Deep South National Science Challenge signals its first Contestable Funding Round


The Deep South Challenge has built an effective Mission-centred core research plan centred on five research programmes. 

These programmes are as follows: 

  • Engagement
  • Vision Mātauranga
  • Impacts & Implications
  • Processes & Observations
  • Earth Systems Modelling & Prediction

To date, the Challenge has funded research projects that will help achieve the objectives of specific programmes including principally Vision Mātauranga, Processes & Observations, and Earth Systems Modelling & Prediction. 

Further programme-oriented funding will take place in 2016, focussed primarily on the Impacts & Implications programme. Also, the Engagement Programme will have on-going funding available to support a range of activities that will help improve New Zealanders’ ability and capacity to make decisions informed by Deep South Challenge-related research.

In addition to programme-oriented funding, The Deep South will conduct an open “Contestable Fund” process that invites ideas for research that is Mission-relevant- research aligned to any or several of the five programmes. The following information outlines the scope and timetable for the Contestable Fund process.

This information is being released now (18 December 2015) to enable initial project thinking to commence before the release of the Contestable Fund Request for Proposals (RfP) on 8 February 2016.

Proposals will be due seven weeks later, on 25 March 2016.

Available funding and timing

The Deep South Challenge Board has allocated up to $3,000,000 (excl. GST) of funding for the Deep South Contestable Fund over the three-year period from July 2016 to June 2019.

The Contestable Funding will be administered through two funding cycles, each totalling up to $1,500,000 (excl. GST).

These funding cycles will overlap.

  • Funding Cycle 1 projects will commence 1 July 2016 and be completed by 30 June 2018.
  • Funding Cycle 2 projects will commence 1 July 2017 and be completed by 30 June 2019.

Projects can apply for a maximum of $300,000 (excl. GST) for up to two years.

Under exceptional circumstances, projects in Funding Cycle 1 may apply for up to three years (i.e., completed by 30 June 2019) but will remain capped at a maximum of $300,000 (excl. GST).

Applicants are advised that whilst they can apply for up to $300,000 (excl. GST) per project, projects of lesser values (e.g., $50,000, $150,000 excl. GST etc.) are encouraged.

The Contestable Fund RfP released on 8 February 2016 will call for Proposals for Funding Cycle 1 only.

The Contestable Fund RfP for Funding Cycle 2 will take place at a later date.

Contestable fund scope

The Challenge invites proposals for projects that will help deliver the overall mission and contribute to the success of the Challenge. It is vital that applicants understand this core requirement when drafting proposals. Applicants are encouraged to contact the relevant Deep South Science Leadership Team (SLT) member to discuss their proposal ideas to ensure that it is Deep South Mission-relevant.

Focal areas

The Challenge invites proposals targeted towards at least one of the following four focal areas:

  • Seed Funding
  • Co-Funding
  • Blue Sky
  • Cross-challenge Collaboration.

Seed Funding: Seed funding includes research that is not immediately Challenge-relevant, but which invests in capability in areas of mutual interest that we expect will become more relevant to the Challenge over time. A major assessment criterion will be whether the proposed activity is expected to grow in importance and relevance with respect to the Deep South mission.

Co-Funding: Research that can cost-effectively augment or enhance existing, planned activities in ways that could benefit both the original research and the Challenge. A major assessment criterion will be whether the proposed activity has strong synergies with other Deep-South funded research such that increased return on investment (e.g., in terms of research papers) can be expected from both the proposed and the existing research projects.

Blue Sky: Research that is more speculative and risky but potentially of high impact for the Challenge. The Challenge as a whole is mission-driven (i.e. not Blue-Sky); however the potential value of curiosity-driven research is recognised.

Cross-challenge Collaboration: Research that is integrative and collaborative and furthers the mutual interests of at least one other National Science Challenge and the Deep South. Cross-challenge collaboration projects must demonstrate co-funding by at least one other National Science Challenge.

Contestable fund information summary

  • The Deep South Contestable Fund Request for Proposals (RfP) for Funding Cycle 1 will be released via the Deep South website on 8 February 2016
  • Upon the release of the RfP (8 February 2016) a status summary will be provided for each Challenge Programme
  • Applicants will be required to stipulate the Challenge Programme (or Programmes) and Focal area (or areas) that their proposal falls under
  • On 8 February 2016 interested applicants will be provided with a proposal template to complete and proposal assessment criteria.