Research centres miss out on funds

LUCY TOWNEND
Last updated 09:00 10/05/2014

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Two Palmerston North research institutions ranked among the best in the country have missed out on millions of dollars in government funding.

The Riddet Institute and the Allan Wilson Centre, both based at Massey University's Manawatu campus, have been cut from the Tertiary Education Commission's list for renewal as a Centre of Research Excellence (CoRE).

CoRE funding is designed to bring together leading scientists across institutions to deliver strategically-focused research.

In the latest round 27 applicants made bids for a slice of the $210 million six-year operating expenditure, which would have given centres $35m on average between January and 2020.

The Riddet Institute, considered a world leader in food science, became a CoRE in 2007 but was one of four dropped from the draft renewal shortlist in March.

The Allan Wilson Centre for Molecular Ecology and Evolution, which has had two CoRE funding terms since 2003, was reeling at the announcement it had missed out yesterday.

"We're bitterly disappointed, we're really gutted," director Professor Hamish Spencer said.

"It means that the Wilson Centre, in whatever form it's going to take, is going to become a very different animal - we can't survive a funding cut of that magnitude."

Since the 2006/2007 selection round, Riddet had received about $3.2m a year in CoRE funding, which made up a third of the institute's annual income. The rest is drawn from national and international partners. The Allan Wilson Centre received about $4.5m a year, which was the centre's main source of income.

Riddet business manager John Henley-King said it was disappointing to not be included, but management remained optimistic.

"We're still very hopeful the Riddet Institute will continue in some way and we're confident it will happen, but where exactly that money will come from in the long term we're not entirely sure," he said.

"Sometimes we're successful and other times we're not. It's part of working in any science system, you have to accept it . . . but we are positive about the future."

Massey assistant vice-chancellor of research, academic and enterprise, Professor Brigid Heywood, said the university was fortunate to host two of the national CoREs, but the exclusions should not mark the end of either centre.

"We are used to short-term policy transitions around science funding," she said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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