CoREs and effect

Publication Details

This report analyses the performance of the Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) across five dimensions – the impact of the CoRE’s on the New Zealand economy and society, research quality, research collaboration, the academic impact of research and knowledge transfer. This report forms part of a series called 'Research and knowledge creation'.

Author(s): Roger Smyth and Warren Smart, Tertiary Sector Performance Analysis, Ministry of Education and Shaun Hendy and Catriona Sissons, MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology.

Date Published: February 2013

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The government set up Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs) in the New Zealand university system in 2002 and 2003 as one of the mechanisms for lifting the research performance of New Zealand's universities. The CoREs were designed to reduce the problems of a widely distributed university system in a small country. The CoREs were focused on areas of excellence in research. They were designed to build networks to connect high-performing researchers in the university system - and hence to create critical mass in chosen fields of research, despite the widely scattered capability.

This paper is an evaluative analysis of the performance of seven of the eight CoREs that have received government funding since 2002:

  • The Maurice Wilkins Centre for Molecular Biodiscovery - based at the University of Auckland
  • The MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology - based at Victoria University of Wellington
  • Gravida: National Centre for Growth and Development - based at the University of Auckland
  • The Allan Wilson Centre - based at Massey University
  • The Riddet Institute - based at Massey University
  • The Bio-Protection Research Centre - based at Lincoln University
  • Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga - based at the University of Auckland 

Key Findings

Our study finds evidence that:

  • the work of the CoREs has had wide-ranging impacts on New Zealand's society and economy
  • the nature of the impact varies between CoREs, and ranges from commercialisation of the results of CoRE research, to public health initiatives, improved biosecurity, better management of New Zealand's natural environment, and social change
  • the quantity and quality of research outputs in each CoRE have increased, evidenced by improvements in bibliometric measures
  • collaboration between researchers has increased, as evidenced by growth in co-authorship networks
  • public outreach programmes that go beyond those normally undertaken by universities have lifted the profile of and interest in science among young people and have influenced national debates.


  1. There are non-university partners in CoREs, but each CoRE is hosted by a university and the majority of the researchers work in universities.

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