Contestable Funding

Co-funding | Rationale and Background | Strategic Research Signals | Research themes for this investment | Available Funding | Assessment Process & Criteria | Criteria

12 June 2017: The Building Better Homes, Towns and Cities (BBHTC) National Science Challenge (NSC) is running a Contestable Round to deliver on the challenge vision, mission, and objective. The available funding is $4.4m in total. The contestable process is set in the context of the existing Challenge research portfolio. Research funded in the contestable process should complement and build on existing research and not duplicate it.

Contestable Funding Round Documents are now available, with proposals dues by noon, 18 July 2017:

Request for proposals (PDF - will open in new tab)

Full proposal assessment template (.docx - will download)

Research proposal template (.docx - will download)

Q&A Roadshow dates (.docx - will download)

The BBHTC NSC research programme is based on principles of co-creation, collaboration, partnership and multi-disciplinary teams. These principles are also core to this investments in this process. 

Three themes have been prioritised for this investment: 

  1. Achieving Transformational Change
  2. 21st Century Building Industry
  3. Research that enhances existing Strategic Research Areas and strengthens connections across Strategic Research Areas.

Research can begin as soon as contracting is completed. All research will be expected to begin from 1 October 2017 – including ethics applications submitted (or agreed) and budget ready for expenditure. Research contracts will terminate on 30 June 2019, in line with the Challenge’s current funding from MBIE. Proposals should be led by New Zealand-based organisations (including the Principal Investigator) and be submitted by noon on 18 July 2017. Submitters of proposals are requested to email these to Late applications will not be accepted.

All funded projects must relate to the Challenge’s Vision, Mission and Objective and the strategic research signals outlined in this document.

Regular written progress reports will be required from the funded project(s). These will be agreed during the contracting process.

Final funding decisions will be approved by the BBHTC Governance Group on 4th September 2017. 


Co-funding is not a requirement; however, it is encouraged as it demonstrates strong connections with end-users. 

Research teams are encouraged to include co-funders in research design from the early stages of the proposed project. Co-funders may provide in-kind funding. In-kind funding in this instance could include the use of services and/or facilities, professional expertise (for instance, through staff time), provision of or access to equipment.

Co-funding is required for any capital items as NSC funding may not be used for capital items 

Rationale and Background

The vision of the Building Better Homes Towns and Cities: Ko ngā wā kāinga hei whakamahorahora NSC is: Ka ora kāinga rua: Built environments that build communities. 

Our mission is: Manaaki Tangata: Co-created innovative research that helps transform dwellings and places where people live into homes and communities that are hospitable, productive and protective. 

Our research programme is structured around six Strategic Research Areas.

Through this contestable process we are seeking to build our research portfolio with additional research that addresses issues that have been identified as requiring further or more in-depth attention. 

Strategic Research Signals 

The following research signals need to be addressed in proposals and indicate the strategic priorities of this investment. The first section of these should be addressed in all proposals. If a signal is not addressed then a strong rationale for the decision must be provided in the proposal.

  • Research that is novel, innovative and does not duplicate previous efforts.
  • Experienced research leadership and demonstrated track record including in end user engagement and uptake of research outcomes.
  • Strong end user engagement with iwi/hapū/whānau, territorial authorities, central government, industry, community groups and academia as appropriate to ensure active pathways for uptake is required.
  • Evidence of working with communities that want to engage.
  • Research that continues to extend the Mātuaranga Maori continuum beyond Vision Mātauranga and delivers tangible outcomes for diverse Māori populations.
  • Clear value proposition to the research project.
  • Clear pathways for research capability development. 

The following signals should be addressed where appropriate:

  • Action research to create action and engage stakeholders early.
  • Use of techniques such as fail-fast and rapid prototyping.
  • Multi-disciplinary and multi-organisational team(s) are required for medium and large projects. 

Research themes for this investment

As noted earlier, three themes have been prioritised for this investment: 

  1. Achieving Transformational Change 
  2. 21st Century Building Industry 
  3. Research that enhances existing Strategic Research Areas and strengthens connections across Strategic Research Areas 

Beneath these over-arching themes a number of research questions and ideas have been identified. These identify the range and types of projects we are looking to invest in via this funding round.

Achieving Transformational Change

Wellbeing and Urban Characteristics: Which settlement characteristics affect the wellbeing of residents, and which detract from wellbeing? How do the effects of these characteristics on wellbeing differ by type of person (e.g. ethnicity, age, etc.) and type of place (e.g. large city vs small town)? Based on this information, and on information of how past policies have affected urban wellbeing, which (feasible) interventions can increase overall wellbeing of urban residents (and/or the wellbeing of certain groups)?

What do People Value in Urban Settings? Projects that are designed to improve urban outcomes should be able to demonstrate the benefits for the affected population. What tools can be used to demonstrate benefits – for instance of improved urban design? In addition to describing relevant tools, the research should produce practical application(s) of the tool(s) for an actual urban-related project (or issue) so that the usefulness of the tool is demonstrated, and the information on the relevant project (or issue) can be used by policy-makers.

What are the benefits and value cases for non-financial values? How can we improve the robustness and consistency of understanding the value of amenities? How do we robustly and credibly articulate, measure and understand benefits and risk? How do we measure implementation?

How do we measure progress towards medium and long-term outcomes in the early stages of projects?

What are the available techniques for, and benefits arising from, ‘City Information Modelling’ using BIM models and virtual planning tools to enhance forward planning of cities including evaluation of ‘what if’ scenarios? How do these fit with current capability and technology and what are potential implementation pathways for New Zealand?

As infrastructure costs and availability are one of the limiting factors behind the speed with which our urban areas can grow, this may provide answers to some critical choke points on housing supply. What are the economies of neighbourhood developments using ‘stand alone’ infrastructure facilities (i.e. rainwater potable water, local waste-water treatment, solar generation coupled with sub-station batteries for storage etc)? What are the opportunities for and barriers to implementation in New Zealand?

How do we achieve effective retrofit at community / neighbourhood / village level?

Financing home ownership and improving security of tenure. This is a critical element in housing affordability and there has been limited progress in this area. The range of financing options has remained relatively static and is closely connected to other considerations such as land/property tenure (i.e. loan security). There is good evidence of correlations between good quality housing and security of tenure and improved long-term outcomes in health, education, well-being and justice. What innovation is possible in financing home ownership?

What is the role of ‘public housing’ in delivering a more balanced range of housing choices. Over the last 80 years public housing has become synonymous with 'social housing'. What leverage could be gained through a rethinking of the role of public housing in the sense of active governmental participation at various stages and models in the delivery of housing units? What new options are available and potentially applicable to the New Zealand context? How might these be implemented in New Zealand?

Rural communities – Māori housing in rural areas; rural community regeneration; age friendly housing and amenities in rural areas.

Effective public participation/ engagement across diverse demographic groups and communities.

How does positive involvement of people and communities impact on change? How do we build communities of change and peoples of change?

Action research to develop, adapt, refine and evaluate effectiveness of tools, techniques and processes for groups to work collaboratively to develop solutions for difficult or complex issues and wicked problems relevant to the challenge vision and mission.

21st Century Building Industry

  • The impact of New Zealand as a small society on our building industry – How do we leverage this to innovate in an agile manner? What does this mean for adopting and adapting innovation and technology from overseas? How does the NZ industry fit within the global system? How does the industry maximise potential along the whole value stream?
  • What does the changing global market look like? How is the industry profile changing (companies coming in and going out)? What does this mean for industry in New Zealand?
  • Using BIM, or other alternatives, conduct an analysis of different building systems from around the world to ascertain which would be the most cost effective in the New Zealand environment. This research needs to include a demonstrated understanding of the New Zealand commercial landscape at a range of scales. The scope includes individual houses, townhouse style developments, medium and high-density developments. This research should also ‘flex’ the Building Code to understand whether some relaxations of the code would produce significantly cheaper dwellings, without compromising quality.

Research that enhances existing Strategic Research Areas and strengthens connections across SRAs

  • Additional resources in key areas and /or skill sets across the challenge.
  • Identifying and developing connections across SRAs that enhance the delivery of the challenge vision, mission and objective. 


Available Funding

The total funding pool is $4.4M (exclusive of GST). There is no alignment of funds or target investment levels for each of the theme areas. We are looking to invest in a balanced portfolio of research which includes:

  • Think pieces – concise reports that advances knowledge and adds to debate and discussion. Think pieces should be completed within three months and must generate new knowledge and understanding. They may include recommendations for changes or actions that can be implemented immediately or recommendations for future research (which may be addressed in tranche 2 of the challenge). Think pieces should address public good issues and they will be published, including where appropriate on the challenge website.
  • Projects that support emerging researchers to develop research project leadership experience.
  • Maximum project size is $1,000,000 total. Projects of this size must be multi-disciplinary and multi-organisation. 

Assessment Process & Criteria 

Proposals will be subject to assessment by independent reviewers. The review process will include members of the Independent Science Advisory Panel and the Science Leadership Team of the Challenge. Final decisions will be made by the Challenge Governance Group. Proposals will be assessed according to the following criteria. 


  1. The potential impact of the proposal (clear benefit to NZ, strong pathway(s) to achieving impact, clear value proposition) 
  2. Science stretch and innovation (methodologically robust, novel, transformational, multidisciplinary) 
  3. Stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange (co-creation, co-development, wider stakeholder engagement. Clear evidence of partnerships with end-users) 
  4. Team excellence (experienced research leader, end-user partners have relevant experience, multi-disciplinary, demonstrated track record in the delivery of mātauranga Māori outcomes, end user engagement and uptake)

For any queries please email the Challenge Office: