Basis of New Zealand’s science system

New Zealand’s investment in science and research helps address the most important issues facing the country, and aims for productive, inclusive and sustainable growth.

The Government's science investment is built on two key pillars:

  1. Excellence: Only excellent science will lead to transformative changes to New Zealand’s economy, environment, and society
  2. Impact: Science research should have a strong link to the eventual ‘real world’ impact it could have, even if the impact is not clear at the outset and is many years in the future

A detailed overview of New Zealand's science system and key statistics are available on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) website

National science expenditure

The OECD breaks national research expenditure or GERD into BERD, HERD and GovERD. These are defined in the table below with the figures for 2018. 

Source: New Zealand's figures from the Statistics NZ R&D Survey 2018 and OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators Database 2017.

Measure $NZ for 2018 % of NZ GDP for 2018

% of OECD GDP Average for 2017

BERD - Business enterprise sector R&D expenditure

$2,150m 0.76% 1.64%

HERD - Higher Education R&D expenditure

$960m 0.34% 0.47%

GovERD - Government intramural R&D expenditure

(Government agencies and institutions, except tertiary education institutions)

$784m 0.28% 0.26%

GERD - Gross Domestic Sector R&D


$3,894m 1.37%  2.37%


The proportion of government ownership in New Zealand's science system through the CRIs is larger than in many OECD countries. This is partly a reflection of the biological base of much of the country's research. 

How Science New Zealand members contribute

The Crown Research Institutes and Callaghan Innovation are the largest dedicated providers of science research in New Zealand in their specific areas. Collectively, they employ around two-thirds of New Zealand’s publicly-funded science researchers. Our members undertake basic and applied science, and technology research and development in core areas of research, in many instances taking an idea through to its application by end users - either by commercialisation or technological transfer.

Science New Zealand members work in close collaboration with each other as well as researchers from tertiary institutions and industry.

CRIs and Callaghan Innovation collectively employ more than 4,000 scientists, engineers, researchers and technologists. In the 2018/19 financial year, they had combined operating expenditure of $1,156 million, up from $1,004 million in 2017/18 and $920 million in 2016/17.

CRI scientists work across regional, national, and global areas of interest.

CRI outputs include new products and services, and knowledge in specialised areas which are of interest to New Zealand. Several CRIs also work to increase the resilience of communities and sectors to natural hazards, environmental and climate change.

CRIs operate as companies and must cover their own capital costs. The government owns CRIs to carry out research that benefits New Zealand, rather than to maximise profit or generate dividends.

CRIs are charged with promoting the transfer and dissemination of research, science and technology. They are expected to make a difference with the research they produce.

In addition to funding from the Crown, CRIs attract significant investment from the private sector and local government.