News and Views

Focus should be on genuine, useful R&D

Federated Farmers is fully behind the new government’s goal of boosting the nation’s spending on research and development to two per cent of GDP by 2027.

“It doesn’t matter to us whether that’s achieved by the re-introduction of an R&D tax credit, the previous government’s grants schemes or a combination of methods,” Federated Farmers science spokesperson Guy Wigley said. “What’s important is that it’s genuine and useful research and development that drives progress and innovation and boosts New Zealand’s ability to earn a living in the world.”

Addressing the Science New Zealand 2017 Conference in Wellington, Science and Innovation Minister Dr Megan Woods acknowledged that sustained increases in government investment would be important to reach the two per cent target.

“For public research and science this will mean investing across different research horizons from blue skies through to developmental research,” she said.

There will also need to be an increasing contribution from the private sector and to that end the government will introduce an R&D tax credit.

New Zealand’s total R&D spend is reported to have hit $3.2 billion in 2016, or 1.3 per cent of GDP. But that still lags behind the OECD average of 2.4 per cent.

Guy Wigley said there was uncertainty now over the future of Primary Growth Partnerships, which have done a lot of good work. He also noted that Labour’s 2007 R&D tax credits excluded on-farm activities.

“Concern has been expressed at the potential for reclassifying expenses inappropriately as R&D – essentially gaming the system and undermining the aim of lifting R&D investment.

“But the previous government’s various grants schemes have also been criticised as ‘picking winners’ and having a cumbersome and expensive application process,” Mr Wigley said.

“New Zealand must lift it’s spending on R&D – especially in the primary sector – to maintain competitiveness and our standard of living. Whatever policy is pursued, Federated Farmers believes it should not be complex nor administratively expensive, and the science and research should be rigorous and useful.”

Source: Federated Farmers

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