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Cooperative Research News 9 October 2012
CRCs are involved in research across many industries in Australia

NH&MRC "revamp" recommended

McKeon Review wants to see bigger mandate and ability to lead from premier research council

The highly anticipated Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research in Australia recommends a significant revamp of current systems to achieve the goal of "better health through research". The Committee, which received more than 300 submissions, has recommended that the National Health and Medical Research Council take an expanded leadership role across all aspects of medical research.

Currently, NH&MRC is responsible for about half of Australia's annual public health research spending of $1.5bn. The Review recommends that this figure grow substantially over the next decade, but initially it be consolidated within the NH&MRC with the Council (possibly renamed) taking responsibility for research translation, tracking, reporting and monitoring of outcomes. At the moment, the NH&MRC does some work across the spectrum but concentrates on creating new knowledge - the Review recommends the Council grow substantially in more providing effective research translation and improving health services research, especially in the areas of minimising waste and adverse events.

Commentary from Tony Peacock, CRCA

Many researchers will welcome recommendations for longer-term research contracts and streamlined competitive grant processes. The vast bulk of submissions to the Review lobbied for the balance of research towards translational research. To a large extent, the McKeon Committee has responded positively to this message.

Not many of those making submissions dealt with the process of revamping medical research. The Committee has gone with a bigger NH&MRC given the mandate to lead and get on with the job. They note in the consultation paper that they considered alternatives.

Presuming the Government accepts the recommendations, we will see a decade of major cultural change in the medical research scene in Australia. Done well, the outcomes could be very positive. Useful similarities can be made with the major changes made in the Primary Industries and Energy R&D Act 1999 when the Hawke Government reformed the rural R&D councils to become Corporations, lead by end users.

At that time, we saw a massive cultural shift in how research was done in rural Australia. Instead of receiving an annual call for research and picking the top 10 or 15%, the Rural R&D Corporations had to articulate five-year plans, giving guidance on where they wanted to go. Researchers no longer put ideas up on a blank page, but had directions sketched out. These days, probably less than 25% of R&D in rural Australia is done by an open call. Almost no one argues to bring the old system back (I say "almost" because I'm sure Emeritus Professor David Lindsay of UWA could still prepare a fine argument).

The Productivity Commission recently recommended a "super" Rural RDC to look after the cross sectorial issues in agriculture. Industry rejected the idea pretty quickly, as did Government after toying with the idea.

A revamped, bigger, NH&MRC will have a very difficult task finding the balance between discovery, translation and services research and in priority setting. The demands from stakeholders will be enormous (at least one patient group has already commented it feels left out of the consultation paper). To achieve the task, the revamped NH&MRC will need the ability to delegate, to act nimbly and get on with the job. It may need to be corporatised as were the rural RDCs in order to have the wherewithal to take the lead. Leadership and governance will be the key to success.

The consultation paper does not specify that Cooperative Research Centres would come under the leadership of the revamped NH&MRC (there are currently 10 medical CRCs). But one presumes that changes would be made to the current arrangements in order to provide the new Council with the ability to take the lead.


Still no word on current funding round

The Government's "pause" on grant funding is still in place as far as the CRC Association is aware. Short listing of applicants was expected in late August but the Department of Finance is reviewing all "uncommitted" government funding.

The CRC Association has written to the Minister for Innovation indicating that we do not believe the current funding round should be regarded as uncommitted, given businesses and researchers have been working to the government's timetable for many months, or even years. No savings would be achieved in the current financial year by delaying or abandoning this funding round, which is for CRCs commencing 1 July 2013.

We are hoping for a resolution shortly.

Grass growth brings fire danger

The Bushfire CRC has released the Southern Australia Seasonal Bushfire Outlook 2012-2013, indicating that large areas of southern Australia may experience higher than normal fire activity this fire seaon in grasslands as a result of strong growth after the flooding rains of recent years.

Fast running, high intensity grass fires are a risk in Queensland. Fire authorities in Western Australia, South Australia, NSW and the ACT are also expecting above average fire activity.

Read the press release and view the map

Watch the 7:30 report on the ABC (broadcast 27 September).

Science Industry Endowment Fund

Spanning a history of over 80 years, the Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) provides grants to science and scientists for the purposes of assisting Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community and contributing to the achievement of Australian national objectives. This unique and esteemed funding arrangement recently received a substantial gift facilitating the rejuvenated Fund to be a mechanism for significant support of science in Australia.

The 2013 SIEF John Stocker Postgraduate Scholarships program is currently open for applications. This program includes funding for up to four (top-up), or 2 full Scholarships, commencing in 2013 over a three year period. The program has the desired outcomes of encouraging return to study, promoting industry collaboration and valuing industry experience. The program encourages potential international collaboration.

Applications close 31 October 2012

For further information about the Scholarships, including application information, please visit the SIEF website.

Drones monitor mallee tree growth

The Future Farm Industries CRC is using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs or drones) to take photos of mallee trees and calculate the biomass of the trees at the CRC's mallee trial site near Narrogin.

The CRC is researching the use of mallee trees for biofuel and bioenergy. High resolution mages obtained using the UAV are used to measure the area of leaves on the trees. Over time, the biomass measurements can determine the effects of treatments such as extra water and nutrients.

See the UAV in action
Read more in the press release

Not just one thing - Art, science and schizophrenia

Join the CRC for Mental Health on 10 and 12 October for free events held at The Dax Centre, part of the Melbourne Brain Centre building, Parkville. "Not just one thing - art, science and schizophrenia" will cover the history of schizophrenia, exploring the illness through art, story-telling, science and personal perspectives.

Facilitated by Lynne Malcolm, from ABC Radio National's "All in the Mind", the events will feature a panel of experts including:

  • Professor Brian Dean (CRC for Mental Health)
  • Emma Last (The Dax Centre)
  • Professor Jayashri Kulkarni (The Alfred Hospital)

The events are free and all are welcome to attend. This Unlocking Australia's potential initiative is supported by the Australian Government as part of Inspiring Australia. The events are part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival.

Slides from talks now available

The CRCA has been out and about talking to many groups over the last few months. Prezis of the various presentations are available from the links below:

Early Career Research Advice on industry. Given 21 June 2012 for CQU ECR meeting.

A performance review of CRCs. Given 3 July Melbourne BioBreakfast.

A Social Media Journey - or why I still blog a bit but tweet a lot. Given 3 August 2012 at Invigorating Agriculture Conference.

Science Communications and Policy. Given 20 August ANU Centre for Public Awareness of Science and 6 September 2012 DAFF Graduate Development Program.

Cooperative Research Centres and China. Given 5 September 2012 at Australia-China Research Fund Knowledge Exchange Symposium.

An introduction to Cooperative Research Centres. Given 19 September to the Safety Research and Education Alliance (this or slight variations provided for several potential bidding consortia - use this version).

A uniquely Aussie model for collaboration: Cooperative Research Centres. Given 20 September 2012 to Australasian Research Management Society.

The Contribution of CRCs to Research Training. Given 24 September at the Academy of Science's Early-Mid Career Researcher Forum.

Presentations given at private meetings are available from attendees on request.

Get involved

Consortia are developing for CRC bids in the next (2013) round. CRCA is happy to help you connect with other potential bidders. Let us know about your interest and we can pass it on to others in the areas of:

  • Asian markets
  • Cybersecurity
  • Geothermal Energy
  • Online Education
  • Soils

as well as potential re-bidding CRCs and a range of early stage bids. Participation in a CRC is not limited to any specific group or region. You must have an Australian small-medium enterprise and an Australian University involved.


Impact through Collaboration

May 15-17 2013
The CRCA's Annual Conference

Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre

The insight gained from the conference into how industry and academia can successfully interact is second to none. Add to that the networking opportunities, and you’ve got yourself one of the most valuable conferences for research leaders in Australia.

Program Leader
commenting on

Sponsorship enquiries can be directed to Justin Holsinger at EventCorp.

Upcoming Events for Members

17/18 October

CRCA Business Forum (including update on not for profit tax arrangements)

14/15 November

CRCA Communicators Forum (includes a session on social media use).

Benefits of CRCA Membership

Every CRC is a Member of the CRC Association. But Membership is not limited to CRCs. Associate and Affiliate Members enjoy a range of discounts and offers as well as the CRCA's networking and representation services.

CRCA Members access substantially discounted and/or flexible fares with Qantas. To take advantage or organise a briefing, contact Jodi Walton at Campus Travel.

Westpac is the CRCA's preferred bank. They are great supporters of innovation in general and CRCs in particular. To find out what they can do for you, contact Rose Stellino.

CRCA also gets you discounted recruitment services through The Recruitment Alternative.

Associate Members

Essential Energy

Alertness, Safety and Productivity CRC bid

Safeguarding Biodiversity CRC bid

Affiliate Members

The Recruitment Alternative

Capital Hill Consulting

FAL Lawyers

Hynes Lawyers

Queensland University of Technology


University of South Australia


9-10 October

The Scramble for Natural Resources:
More food, less land?

The 2012 Crawford Fund 2012 development conference

Tony Staley home

Chairman of the CRC Association, the Hon Tony Staley AO has returned home after several weeks in hospital following a heart attack. Tony is tired but smiling and grateful for the well wishes of the CRC Community.

Members of the Cooperative Research Centres Association

CRC for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health CRC for Advanced Automotive Technology CRC for Advanced Composite Structures
Advanced Manufacturing CRC Antarctic Climate & Ecosystems (ACE) CRC CRC for Asthma and Airways
Australian Seafood CRC CRC for Beef Genetic Technologies CRC for Biomarker Translation
CRC for Biomedical Imaging Development Bushfire CRC Cancer Therapeutics CRC
Capital Markets CRC CAST CRC CRC for Contamination Assessment and Remediation of the Environment (CARE)
Cotton Catchment Communities CRC CO2CRC Dairy Futures CRC
Deep Exploration Technologies CRC DMTC Ltd Energy Pipelines CRC
Environmental Biotechnology CRC Pty Ltd eWater CRC CRC for Forestry
Future Farm Industries CRC The HEARing CRC CRC for Infrastructure and Engineering Asset Management (CIEAM)
Invasive Animals CRC CRC for Mental Health CRCMining
National Plant Biosecurity CRC CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction Oral Health CRC
Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions CRC for Polymers High Integrity Pork CRC
Poultry CRC CRC for Rail Innovation CRC for Remote Economic Participation
CRC for Sheep Industry Innovation Smart Services CRC CRC for Spatial Information
Vision CRC Wound Management Innovation CRC Young and Well CRC
Cooperative Research News is published fortnightly by the Cooperative Research Centres Association and distributed free of charge. The CRC Association welcomes contributions but does not guarantee the accuracy, reliability, currency or completeness of any material published, or in any linked site. The material in this Newsletter may include the views or recommendations of third parties, which do not necessarily reflect the views of the CRC Association, or indicate its commitment to a particular course of action. Editorial responsibility is accepted by Professor Tony Peacock, Chief Executive, Cooperative Research Centres Association. Inquiries about publication should be directed here.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

CRC Association, Engineering House, Tel: (02) 6270 6524, Fax: (02) 6273 1218, Email:



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