Government Opens New Research and Innovation Hub

The Government has invested $7.7 million in a research innovation hub which was officially opened today by Minister of Research, Science and Innovation Dr Ayesha Verrall.

The new facility named Te Pā Harakeke Flexible Labs comprises 560 square metres of new laboratory space for research staff and is based at Callaghan Innovation’s Gracefield Innovation Quarter site in Lower Hutt.

“Today’s opening of newly built cutting-edge lab facilities provides space to undertake more impactful research using new technologies. And could be used for things such as developing new vaccines for fighting COVID-19,” said Verrall.

“Constructing new research facilities is part of a broader plan to improve the opportunities for researchers and industry alike to freely collaborate and make the most of skills and technologies we have available across Aotearoa New Zealand.”

Innovation hubs are important catalysts of innovation where research groups are co-located to promote collaboration.

“We want to see a more connected, resilient and adaptable research, science and innovation sector and this is a key aim of our system-wide review of the sector through the Te Ara Paerangi – Future Pathways programme,” continued Verrall.

“These new state-of-the-art facilities are a prime example of the positive changes are already underway in the sector. This modular, flexible “turn-key” type of lab can enable scientists, researchers, innovators to carry out their work without having to build their own capital-intensive facilities.

“Te Pā Harakeke will be occupied by Callaghan Innovation’s partner the Ferrier Research Institute. The Institute is a team of carbohydrate, analytical and bio-chemistry experts and will work on site with lipid nanoparticles to build research and manufacturing capability for mRNA vaccines and related technologies.

“This will help strengthen our vaccine research capability, including resilience against infectious diseases. Earlier this year, the Government announced a $40.7 million investment to create a platform to grow our domestic RNA research base and connect this with industry to facilitate the production of new vaccines, treatments and diagnostics that can support wellbeing and better health outcomes for New Zealanders. As well as responding to COVID-19 this has the exciting potential to begin to address the treatment of cancers as well as neuro-degenerative diseases.”

The Government is also boosting its pandemic resilience and preparedness for future pandemics in other areas such as through its $36 million investment in an Infectious Diseases Research Platform. The Ferrier Research Institute is contributing to this work, explained Verrall.

“It was also great to see the development of the new facility supporting the local economy. Callaghan Innovation worked closely with Lower Hutt-based firm Niche Modular to build the innovative and unique laboratories in a nearby factory, before they were relocated to their current site.”