SfTI invests in 15 new Seed projects to the total of $2.99m

23 September 2021 | Read time: 5 minutes

Hero image for news page SfTI 2021 Seed Funding Announcement 01 Date

SfTI’s 2021 Kaupapa Kākano Seed funding call closed on 18 June, 2021 with 121 proposals received. The assessment panel carefully assessed each application and this resulted in the SfTI Board approving funding for 15 new physical sciences and engineering Seed projects.

Our focus for the 2021 Kaupapa kākano Seed project fund is to invest in Early Career Researchers (ECRs) exploring complex and risky ideas across our research themes; and mātauranga Māori projects using cutting-edge technology with strong Māori leadership or partnership. 

Chair of the Assessment Panel, Professor Gill Dobbie says, "We were pleased to see so many innovative and cutting-edge ideas, and are excited about the talent of our Māori and early career researchers. This funding will provide an opportunity for our researchers to push their ideas further toward improving the economic growth and wellbeing of Aotearoa-NZ."

Of the 121 proposals received, 95 were eligible to claim ECR status resulting in 11 of the 15 funded proposals being led by ECRs, with full teams of ECRs, and four (4) funded proposals with strong Vision Mātauranga (VM) alignment, representing 27% of the total funding. Of the funded VM-aligned projects, two (2) are led by Māori, with the other two (also) involving Māori researchers in significant roles to investigate new avenues for mātauranga Māori. 

Associate Professor Te Taka Keegan, Kaihautū – Kāhui Māori SfTI says, “A primary goal of the Kāhui Māori of SfTI is to enable the growing of Māori capacity in technology, and the capacity of the technology system to deliver for Māori. We feel we have made some important strides, and we are pleased to see such a high calibre of VM proposals this year.”

Project proposals are from researchers at New Zealand based organisations, with research capability relevant to SfTI’s research themes: Data Science and Digital Technologies; Materials, Manufacturing Technology and Design; Sensors, Robotics and Automation; Vision Mātauranga.

  • To claim Vision Mātauranga theme alignment, the research proposal must have tangible Māori participation and/or partnership, and align with one of the other SfTI research themes – proposing research with cutting-edge technology using or extending mātauranga Māori.
  • All ECRs were eligible even if they have been previously funded by or are currently funded by us.

Our 2021 Seed fund priorities 

Early Career Researchers

In the 2021 round, the main priority is to support Early Career Researchers (ECRs), particularly those impacted by Covid-19, whilst encouraging more applications from women, Māori and Pacific researchers. Proposals that are led by an ECR with a full team of ECRs received high priority, with at least 55% of total funding committed to projects that meet the ECR priority. Find out what SfTI considers an ECR.

Vision Mātauranga

Projects with strong Vision Mātauranga (VM) alignment also received higher prioritisation. VM projects must have sufficient Māori participation and involvement in the development and execution of the project for consideration under the VM priority. At least 25% of total funding is targeted to projects that support Vision Mātauranga objectives.

More information

Background to the Seed fund

The Seed project fund is intended to bring in new ideas and new researchers to the SfTI community. Our Seed projects are: smaller, high risk, technically complex projects based on ideas developed by researchers themselves.

Funded for up to two years with a maximum of $200,000 per project. Since 2016 SfTI has funded 86 Seed projects, with funding rounds typically held every year. Learn more about the projects we have funded. 

The 2021 Kaupapa kākano Seed project fund is the last round of funding available during the National Science Challenges 10-year term, 2014-2024.


Any questions related to our process, or the outcome of this funding round, can be directed to sftichallenge@callaghaninnovation.govt.nz


He hiringa hangarau, he oranga tangata 

Innovation in technology for the benefit of people