In late 2006, the New Zealand Government embarked on a series of initiatives to explore how the resources and expertise of eight, small, state-owned science research institutes could be combined efficiently to support science teaching in schools. Programmes were developed to enable students and teachers to access and become involved in local science research and innovation, with the aim being to broaden their awareness of New Zealand science research contexts, adding authenticity and relevance to their school studies. One of these initiatives, known as Science-for-Life, partnered scientists with teachers and students in primary and secondary schools (K-12). A key output from the trial phase of Science-for-Life was the generation of a framework for guiding and coordinating the activities of the eight institutes within the education sector, to improve efficiency, effectiveness and promote sustainability. The framework, based on data gathered from a series of interviews with each institute’s Chief Executive Officer (CEO), an online questionnaire, and informed by findings from trial partnership case studies published as institute technical reports and published articles, is presented in this paper. While the framework is developed from New Zealand data, it is suggested that it may be useful for coordinating interactions between multiple small science organisations and the school sector in other small-nation or state contexts.