Funds lead the way

22:15, Nov 23 2012
Professor Richard Blaikie
Professor Richard Blaikie

The University of Otago has committed more than $2.5 million to support 14 research centres during the next five years.

Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Development, Professor Richard Blaikie, says the centres are an important facet of the university.

"It's something we are committed to supporting, even in times when budgets are constrained, " he says.

"We have increased the level of support for research centres by about 50 per cent from university resources in this round compared to the round just completed."

Two of the centres, which have been formally recognised as University of Otago Research Centres for the next five years, are new. They are the Centre for Research on Colonial Culture and the International Centre for Governance, Science, and Society.

Among the existing 12 are the Brain Health Research Centre, the Centre for Neuroendocrinology, the Jack Dodd Centre for Quantum Technology, and the New Zealand Centre for Sustainable Cities.

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The funding from the University of Otago supplements grants from academic divisions.

"The funding is to support some sustaining activities, not to support all the research activities, " Blaikie says.

"We'll support some student activities, some collaborative activities, and workshops and seminars. But these groups have to be very strongly committed to going out and receiving money from grants and awards for their research, as well."

The 14 centres went through a rigorous application process in order to receive funding from the university. Blaikie says the University Research Committee encourages research groups which embrace collaboration and multidisciplinary work.

"Some of the really strong applications were from two or more groups who had established themselves with strong international reputations, " he says. "So by combining the relatively modest amounts from the University Research Committee we can make the whole greater than the sum of the parts."

Some of the research centres are involved in internationally cutting edge research work.

But Blaikie says it is important to the University of Otago that the research activities can be translated into real-world benefits where possible.

"You will see, in this collection of centres, people with very strong evidence of that translational activity, " he says.

"The Centre for Translational Cancer Research is very strongly connected to Pacific Edge Biotechnology, which is developing commercial cancer diagnostics, and the Edgar National Centre for Diabetes and Obesity Research are one of the leading lights in a very important area for New Zealand.

"As these problems grow, the research effort needs to grow."

The Southland Times