What are the National Science Challenges?

There are 11 National Science Challenges, which are designed to take a more strategic approach to the government’s science investment by targeting a series of goals, which if they are achieved, would have major and enduring benefits for New Zealand. The Challenges provide an opportunity to align and focus New Zealand’s research on large and complex issues by drawing scientists together from different institutions and across disciplines to achieve a common goal through collaboration.

More information about the National Science Challenges, what they are trying to achieve, and links to each is available from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
MBIE website

What is Ageing Well National Science Challenge trying to achieve?

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge—Kia eke kairangi ki te taikaumātuatanga—is about harnessing science to sustain health and well-being into the later years of life. Read more in our revised Research and Business Plan:
Ageing Well National Science Challenge Research and Business Plan

The vision of Ageing Well is to add life to years for all older New Zealanders.

This vision will be achieved by harnessing science to sustain health and well-being into the later years of life, in ways that:

  • Allow personal dignity to be preserved into old age by mitigating mental, cognitive, and physical disability
  • Support health, well-being and independence for all New Zealanders as they age
  • Recognise the resourcefulness of older people and their on-going social, economic, and cultural contributions to society
  • Enable Ageing Well through mutual respect, support, and reciprocity amongst people of different ages

The mission of Ageing Well is to harness science to sustain health and well-being into the later years of life enabling all New Zealanders to reach their full potential.

This mission will be achieved through delivery of our programme of research, underpinned by:

  • Creating an environment that encourages collaboration between researchers who specialise in ageing research, so as to develop the innovative strategies needed for realising the potential of the longevity dividend (five interlinking strands of research)
  • Engaging continuously with consumers and stakeholders from the health and disability, voluntary and community services sectors who are at the front line of support for New Zealand’s older people in an increasingly diverse and complex ageing society (the emphasis on co-production of research and stakeholder engagement)
  • Infusing the research programme with the principles of Vision Mātauranga which seek to transform the burden of poor ageing that falls disproportionately on Māori and give expression to the long and rich tradition of Māori valuing and using older people’s knowledge and wisdom

We will work to ensure that Vision Mātauranga helps to inform the work of Ageing Well. Vision Mātauranga is a New Zealand government policy that aims to unlock the science and innovation potential of Māori knowledge, resources, and people for the environmental, economic, social, and cultural benefit of New Zealand.

Vision Mātauranga is critical to Ageing Well because of Māori culture valuing older people’s knowledge, the disproportionate burden of ageing that falls on Māori populations and communities, and the commitment of Māori communities to supporting older people ageing positively in place.

Who’s Involved?

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge team is comprised of a broad selection of subject experts from New Zealand and internationally. This team has been assembled to ensure an appropriate mix of world-class skills and experience in order to make significant impacts on Ageing Well Outcomes, ongoing collaboration between researchers in a wide range of disciplines is required.

Neurodegeneration, stroke, gerontology, physical function, primary health care, economics, demography/epidemiology, geography and social science all have a role to play in addressing the diverse social and economic drivers of Ageing Well. This is a fundamental step-change in the approach to research on ageing in New Zealand. Indeed, rarely have interdisciplinary teams, spanning the medical, health, and the social sciences, attempted an integrated approach to address the challenges of ageing.

Our people provides details about the governance and management of the Ageing Well National Science Challenge—including biographies of the International Science Advisory Panel.

The University of Otago is the ‘Challenge Contractor’, contracted to deliver the Challenge by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment website

Other ‘Collaborating Parties’ from across New Zealand helping to deliver Ageing Well National Science Challenge are:

How is Ageing Well National Science Challenge different from other funded research?

The New Zealand Government has established National Science Challenges to focus its investment in science on nationally significant issues. This model of mission-led research funding represents a major change in the funding model for New Zealand, requiring the development of coordinated nation-wide research partnerships, working collaboratively to achieve their mission. In so doing, the Ageing Well’s research will help to drive changes to ensure that ageing is a more positive experience for older New Zealanders.

Within the overall mission-led approach, Ageing Well has included some high risk-high return work, recognising that Ageing Well provides an opportunity for risk-taking in research that does not readily exist through other funding mechanisms. Further information about research will be published in due course.

Meaningful, early and appropriate engagement is vital to the success of Ageing Well National Science Challenge. To this end, Ageing Well is developing an integrated knowledge exchange transfer framework (KETF). This will be based on the principles of co-creation and knowledge exchange between valued partners and researchers. Central to this model is partnership in which researchers and knowledge users—including communities, voluntary agencies, health services, ministries and New Zealanders— who will together make decisions to shape research direction, interpret findings, derive key messaging, and move research findings into practice.

What are the timeframes for the Challenge?

The Ageing Well National Science Challenge is a 10 year programme. It was launched in March 2015 and will run, subject to agreement, until June 2024.

How can I get involved?

If you are interested in the work of Ageing Well and would like to know more, we will send out regular newsletters to our distribution lists to provide updates and to signpost key upcoming activity.

If you would like to receive these newsletters, please contact admin.ageingwell@otago.ac.nz. You can opt out of our distribution list at any time.

What if I have questions?

Please get in touch with us if you have questions. We’d love to hear from you.
Email ageingwell@otago.ac.nz