17 May 2016

Health research to get a $97m boost

7:25 pm on 17 May 2016

A major funding boost for health research will help New Zealand attract and retain top researchers, the Health Minister says.

The government announced today it will boost health research funding by $97 million over the next four years, saying it was the largest-ever funding increase for health research in New Zealand.

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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

It will lift health research spending by 30 percent, from a planned $321m over the next four years, to $418m.

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman in the past health research has proven to drive important health improvements.

These include cot-death studies that saved many babies' lives, and studies that established a link between overcrowding and meningitis, he said.

"But also actually with this funding it signals to New Zealand researchers that there really is a future for them here in New Zealand, and we're really concerned to ensure there is a career path for young New Zealand clinicians and scientists and academics to come back and practise their craft."

The pre-Budget announcement was made at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington this afternoon.

The institute's research director, Graham Le Gros, said times had been hard for researchers, so the funding boost was a welcome expression of confidence in the sector.

"We've just bled talent, we've bled capability, and that's why it's a watershed moment.

"I think we've been challenged a few years ago to say that you've got to be convince the political process that you're going to do something with the money, that it can't just be an academic exercise.

"I think there has been a lot of work done behind the scenes to see that there's something useful to be done with this sort of investment."

300714. Photo Diego Opatowski / RNZ. Steven Joyce  during a press conference regarding Novopay next steps.

Steven Joyce Photo: RNZ / Diego Opatowski

Minister of Science and Innovation Steven Joyce said the funding would lift the Health Research Council's budget and support long-running longitudinal studies.

"Health research demonstrates every day the benefits it can bring in terms of helping people live longer and live better lives, but also helping our economic outcomes with some very clever companies that are growing rapidly in New Zealand," he said.

"We'll work alongside the three health National Science Challenges: A Better Start, Healthier Lives and Ageing Well.

"All across that area we're backing health researchers to deliver, not just for the health sector - which is crucially important, but also for the wider New Zealand economy."

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