Who’s bidding for a CRC this year?

The information roadshow for the current (15th) selection round for Cooperative Research Centres is completed and most bidders would be head down developing their bid for the 14 June closing date. Some will still be thinking about whether to go ahead in this round or wait. Everyone wants to know about the competition.

It’s not easy to find out who is planning to bid. There is no Expression of Interest stage and so even the Department of Innovation only knows for sure once bids are lodged in June.

Sniffing around at the couple of roadshow events I attended and fielding a few calls, I think it might be a good year to bid. I’m predicting a lower number of bids than the past two rounds (which were 30 and 26 at the first stage). Probably in the order of 12-16. This is because there are fewer, if any, renewing CRCs entering the current round. Because the rounds used to be every two years but are annual post the O’Kane review, existing CRCs have to make a choice whether to bid in their sixth year or wait until their seventh.

Renewing CRCs do better than first time bidders. They already know what a CRC is all about and they have the participants working together already. Last year, four of the six funded CRCs were renewals and the previous year it was two of four. No supplementary funds have been provided to any CRCs in the last two rounds. The impact of renewing CRCs will diminish over time as the current guidelines rule out the likelihood of third and fourth terms. The 15-year maximum time frame means most will try for a 7 + 8 year pattern, although it’s theoretically possible to go for a 5 + 5 + 5 sequence, a 10 + 5 sequence or any variation adding to the maximum.

On my current guestimates, there are no existing CRCs set to bid in the round. There are at least four bids that failed last round bidding again – two which were interviewed and two that weren’t. Each of these has received feedback from the CRC Program on their bid. There are at least six new bids coming in, one or two of which have been discussed before but never lodged. Another four new ones are on my list, but are looking more like ideas, rumours or unready bids. Of course, there’s there’s no reason I’d necessary know about every bid.

Looking at the topics, I think they’ll be more health-oriented bids than any other, some environmental ones and some service industry CRCs. Agriculture, mining and manufacturing look very thin on the ground to me at this stage. The CRC Program has indicated that the priority areas will feature more strongly in the future, but it’s looking quite possible that the priorities of clean manufacturing, sustainable regional communities and social innovation might not be addressed by bidders (although “social innovation” is such a wide term, maybe every bidder will tick the box anyway?).

The CRC Association is happy to hear from bidders and to assist with networking or advice when appropriate. The Safeguarding Biodiversity and Sleep and Alertness bids have both become Associate Members, so it’s known they are going forward. I won’t name others I know about because I’m not clear how much publicity (or not) bidders might like.

It will still be a highly competitive process for bidders and no one can take it easier knowing there might be less bidders in the round. I wish each of them the best. I add that I could also be completely wrong and there could be a dozen competitors I haven’t heard about yet. Good luck.