.

Kupu whakataki Introduction

Aotearoa New Zealand invests in research, science and innovation because they are fundamental for improving our economic, environmental, social and cultural wellbeing. Evidence from OECD countries shows that new knowledge and innovation are essential for long-term economic growth and social progress.

In 2017 the government set a target of raising economy-wide investment in research and development to 2 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) over 10 years. Investment in research, science and innovation is a critical part of achieving this goal.

Many people and institutions contribute to research, science and innovation in New Zealand. This report can be used as a resource for those who want to know more about the system and its performance. In particular, the report aims to: increase transparency and provide a central, reliable source of data about the system; report on progress towards government goals – highlighting strengths, weaknesses and opportunities; and stimulate discussion among policy makers, funders, researchers and all those who benefit from the research and innovation.

Data and commentary are presented in parallel to show how the system is performing, based on the skills, funding and knowledge produced as well as the impacts for New Zealand. Core indicators from the 2018 Research, Science and Innovation System Performance Report have been updated with new data and analysis. Case studies, detail panels and infographics showcase examples and highlight particular topics. The important voice of Vision Mātauranga and its benefits to the system are woven throughout.

In late January 2020 the world began to respond to a growing threat from the COVID-19 virus, and the subsequent pandemic affected many aspects of our daily lives. The research, science and innovation sector in New Zealand and worldwide has responded with funding, research activities, expert advice and innovation to meet the many challenges to life and livelihoods. This report acknowledges the disruption caused by the pandemic and the responsiveness of the sector in such extraordinary times. The sector’s contribution to this country's COVID-19 response is highlighted throughout the report.

This report is the third in a series about research, science and innovation in New Zealand – the previous reports were in 2016 and 2018. This is the first time it has been published in a digital format.

Kupu whakataki Foreword

Tēnā koutou katoa

The events of 2020 and 2021 have shown the importance of a strong research system. I am particularly grateful to our research sector for stepping up to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Information provided by our researchers protected the health and wellbeing of our team of five million by informing our response. We are continuing to take an evidence-based approach to continue our good work.

The government’s key priorities are keeping New Zealanders safe from global challenges such as COVID-19, accelerating our economic recovery and laying the foundations for a better future. Research, science and innovation plays an important part in achieving this, which is why we need to understand how the system is performing so we can make good investment decisions and develop effective policy.

This report shows our system performs well for the level of investment we make, particularly in international co-publication rates. Ensuring our system keeps pace with other small advanced economies remains challenging. Key to this will be ensuring our system is able to quickly and easily respond to changing needs, and that our research workforce can grow the diversity and breadth of perspective needed to generate new ideas, skills and knowledge. This includes continuing our investments to support mātauranga Māori and ensuring New Zealand has a place at the frontier of expanding knowledge and technological developments.

I am proud that we have been able to support continued investment in research by industry through the Research and Development Loan Scheme and more widely through the COVID Innovation Acceleration Fund. The effects of these investments are yet to be seen in the data, but I have no doubt that they will have supported excellent, world-class research activities.

This year is the first time we have designed the biennial Research, Science and Innovation System Performance Report as an interactive digital tool, alongside hard copy. The new digital format allows users to undertake more granular analysis of the source data, which we hope will lead to additional insights. We welcome feedback as we continue to develop this tool.

I am looking forward to working with the sector and seeing how the system evolves over the next 2 years to better meet our needs and address our greatest challenges.

Nāku iti noa, nā

Hon Dr Megan Woods
Minister of Research, Science and Innovation
October 2021