Govt weighs up research into space and wine

Govt weighs up research into space and wine

Central Otago's space ambitions could take another leap forward, if the Government decides to back a Centre for Space Science Technology in Alexandra.

The space base is one of three proposals shortlisted by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, as part of a plan to establish new research centres outside of Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch.

Mr Joyce says 24 exciting proposals were received for the new $25 million Regional Research Institutes scheme, covering 16 locations around the country.

"The three shortlisted represent those considered at this stage to have presented the best plans for delivering the strongest growth in business R&D and innovation in regional areas", he says.

The Alexandra proposal would create New Zealand's first satellite imagery programme, using data to develop solutions in agriculture, water management, and regional planning.

It's up against a proposed institute in Southland called Earth+Vantage.  The centre would also use real-time satellite data, together with ground-based data relating to soil, climate, and geological systems.

Venture Southland says the information would help lift productivity in primary industries like precision farming, forestry, and marine management.

Stephen Canny, group manager of Business and Strategic Projects, believes a Southland research institute would have a number of spinoffs.

"It would not only positively impact those industries, but also lead to the establishment of a new hi-tech industry in the region, with all the flow on benefits that represents. These would include new opportunities for business, attraction of highly skilled people and increased job opportunities for local people and students", he says.

The wine-growing region of Marlborough rounds out the three hopeful applicants, with a proposed institute of Viticulture and Oenology.

The centre would focus on research to support the growth and continuing success of the country's wine industry.

Mr Joyce says the three shortlisted proposals will go through a business development stage, before a final selection is made.

MBIE will also be contacting unsuccessful applicants, to provide feedback on plans and options for future funding rounds.