The head of one of the biggest science funding organisations in New Zealand says the number of applicants receiving funding has dwindled in the past decade.
Health Research Council chief executive Robin Olds said funding has become a short-term game.
Dr Olds said there are limited opportunities for scientists to develop projects and build up momentum through the council due to a growing number of high calibre scientists applying for grants.
Marsden Fund recipient John Pickering from Otago University's Christchurch campus said the number of applicants receiving funding has dwindled from one in three to one in 12 and talented scientists are giving up.
Reproductive biologist, Mark Green said he's moving to the University of Melbourne to continue his work after writing 42 grant applications during seven years of short-term funding contracts in New Zealand.
Dr Green said the country is at a competitive disadvantage and it will lose its most innovative scientists if funding does not improve.
New Zealand's gross domestic expenditure on research and development puts it in 26th place out of 32 OECD countries; Australia is ranked 12th.
A spokesman for Science Minister Steven Joyce said the Government has invested an extra $9 million in the Marsden Fund each year since 2009 and increased the amount it invests in research and development overall from $1 billion to $1.24 billion over the last four years.