Budget 2023: No frills but money in the pot for science & tech 

Grant Robertson’s budget sought to relieve pressure resulting for the escalating costs of living but lived up to the pre-budget hints at forward-looking investments in science, tech and skills.

“We know from looking at advanced economies like Germany, South Korea, Japan and Singapore that the best investments you can make in the future of your economy are in science, skills and infrastructure,” digital economy and communications minister Ginny Anderson said today, announcing a suite of initiatives aimed at the tech sector.

Budget 2023 new tech-related allocations include:

A 20% rebate for video game development costs.

The rebate will be available for available for game development studios who qualify and meet the minimum $250,000 expenditure threshold per year. Individual studios will be able to receive up to $3 million per year in rebate funding, and the scheme will be backdated to 1 April 2023.

“Our gaming sector is rapidly growing and is a strong contributor to New Zealand’s GDP – bringing in more than $400 million in revenue in 2022,” says Andersen.

“The sector is a creator of high-skill, high-wage jobs – aligning with our vision for a low-emissions, high-wage economy, helping to lift our productivity and wealth. This Government wants to partner with the game development sector to better support them grow and contribute to the economy.”

The rebate is less generous than the 30% total rebates offered at a state and federal level in Australia, but will go a long way to answering the pleas from the video games industry which has been losing game developers to Aussie companies.

Some weren’t happy about the subsidisation of video game developers:

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Tweet from New Zealand Initiative chief economist Dr Eric Crampton

$27 million digital skills package

The Government would have looked like the emperor with no clothes if it had gone another year without a decent injection of funding into digital skills. It saves itself that embarrassment with a $27 million package “focusing on growing our tech sector workforce under the Digital Technologies Industry Transformation Plan”.

The funding will support the development of “apprenticeship-like pilot programmes, which will include part payments for trainee wages, employer support and guidance, and will cover set up costs for trainees”.

“We also want to make pathways into the tech sector accessible, especially for underrepresented groups such as Māori, Pacific Peoples, women, and neurodiverse people. We’ll also be supporting in-school programmes and an internship-matching service to be delivered nationwide,” says Anderson.

The programme will integrate in-school learning and work-based learning with local employers, where students will gain NCEA level 1-3 credits and can work towards completing a Level 4+ Tertiary qualification in Information Technology.

That’s a lot to cover for $27 million, but it’s a start and will allow the industry to pilot programmes to find out what works best to get the domestic digital skills pipeline flowing.

$29.9 million for agri-tech ITP

Our horticulture sector took a hammering in Cyclone Gabrielle and that appears to have been reflected in a funding injection for the agri-tech industry transformation plan.

“Today’s package includes $29.9 million to establish the Horticulture Technology Catalyst initiative, through the Agritech Industry Transformation Plan. This investment will allow horticulture technology experts to provide services such as business coaching and support to growers and the sector,” economic development minister Barbara Edmonds says.

That sounds like a shrewd investment to help get an important sector of the economy back on its feet and boost primary-sector innovation at the same time.

Wellington the winner with big R&D investment

In the science and innovation space, the Government began to put its science strategy into effect with a focus on nationally-significant areas of research and development that will be given priority. BusinessDesk reports that $450 million will go towards the creation of the new hubs.

Three multi-institution research hubs

“The creation of three multi-institution research hubs will bring scientists closer together to increase collaboration, ensure better use of expensive equipment and facilities, positioning New Zealand to meet complex challenges and seize economic opportunities,” says Ayesha Verrall, research, science and innovation minister.

The hubs will also have a commercialisation remit, answering a common criticism that the sector isn’t geared up to serve the needs of industry.

The hubs will focus on:

Technology and innovation: to develop a research, technology and innovation park in Gracefield that brings experts from Callaghan Innovation, Victoria University of Wellington, GNS and the Malaghan Institute together with a focus on advanced manufacturing and materials, energy futures and biotechnology.

Climate change and disaster resilience: bringing together expertise from the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA), the Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited (GNS) the Victoria University of Wellington, Massey University and others to look at issues like climate change and disaster resilience as part of a national centre for research on oceans, climate and hazards.

Health and pandemic readiness: a health and wellbeing corridor, including a new pandemic centre to ensure New Zealand is prepared for future emergencies, will share expertise and resources between Victoria University of Wellington, University of Otago, the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR), the Malaghan Institute and Callaghan Innovation.

An additional $94 million was in the budget for science-related initiatives including:

Research fellowships – $55.2 million to train more PhD students

“The fellowships will help retain and develop more than 260 future leaders of research, science and innovation in New Zealand over the next 10 years. These expanded fellowships will also include dedicated awards for Māori and Pacific Peoples to increase representation at all levels,” says Verrall.

NZ-EU research collaboration

A $37.6 million investment over four years is being made in New Zealand’s association with Horizon Europe, the European Union’s research funding programme.

“We will be one of the first non-European countries to offer our researchers access to the European Union’s largest-ever research and innovation programme on equal terms with European scientists,” says Verrall.

All things tech elsewhere in the Budget

Te Pūkenga’s IT integration

Budget 2023 allows for an interest-free Crown loan of up to $220 million to be offered to Te Pūkenga to support it to integrate IT systems as a result of merging 24 polytech organisations.

“This investment will support students and employers to transition seamlessly between delivery sites and educational modes, so Te Pūkenga is a true long-term skills training partner to firms, operating both regionally and nationally,” tertiary education minister Jan Tinetti says.

Source: ITP New Zealand Tech Blog

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