An overview of the CRC Program
The Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program was established in 1990 to improve the effectiveness of Australia’s research effort through bringing together researchers in the public and private sectors with the end users. The CRC Program links researchers with industry and government with a focus towards research application. The close interaction between researchers and the end users is the defining characteristic of the Program. Moreover, it allows end users to help plan the direction of the research as well as to monitor its progress. The CRC Program offers support to industry, research and the community through two elements:
- Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) grants – supporting medium to long term industry-led collaborations, up to 10 years.
- Cooperative Research Centres Projects (CRC-P) grants – supporting short term, industry-led collaborative research, up to 3 years.
Since the commencement of the Program, there have been eighteen CRC selection rounds, resulting in the establishment of over 215 CRCs. Applications for the 19th selection round opened in May 2017 with outcomes to be announced in March 2018. Click here for more information. CRCs operate across the Manufacturing, Information and Social Services, Mining and Infrastructure, Agriculture, Environmental Services, and Medical Service sectors.
The present definition of a CRC is
a company formed through a collaboration of businesses and researchers. This includes private sector organisations (both large and small enterprises), industry associations, universities and government research agencies such as the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), and other end users. This team of collaborators undertakes research and development leading to utilitarian outcomes for public good that have positive social and economic impacts.
However this definition only tells a part of the story. As the Program has grown and matured, further benefits have emerged, including:
- CRCs assemble multidisciplinary teams from across research providers to address end user driven research. They collaborate across all sectors (Industry, Academia, State Government, Consumers and Industry Associations) and create a critical mass in their field. No other Australian Government program does that!
- CRCs provide companies, including multinationals, with a unique and attractive proposition .deal through one organisation (the CRC) that can assemble the best teams in the Australia to develop the technology that the company needs, managing the process professionally to deliverables and gearing it with funds from the Commonwealth and research providers who are sharing the risks, and the returns.
- CRCs are managed to deliver impacts not just publications, and are held to account to deliver.
- The stability of funding provides certainty for the research partners in particular and also for the end-user partners.
- CRCs provide research management skills and discipline. This helps ensure the research is managed to a high standard.
- The level of governance is a real strength. The overall activities are actively managed by the CRC management team and Board to maximise the national benefits. This includes terminating, redirecting or accelerating projects in a way that is not part of the culture of most other programs.
- CRCs provide a mechanism for realising unanticipated commercial opportunities, i.e. in cases where technologies have applications beyond the interests of the commercial partners, the CRC can pursue these through the creation of spin off companies, licenses etc.
- CRCs play an important role in bridging the gap between discovery research funded by NHMRC and ARC grants and the requirements of industry for commercialisation-ready innovations.
- CRCs foster “hands-on” learning. Although they are heavily focused on postgraduate education, and thereby providing training for very highly skilled professionals, CRCs are involved, to differing extents, at all levels of the education and training system.
- CRCs encourage innovation through their interaction and reach with small and medium size enterprises.
- A CRC is neutral and un-aligned and so can provide a central focus from which grows collaboration. CRCs are respected for their integrity and are trusted to have the interests of participating bodies as a core principle so that participants have confidence and no fear of presenting ideas for examination. This approach is critical to gaining the confidence of Indigenous people and organisations.
The popular CRC-P Grants were introduced in 2016 and since then over $22 million in funding has been committed to successful bids in the first two rounds. The 3rd selection round opened on 7 February 2017 and closed on Wednesday 22 March 2017. Successful CRC-P bids from the 3rd round are being announced soon.
Successful CRC-P grant applicants are provided grant funds for up to three years for collaborations from industry, research and community sectors to solve industry problems and improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of the Australian industries.
CRC-Ps aim to:
- improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries, especially where Australia has a competitive strength solve industry problems and deliver tangible outcomes.
- deliver outcomes in line with government priorities
- encourage and enable small and medium enterprise (SME) participation in collaborative research
- foster high quality research to help solve industry specific problems through collaborative research partnerships between industry entities and research organisations.
CRC-Ps must have at least:
- two Australian industry organisations including at least one small or medium-sized enterprise (SME),
- one Australian research organisation.
The delivered impacts of the CRC Program
Since its commencement the CRC Program has been regularly and meticulously reviewed. The Allen Consulting Group conducted a study in 2012 ‘The Economic, Environmental and Social Impacts of the CRC Program’. The study found that:
“Between 1991 and 2017 almost $14.5 billion of direct economic impacts are estimated to have accrued from CRC produced technologies, products and processes. This includes $8.6
billion of impacts already materialised from 1991 to 2012 and a further $5.9 billion of imminent impacts estimated to occur over the next five years.
Relative to the funds committed to the CRC program by the Australian Government, the CRC program has generated a net economic benefit to the community, which has exceeded its costs by a factor of 3.1.
Importantly, the benefits of the CRC program stem well beyond just economic measures. Where as previous studies have focussed on just the financial contribution of the CRC program, this study has identified significant:
• environmental benefits including impacts on land, ecosystems, pollutants, natural resources, plants, animals and biodiversity; and
• social benefits that affect the Australian community, the health and well-being of individuals and any other social implications.”
Innovation and Science Australia and its CRC Advisory Committee, provide strategic oversight of the CRC Program.