Australia: CRC Program Review and New National Research Priorities

The annual Cooperative Research Centres Association conference in Canberra last week witnessed extensive discussions of the recently released Miles Report – a review of the CRC Programme. The report acknowledged the value and the economic gains to the country of the programme and proposed a better alignment with the Industry Growth Centres announced by the Australian Government some time ago. Critically, it also recommended removing the specific ‘priority public good mechanism’ and recommended that the CRC life-cycles be limited to a single term of up to 10 years, with no possibility for a rebid. The Australian Government accepted all the recommendations.

For the Bushfire and Natural hazards Cooperative research Centre (BNH CRC), which functions as IRDR’s National Committee for Australia, there will be no short-term changes. While the CRC have a contractual commitment to deliver their research plan, recommendation 10 suggested all current CRCs be reviewed by the new CRC Advisory Committee. BNH CRC had their first year review seven months ago and no issues were raised.

The conference also learned about the new National Research Priorities with their nine cross-disciplinary priorities (food, soil and water, transport, cybersecurity, energy, resources, advanced manufacturing, environmental change and health). The most interesting area for BNH CRC is likely to be Priority 7 on Environmental Change (“Mitigating, managing or adapting to changes in the environment”). The government recognizes that “to be resilient towards the changing environment, communities need to adapt to new conditions and be prepared to withstand and respond to extreme events.” Given increasing losses in assets and lives, “there is a growing need to improve our understanding of the processes, impacts and the mitigation and adaptation strategies required. Research will increase our understanding of environmental change, and support the development of options for change management.” BNH CRC writes: “This underscores the importance of what the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC is doing and that it is recognised at the highest levels of government.”