Joyce opens Queenstown science meet

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Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce has outlined in Queenstown steps taken to improve New Zealand’s economic future via science.

Joyce told 700 scientists at Queenstown Research Week – New Zealand’s biggest science event – the Government has increased investment from $1 billion to $1.25bn over four years, despite the global economic crisis.

“Science, innovation and engineering are massively important for New Zealand’s future,” he says.

Joyce outlined 56 separate initiatives included in the Government document Building Innovation, released last week.

They include the proposed $166 million Advanced Technology Institute, innovation precincts, steps to increase R&D spending, boost investment and steering more youngsters towards the science workforce, which includes a $160m investment in universities.

Joyce also says New Zealand has set up a meeting of small advanced economies, including Singapore and Finland.

And he added detail to the Grand Science Challenges initiative, which will ask Kiwis to identify the biggest challenges science can meet over the next two decades.

“Over time we’d like to group a number of our research investments under the banners of the various challenges,” he says.

Queenstown Research Week, which runs from August 26-31, brings together the Australasian Winter Brain Research Conference with the New Zealand Medical Sciences Congress and Queenstown Molecular Biology Meetings Society.

Organiser Peter Shepherd, professor of cellular signalling at Auckland University, says: “The three groups have got together to create more critical mass and more opportunities for networking, collaboration and to learn what each other are doing.

“This year we have attracted a total of 700 registrants, which makes us quite easily New Zealand’s largest bio-sciences gathering.

“We have about 100 foreign guests, which is a very large number of foreign scientists for a New Zealand meeting.”