Harnessing the ocean to grow a new industry

The Marine Bioproducts CRC (MB-CRC) was one of three successful bids in Round 22. Its Chair, John Gunn, shared his reaction on hearing the good news.

“Relief was the first reaction. Our CRC has been a long time in gestation!”

This was MB-CRC’s second attempt at a bid after not succeeding in Round 20. 

“Having had the disappointment of first stage rejection in 2018 (Round 20), we took time to review the feedback and worked closely with our industry, research and government partners to develop a focussed and much-improved bid for Round 22.  This benefited from unwavering support from Flinders University as the bid leader, and sustained commitment and effort from a leadership team comprising researchers and industry.”

John’s second reaction was excitement. He was “thrilled to be able to share the good news with all those involved with the bid, from company directors to University DVCR’s and researchers – they’re all overjoyed!”

His excitement was tangible as he explained the vision of MB-CRC.  

“The bid focusses on accelerating the development of an emerging and ambitious industry sector in Australia. Success will require all elements of the marine bioproducts supply chain to grow their capability and work together.” 

This includes primary producers, advanced manufacturers a diverse range of companies working to develop and certify products for global markets.

“The CRC has brought all those people together, and over two years they have determined their technology requirements and developed a plan for how the CRC can drive a collaborative approach to the development of an effective and efficient supply chain. We call it the MB-CRC ecosystem.” To support the producers and manufacturers in the ecosystem, the CRC partnership also includes major global marketing companies, and a dedicated investment house (Aquafund P/L) to support market penetration and company investment opportunities.   

John strongly believes in the CRC model as the best vehicle for developing the marine bioproducts industry in Australia. 

“I’ve been involved in CRCs for nearly 20 years, as a researcher, and then as a board member. A key factor in the success of the CRC Program over the last two decades has been its drive to focus R&D on industry challenges and needs. The CRC “innovation engine” obviously has  a positive impact on all industry members, but it is especially important for small and medium enterprises. Our CRC has a number of SMEs that would struggle to raise the cash to co-invest at scale with Government research agencies or Universities. And they’d likely not find it easy to develop collaborations with similar businesses. The MB-CRC solves both of these challenges for our partners. 

“There’s an analogue for the MB-CRC in previous CRC investments. In the 1980s, a number of small Australian companies began development of an aquaculture industry. This industry has benefitted immensely from three rounds of CRC funding and now contributes $1.4 Billion a year to the Australian economy.

The MB-CRC will also deliver significant benefit to the Australian economy. The CRC Program Impact Modelling tool predicts it will generate $8.6 billion in direct economic benefits and 26,470 direct and indirect jobs through to 2035. Many of our industry partners view this as a conservative effort, and we hope they are correct! 

“With demand for marine bioproducts, include nutraceuticals, omega 3 oils, cosmetics, plant-based proteins, agrochemicals and bioplastics growing rapidly, the global market for these commodities is projected to be worth $780 billion by 2035”.  

“No doubt global competition will be stiff, but Australia’s natural advantages and advanced R&D sector provide confidence that we can be successful in garnering a sizeable share.  
Australia’s vast marine estate has supported food production from commercial fisheries for more than a century, with aquaculture emerging as a major industry in the last thirty years. Until recently however, we have not capitalized on the huge potential outside of food production from the broad range of other species in our uniquely biodiverse, clean and green coastal waters.    

“The MB-CRC is set to revolutionize the way we utilize these rich natural marine assets. The CRC’s innovative R&D programs will focus on production of new sources of marine biomass such as seaweeds, marine micro-algae and filter feeding animals and the use of advanced manufacturing technologies and processes to produce a suite of novel bioproducts. “

A special focus of the MB-CRC will be involvement and capability development of First Nations Sea country people, on whose country the primary products for this industry will be grown.  

“Our board will include a well-qualified First Nations community member and our innovative education and training program, which ranges from VET training through to university and advanced education, will included dedicated resources and programs for First Nations people.  

The CRC Association congratulates John Gunn and the team at the Marine Bioproducts CRC for their bid success. 

To read more about The Marine Bioproducts CRC (MB-CRC) click here