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Unitec Wins Endeavour Funding in Show of Research Leadership Capability

Unitec researchers have secured more than $4.5 million in funding through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Endeavour Fund in a show of support for its research leadership capability. 

The Endeavour Fund provides up to $58 million per year of new investment to fund research and science projects that have a high potential to benefit New Zealand or transform New Zealand’s future in areas of future value, growth or critical need.


In the 2019 funding round announced recently, Ngā Wai a te Tui, Unitec’s Māori Research Centre, was awarded a research grant of more than $3.5 million for Marae Ora, Kāinga Ora (MOKO). Led by Professor Jenny Lee-Morgan, this project investigates marae-led initiatives that develop kāinga. 


And the director of Unitec’s High-Tech Transdisciplinary Research team Professor Christian Probst secured a Smart Ideas grant of just under $1million for a research project on data anonymisation and privacy protection which is an extension of Unitec’s long-running cybersecurity research focus.


“This success comes on the back of intense planning, hard work and strategic appointments in areas of key research focus,” said Marcus Williams, Director, Research & Enterprise at Unitec.  “One of our success factors is about partnering with community and industry to produce research that directly benefits those partners, and we believe there is serious opportunity for better capitalisation of ITP research capability to the advantage of NZ communities and business.”


“MOKO will effect transformative, inter-generational change for whānau and the wider community”


This kaupapa Māori research investigates the evolution of marae, and focuses on distinctive challenges and opportunities arising within Māori communities.  MOKO provides an opportunity to undertake research by, for and with marae and communities which will contribute to the strategic and collective development of kāinga ora for whānau and community wellbeing, in South Auckland and all over New Zealand.


“Marae-led interventions bring an added value as a unique, culturally-based network with deep reach into community, across country and even overseas,” said Professor Jenny Lee-Morgan, founder and head of Ngā Wai a te Tūī, the Māori and Indigenous Research Centre at Unitec. “MOKO focuses on ‘new’ ways of living and organising communities by encompassing traditional ways of understanding our natural and social environments for long-term sustainability,” added Professor Lee-Morgan.


Ngā Wai a te Tūī has just completed the Te Manaaki o te Marae Science Challenge-funded project with Te Puea Memorial Marae. The centre is growing rapidly with the recent appointment of Professor Leonie Pihama as Professor of Māori Research, and aligns strongly with Unitec’s focus on strong Māori partnership through Te Noho Kotahitanga.


“A disruptive approach that will result in a fundamentally different concept of anonymisation than used today.” 


Unitec’s grant-winning Cybersecurity research project assesses the likelihood of re-identification of anonymised data in the presence of yet unknown data.  It will result in techniques and tools to measure the quality of anonymisation and the probability of re-identification of a subject, based on Bayesian probability models. The new framework will build upon efficient inference algorithms and effective tools and will benefit public agencies, companies, iwi groups and citizens and in the long run, could have influence on data-sharing policies and privacy acts.


“Data anonymisation and privacy protection are important problems that receive increasing attention with the recent success of social networks, but also through events of data leakage after attacks and unauthorised sharing of data,” said Professor Christian Probst, head of Unitec’s High-Tech Transdisciplinary Research team and lead researcher of Unitec’s team in the MBIE-funded STRATUS project. 


Dr Probst specialises in using formal methods for assessing properties of complex systems, and in the new project he will work with his team on extracting Bayesian models from programmes used for anonymising data sets.