NZIER report highlights significant impact of New Zealand’s first science organisation
Exactly 100 years after Nelson philanthropist Thomas Cawthron left the bulk of his fortune to establish New Zealand’s
first science organisation, a new report has highlighted the significant scientific and economic benefits his legacy
still delivers for New Zealand.
The NZIER* report
released today by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, highlights that Nelson-based Cawthron Institute is a
major economic contributor to the Nelson region with a national and global reach, and its future successes could boost
New Zealand's GDP by $201.7m and create 539 jobs. The scientific research it undertakes “is essential to a number of New
Zealand’s industries and exports” the report states.
“This report emphasises the outstanding benefits regional research centres can deliver for New Zealand, and recognises
our important contribution to regional economic development, social diversity and high-skill jobs,” Cawthron Chief
Executive Professor Charles Eason says. “We’ve worked hard to get to where we are today. We’re proud of the work we do
and the difference our research makes to our region and New Zealand’s environment and economy.”
Image: Cawthron Institute Chief Executive Professor Charles Eason. Credit: Cawthron Institute
Cawthron Institute, now New Zealand’s largest independently-owned science organisation, was officially opened in 1921
following Thomas Cawthron’s death on 8 October, 1915. At the time, his bequest was the single biggest philanthropic gift
in New Zealand.
“Cawthron Institute’s continued success is a testament to the incredible legacy Thomas Cawthron left behind,” Cawthron
Institute Chair Ian Kearney says. “Thanks to his inspiring vision 100 years ago, we have this world-leading science
organisation, with 200 top scientists and specialist staff who every day are solving big scientific problems for the
benefit of New Zealand’s environment and economy.”
The Government earlier this year held Cawthron Institute up as an exemplar for how to deliver regional science. In the
2015 budget announcement, Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce revealed $25 million over three years for new
privately-led Regional Research Institutes, ‘modelled along the lines of Nelson’s Cawthron Institute’.
Mr Kearney says the report proves that investing in regional research is an excellent way to deliver economic returns
and can attract international investment for the regions.
“We believe Cawthron Institute provides a good prototype for the Government’s initiatives for regional development,” he
says. “We would be really happy to see other regions benefit from a model such as ours and would be keen to work with
any regions that may be considering science institute establishment, and provide them with whatever assistance we can.”
Key highlights of the NZIER report:
• Significant employer: Cawthron is one of Nelson’s largest employers with 200 employees (up from 40 staff 25 years ago) and a monthly payroll
of around $1 million
• Economic success: Cawthron’s turnover has grown from $18 million to $23 million over the last three years. Its future success could boost
New Zealand’s GDP by $201.7 million and create 539 jobs
• Leading exporter: Over 90 percent of Cawthron’s services are exports from Nelson to the rest of the country or overseas, bringing much
needed employment and investment to the region. Cawthron is believed to be the largest exporter of business services in
the Nelson region. It represents 25 percent of Nelson business service sector exports, contributes $14 million in added
value to the local economy, and indirectly creates 91 jobs
• Global reach: Cawthron has an increasingly global economic footprint. Its export earnings have doubled in value over the last two
years and now account for around 10 percent of its total revenue. Over the past three years it has achieved over $3
million in annual export earnings largely as a result of selling high-tech analytical services and products to several
countries including Australia, the USA, Japan and in Europe. It has longstanding international research collaborations
with leading research organisations world-wide including Japan, USA, China, Australia, France and the United Kingdom.
• Science quality: High quality science capability with annual peer-reviewed Cawthron publications more than doubling over the past five
years from 35 in 2010 to 75 last year.
• Education partnerships: Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology (NMIT) and Cawthron collaborate to provide tertiary-level education to
aquaculture students, sharing facilities with scientists and industry. The partnership has seen NMIT establish a
teaching facility at Cawthron Aquaculture Park, ensuring education is well aligned with industry and researchers.
• Research commercialisation: Cawthron has proven success in applied research that can be scaled up by industry for commercial production and
development, particularly for aquaculture where this model has been implemented for Greenshell™ mussels and Pacific
oysters (case studies included in report). Research projects are underway to repeat the model for at least four other
• Unique business model: Cawthron brings together three factors that create its unique value proposition. Its science capabilities, geographical
location advantages and the strength of its industry relationships come together to produce a solid track record of
technology transfer and commercialisation. About half its revenue is from Government with the remainder from private
The event at Cawthron Institute today was attended by key stakeholders and business leaders including representatives
from Nelson City, Marlborough and Tasman District councils, Nelson Economic Development Agency, Nelson Chamber of
Commerce, Nelson Tasman Tourism, NMIT and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise.
*The New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER) is a specialist consulting firm that uses applied economic
research and analysis to provide a wide range of strategic advice to clients in the public and private sectors,
throughout New Zealand and Australia, and further afield.