An opportunity to reshape our country

In casting back across Scion’s 2019-20 year, it is hard to look beyond the enormous impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that engulfed us so suddenly and so totally.

These 1 in 100-year events bring devastating impacts to people and economic systems, yet as massive disruptors they provide rare catalysts for change. Many businesses have been forced to reset to survive. Sector by sector, such resets could see New Zealand reshape as an entire nation.

Changing direction takes purposeful intent. It is hard and needs a clear path to a sought-after goal. Like most nations, New Zealand’s post-COVID-19 economic rebuild will be huge. It could also be transformative, and Scion can help steer the way. Through transformation in the forestry sector, Scion is helping lay a path that leads to an innovative, low-emissions economy bringing multiple benefits regionally and nationally.

Our work over the past year contributed to this transformation through supporting the forestry industry meet its productivity goals, developing nurseries of the future, co-innovating with Māori, creating new bio-industries outside of forestry and modifying manufacturing techniques.

Research highlights illustrating this work, and described in this report, include working with the Radiata Pine Breeding Company to achieve a first for radiata pine. We found that it is possible to predict tree diameter and density using only genetic marker information. Also, DNA fingerprinting technology (the SNP chip) was used to reconstruct and validate over 14,000 records of the breeding pedigree. This is the first pedigree validation undertaken at this scale in forest trees.

Our remote sensing research achieved another industry first by successfully trialling the use of a drone flying independently of an operator beneath the tree tops in a pine forest along a flightpath it had mapped itself. This trial could provide forest managers crucial detail about their trees beneath the canopy. A forest industry consultancy has taken up the technology and offers it as a service.

The six experimental burns carried out by our rural fire research team in March alighted international attention. Fire scientists from Australia and America contributed to what are the most observed burns in New Zealand to date. With the use of drones to gather data, the research team captured never-before-seen insights into wildfire.

In Reporoa, Ecogas broke ground on New Zealand’s first large-scale food waste to bioenergy facility that was backed by our research. When finished in 2022, the plant can turn 75,000 tonnes of food waste from homes and businesses across the North Island into heat, biofertiliser and biogenic carbon dioxide that will be used to grow tomatoes.

Scion is a key player in the Rotorua community. Our priority in the past year was to uplift the connection between Scion and mana whenua at strategic and operational levels. We look forward to a formal memorandum of understanding with mana whenua, who will have a permanent presence on site and take part in the cultural narrative across the Rotorua campus. In partnership with Rotorua Lakes Council, pou (posts) will be carved on site for installation along the road that will become our new public entry to the innovation hub, which will be completed in spring 2020.

A visually striking building, the innovation hub showcases the latest in engineered timber within its unique and challenging structural form. The hub has already attracted a lot of interest from industry and the public with mounting requests to visit. Investment in the hub demonstrates our commitment to transforming the New Zealand economy, especially in the regions. With our partners, we will give life to our strategy’s goal “transitioning New Zealand to a circular bioeconomy”.

Scion’s “Strategy to 2030” was finalised just prior to COVID-19 lockdowns, and we are very pleased to have Minister Woods recently reaffirm her support of our strategy.

While we are optimistic about how Scion can help make a difference to New Zealand’s post-COVID-19 future, we are very aware of how challenging this will be for us. The 2020 Endeavour Fund results were disappointing and heightened the need for a long-term funding solution for Scion. During the year, a joint MBIE/Scion team worked on this pressing funding problem, with the work well on track until delayed by COVID-19. The Scion board is strongly committed to our strategy but very mindful that without a permanent funding solution we will not be able to achieve it and the aligned priorities of the Government.

Owing to lower than normal revenue expectations and the uncertain impacts of COVID-19, costs were managed with extreme restraint during 2019-20 COVID-19 support provided at the end of the financial year therefore resulted in a one-off strong profit result. Revenue of $57.9 million was $1.9 million (3.5 per cent) up on last year’s revenue of $55.9 million and net profit after tax of $5.4 million was $3.8 million (232 per cent) up on last year’s profit of $1.6 million.

The year was defined by COVID-19, and so we wish to express our pride in Team Scion for adapting responsibly and efficiently to a new, challenging way to work and live. To the Scion leadership team and to our hard-working staff, we say a sincere thank you. And to our customers and partners, we thank you all for your support and contribution to Scion throughout the year.

We are privileged to lead Scion in the momentum towards a low-carbon, biobased future for New Zealand.

Dr Helen Anderson

Dr Julian Elder
Chief Executive

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