29 March, 2021
2020 was an extraordinarily challenging year worldwide. It came as no surprise to us as directors of the Institute to find that in the midst of it all of this, the community that the MacDiarmid Institute has become is an amazing resource and support network.
The plans of many of our people were turned upside down. Over half of the PhD students we fund would ordinarily head offshore for a period after graduation, often for postdoctoral research. As international opportunities disappeared, we re-prioritised funding to create a range of internships and research associate positions for our fresh PhD graduates, often in industry-facing roles, in international collaborations, or new interdisciplinary projects that continue to hone the skills of Aotearoa New Zealand’s future R&D leaders.
We offered 3-month scholarship extensions to over 60 PhD students as soon as the first lockdowns struck. As Aotearoa New Zealand moved out of lockdown, those students enthusiastically resumed their research knowing that they would have time to do the work that they spent the lockdown planning.
It will be talented and motivated people like these who will help Aotearoa New Zealand to rebuild and reshape a sustainable, inclusive, high-wage, zero-carbon economy in a post- Covid world. In 2020, more than ever, we were grateful to be able to invest in such people.
Our engagement plans were also quickly redeveloped in 2020, to address emerging needs. From our public lectures, to new podcasts and animations, to industry engagement – moving these conversations into the digital world has allowed us to strengthen our partnerships with stakeholders, as you will see throughout this report.
We were thrilled to be awarded funding to continue as a CoRE for 2021–2028. Our proposal addresses some of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most significant emerging challenges, and was built on energy and ideas contributed from all parts of the Institute. We are excited to be given the opportunity to deliver on these plans in the coming years.
Nicola Gaston and Justin Hodgkiss