Note: The following executive summary is the only one published in the Woolwise website. The website became active during this particular year.

Activities during 1998-99

One of the more gratifying outcomes from 1998-99 was the very positive report received from the Stage 2 Panel of the Year 5 Review. Conducted in two stages, the first panel reviewed progress with the research programs and the second panel concentrated on management, cooperative arrangements, technology transfer, communications and education/training. The report was welcomed by the Wool CRC Board and action was taken to implement recommendations, most notably with respect to protection of intellectual property and the refinement of milestones and performance indicators.

Another rewarding outcome from 1998-99 has been the sharp improvement in industry recognition of, and support for, work of the Wool CRC. Although that support could not be translated into tangible commitments for our bid for a second term, there has been a discernible shift in the attitudes of all wool industry sectors to the role they must play in future wool research and education. That has been exemplified by the financial support received from the AWTA Ltd Education Trust for the commercialisation of the Wool CRC’s wool education program through 1998-99 into 1999-2000. Importantly, that initiative is already attracting interest from across Australia and overseas.

Many of our research programs are also approaching the technology transfer stage. This is particularly evident in the Genetic Technologies Program where individual projects which set out to achieve rapid shifts to fine wool and higher average fleece weights, have reached the technology transfer stage. The Staple Strength Program has nine separate projects due to end in 1999-2000. Collectively they have brought together genotype effects, feeding regime and flock management practices to show how to significantly improve staple strength in environments with dramatic seasoned variations.

The big challenge, however, is to wind up our strategic research projects in a way that maximises potential benefits to the wool industry. We have made significant progress with our projects involved in fibre structure and composition, cloning and transgenesis and other areas of biotechnology research, but there is a risk that the total research effort will decline once CRC funding ceases.

That possibility illustrates the importance of CRC funding and accentuates our disappointment at not being granted a second seven-year term. Our application in Round 6 had sufficient merit to ensure we were one of 43 applicants granted an interview, but in the final selection process we were not among the successful 26. Insufficient industry support was undoubtedly a major negative for the Wool CRC’s application, but other factors to contribute were the inadequate focus of the proposed research and the perceived weighting towards strategic research.

In preparing for its future role, the Wool CRC also made two submissions to, and met with, the Federal Government’s Wool Industry Future Directions Taskforce chaired by Mr Ian McLachlan AO. Our submissions highlighted the importance of continued support for wool R&D and elaborated on the additional benefits achievable through a cooperative approach to research and education/training. The Taskforce Report, released at the end of June 1999, expressed strong support for the work of the Wool CRC and recommended that a further application be made in the next funding round.

As year 7 begins to unfold, the post-Taskforce environment for Wool R&D remains unclear, but the Wool CRC is progressing with plans to establish a consortium of core parties (existing and new) that would be interested in developing an infrastructure for cooperative wool research and innovation. Precedents exist within the CRC community and its successful implementation would represent a beneficial legacy from the seven years of Commonwealth support for the present Wool CRC. The possibility exists that a renewed bid will be made for a second wool industry CRC in the next selection round (due in 2000), but that is not prominent in current Wool CRC planning.

Michael Davidson Chairman

Lionel Ward Director