Government to give data science a $49m boost

Funding to be allocated through the Strategic Science Investment Fund

The Government is planning to invest $49 million over seven years in up to four strategic data science research programmes with the aim of lifting New Zealand’s capability in data science and addressing big challenges for the environment, society or the economy.

The funding will be allocated through the Strategic Science Investment Fund (SSIF). Each programme will be contracted separately with funding between $1 million and $3 million per year.

MBIE said programmes will be inspired by real world domains/use cases and each will consist of “a team of deeply aligned multi-disciplined partners inspired by a real-world domain/use case.” The teams will be encouraged to collaborate with each other as appropriate.

It has identified a number or application areas for data science as being of particular interest to government.

These include: agritech, environment/conservation, urban systems, space technologies, precision health, and energy technologies. It says other domain areas that “inspire advanced and stretchy [sic] data science” can be considered.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) will issue a call for proposals in April. It issued a similar request in March 2018 but abandoned the project shortly afterwards.

Announcing the new move MBIE said: “After careful consideration we did not continue with this investment approach, but remain committed to an investment in data science.”

It added that its intention for the investment — “to lift capability in data science while addressing big challenges for the environment, society or the economy” — had not changed.

MBIE said greater use of advanced data science across the economy, environment and society will create new ways of working and help to position New Zealand for a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive future.

“Government wants to make sure New Zealand has sufficient advanced data science capability to develop useful and transformative data science techniques, and to apply advanced data science to create economic, environmental and social benefits for New Zealand," it added.

Joint initiative with Singapore

Separate from this programme, MBIE also intends to negotiate, under an existing partnership with Singapore, a bilateral data science research programme with Singapore.

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