Science and innovation key to helping our region thrive

Since arriving in Nelson just a few short months ago to take on the extraordinary privilege of leading Cawthron Institute, I have been blown away by the passionate and enthusiastic cluster of local people and businesses using research, science and innovation to solve social and environmental challenges.


I have also been impressed with how Project Kōkiri has mobilised to form one voice to represent the needs and aspirations of our region to central government – initially to respond to Covid, but now to form a view on how to support our region to thrive over the next five years and beyond. I believe Cawthron has a critical role to play in supporting this ambition.


Part of Cawthron’s great legacy over the past 100 years has been the ability of our scientists to identify emerging issues and find solutions to the problems of the day. A great example of our science helping industries to find innovative, sustainable solutions is Te Tau Ihu’s ocean economy, where 70 percent of New Zealand’s aquaculture is based. Our research helped to revolutionise the mussel industry through selective breeding and sustainable aquaculture farming methods.


And there is still so much potential for the aquaculture industry. Seaweed – or macroalgae - is set to become the third pillar of aquaculture alongside shellfish and finfish, and research underway could signal the establishment of an exciting new industry for New Zealand. Cawthron’s new National Algae Research Centre, opened at our Aquaculture Park last month, will enable the expansion of our algae research. From the extraction of microalgae properties for high-value nutra and pharmaceutical products, through to ‘methane busting’ seaweed, there are endless possibilities for algae-based products and solutions. Our Centre will be an innovation hub, providing a bridge between science and commercial application.


Establishing thriving sectors that create high-value jobs is crucial to helping our region to prosper. The recently announced proposed Science and Technology precinct at the Port is another fantastic opportunity to create yet another hub of innovation and creativity. Cawthron is looking at relocating our laboratories to this site, which we hope will open up exciting new collaborations with other organisations working to deliver sustainable economic and environmental solutions for the ocean economy.


World-class research facilities such as our National Algae Research Centre and new laboratories at the proposed Science and Tech precinct represent significant investment in in our region which will enable Cawthron scientists to take their research to the next level. This ultimately provides innovative economic and positive environmental outcomes for Te Tau Ihu, Aotearoa and beyond.


It is a fascinating time to be taking the helm at Cawthron, as we celebrate 100 years of delivering world-class science and look ahead to the next 100 years. I look forward to sharing my thoughts on how we build on Cawthron’s magnificent legacy and our role as a good ancestor at the Chamber’s Aspire conference in July.


In the meantime, I invite you to find out more about the inspiring and impactful research Cawthron does at our exhibition at Nelson Provincial Museum celebrating 100 years of science. The exhibition runs from late May through to early October. Find out more at or check out our social media pages.


Volker Kuntzsch
Cawthron Chief Executive


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