9 Feb 2012

NZ investment in research and development low

7:05 am on 9 February 2012

New Zealand investment in research and development is continuing to lag behind other nations.

European Research Council president Professor Helga Nowotny is in New Zealand to give insights into how billions of euros are spent on science research.

The council was set up five years ago and gives grants to more than 2000 people who complete research over five years in a specific area with a team of others.

In 2009, the EU spent about 2.1% of its GDP in research and development, compared to New Zealand in 2010, where 1.31% was spent.

Professor Nowotny says this is low and more needs to be invested, even during tough economic times.

She says young people who have been working closely with a professor, often on a topic that is close to what the professor has done, need to become scientifically independent and to set up a team and follow their own ideas.

Professor Nowotny says they need to do this in a host institution, which is usually a university but can be a public or private research institution.

"We really want them to move the frontier of knowledge into the territory of the unknown", she says.

She says the programme is highly competitive and is also open to young, mobile, ambitious New Zealanders.

Professor Nowotny says a successful candidate would have to move to Europe and work there for five years on their own ideas, assemble their team and gain experience in areas such as running a lab and in their own research.