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Investing in excellent research

The Health Research Council of New Zealand (HRC) is the government's principal funder of health research.

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We are committed to building knowledge and evidence on issues that affect New Zealanders. We know that the quality of healthcare and healthcare delivery is largely dependent on the research evidence that underpins it.

We invest in research that improves the quality, cost-effectiveness and sustainability of New Zealand’s health system, and contributes to disease prevention and living well. This calls for ongoing and robust testing of standard practices and for researchers to compare the effectiveness of different standards of care. It also calls for researchers to be innovative and often transformative in their thinking, and to work collaboratively for greater results and impact.

New Zealand research is respected internationally, and findings published by HRC-funded teams are quoted 44% more than the average for health research publications worldwide.

As well as addressing the needs of New Zealand’s diverse population, our researchers are tackling global issues of urgency here in New Zealand and in collaboration with scientists around the world.

Features of excellent research

Excellent research needs to be both methodologically sound and scientifically robust. It also identifies genuine knowledge gaps or needs, as well as being ethical, well-performed and well-reported. All these elements help minimise research waste stemming from duplication or unsound results, while creating a system that is best placed to address the most pressing health needs of New Zealanders.

It is critical that the HRC balances high-risk novel research (which contributes to our knowledge banks and has the potential to be disruptive) with the type of research that brings tangible and direct benefits to New Zealanders. We support both types of research, so long as they meet our excellence criteria.

We recognise that excellent research occurs across the full range of research disciplines, using many and varied methodological approaches, including Mātauranga Māori and Kaupapa approaches which are highly valued and crucial to achieving health equity and better health outcomes in New Zealand.

We encourage individual and community involvement throughout the research process, while recognising that excellent research can be original or build on gains from excellent research carried out nationally or internationally.  

HRC research aims to...

Deliver impact
For research to have the best chance of making a difference to New Zealanders, we ask research applicants to think about the potential impact of their work right from the planning stages of their research. The HRC’s ‘Pathway to Impact model’ sets out a chain of linked steps to describe how benefits can be generated at various points of the research journey, and helps researchers prepare for (and respond to) opportunities for maximising impact as their research progresses. Here are some great examples of impact resulting from HRC-funded research. 

Improve health equity
Over the past five years, we have invested more than $106 million in 322 research and career development contracts that contribute to improving health equity for Māori and Pacific peoples. That figure is set to rise with the introduction of a new initiative by the HRC to advance Maori health, which will apply to all grant submissions in our general funding rounds and will count towards a proposal’s overall score in the funding assessment process. As a result, we expect to see research from all fields, to varying degrees, playing a role in reducing health inequities.  

Connect innovative research with commercial opportunities
We are fortunate in New Zealand to have government and tertiary agencies that are skilled at realising the commercial benefits of health research and innovation. The HRC is working hard to actively increase system connectivity and coordination with these agencies to strengthen the early stages of the innovation pipeline and further support researchers to translate their discoveries into real-world health and economic benefits.

Address New Zealand priorities
To ensure that every dollar invested is addressing issues that matter to New Zealanders, the HRC has worked with the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to set a Prioritisation Framework that applies to all publicly-funded research in New Zealand. All research proposals to the HRC will need to address the aims and attributes of this Framework which will be formally announced at the end of 2019. The Framework focuses on how and why we do health research in New Zealand, and leaves what we research at the discretion of contributors.

More on HRC's research priorities, drivers and goals can be found in our Impact and Performance publications in our Resource Library.