19th CRC Selection Race is on

The Cooperative Research Centres Programme has opened its books for the 19th Selection Round, with Stage 1 applications accepted until 12 July. CRCs are major collaborative research ventures of up to 10 years duration, requiring matching funding for the Australian Commonwealth grant. Most bids match the Commonwealth’s funds at a much higher rate than 1 for 1.

There are some important changes to last year’s guidelines that need to be noted by applicants. The CRC Association is disappointed that the required Participant Declaration at Stage 1 includes an undertaking that the Participant “will become a party to all necessary agreements”. This is an unrealistic commitment at Stage 1 of an application when intellectual property and funding arrangements are yet to be agreed. CRCA will work with the Department this week to try and get clarification, so that companies are not deterred from participation.

In addition to the change in the nature of the declaration, significantly more information is sought at Stage 1. In summary (with thanks to Steven Brown):

  • Short Project Description – 500 characters (same as last time)
  • Full project description – 5000 characters (new, now same as stage 2)
  • What is the national and international state of play in the area of the research that is contributing to solve the identified industry problem – 5000 characters (new)
  • Research Programme 1 Description of key activities and outputs * – 5000 characters for each programme (new, same as stage 2 last time)
  • The expected industry outcomes  – 10,000 characters (previously 5000)
  • Demonstrated governance and management capability – 6,000 (previously 3,000))
  • Value for money – 6,000 (previously 3,000)
  • Expected national benefits – 6,000 (previously 3,000)
  • Includes ALL the Key personnel 5,000 characters per key personnel for up to 10 personnel (new for stage 1, same as stage 2 last time)

The Chair of the CRC Selection Committee, Philip Clark, delivered 6 tips for a successful future CRC bid at last week’s Collaborate | Innovate | 2017 event in Canberra (thanks to Steve Lapidge):

  1. Work with Growth Centre/s and their industry competitiveness plan. In fact, CRC Committee would rather see the Growth Centre submit the bid.
  2. Must be industry led and clearly collaborative. Identify industry problem/s and clearly describe research solution.
  3. Demonstrate good governance.
  4. Application should be clear and concise and simple as possible.
  5. Make sure you get the numbers right.
  6. Don’t leave it until the last minute.

Collaborate | Innovate | 2017 was a great chance for those not yet working with one of the Industry Growth Centres to meet them. The clearest message from Government during the event was the need for CRCs and Growth Centres to be working closely together. All six Growth Centres have now published their 10-year Competitiveness Plan for their respective sector. Intending bidders should not treat “working with” the Growth Centres as merely “ticking the box” that you’ll be cognisant of the competitiveness plan – the relationship must be much deeper if you are to be successful.

Bidders will have the dilemma in Stage 1 of responding to the Chairman of the Committee’s plea for concise writing while at the same time, the potential length of the Stage 1 application has more than doubled. Last year, 15 Bids were received at Stage 1, with 14 being judged compliant and going to the Advisory Committee. A similar number of bids is expected this year, judging by those talking to the CRCA, and the quality and matching contributions are likely to be higher, given the greater certainty surrounding this funding round over the last. So while Bidders can provide twice as many words as last year, they’ll have to seriously consider whether those extra words are going to help or hinder their case with an overworked Advisory Committee.