Future Directions for Wool R&D

The Wool CRC’s view

The Federal Government’s Future Directions Taskforce for the Wool Industry, headed by former Government Minister Ian McLachlan, has received around 600 submissions. It is meeting with industry representatives in Australia and overseas during April and May and will present its report to the Government by 30 June 1999.

THE WOOL CRC presented its submission without the benefit of knowing its own future. Nevertheless, we were able to draw on the experiences of the present Wool CRC in describing features of a desirable system for the funding, management and conduct of wool R&D. Specifically, the submission concluded that the principles of cooperative research contained within the CRC concept should play an important role in the future reinvigoration of the Australian wool industry.

Features of a desirable system

There are eight features which, collectively, would contribute to a successful wool R&D program:

  1. Research priorities are determined collaboratively by users of research and providers of research.
  2. A whole-of-pipeline perspective is adopted to ensure that, potentially, all sectors can gain from research.
  3. Where possible, users of research are involved in the planning and conduct of applied research.
  4. There is a strategic balance maintained between basic research, applied research and development.
  5. Effective technology adoption is an integral component of a total R&D program.
  6. Funding of wool R&D is obtained from a mix of government, general industry and private company sources.
  7. Commercial management criteria are applied increasingly as funding from the private sector grows.
  8. Direct links by research centres to education and training enhance the effectiveness of technology transfer.

Funding and Management

With those features in mind, the Wool CRC has proposed a practical, low-cost structure that would contribute to an efficient and effective wool R&D program in Australia. In summary:

Sources of Funding

Because so much of our research benefits all sectors of the wool industry and the community at large, a greater proportion of our funding should continue to come from a compulsory levy, supplemented by Government support.

Allocation of Funds

The governing body responsible for allocating research funds, whether statutory or not, should be completely independent of providers of promotion, research and technology transfer.

Funding would be directed towards large outcomes-oriented programs and it would enlist the aid of expert panels to evaluate research proposals, obtained by commission and submission.

Research Programs

Two examples from our CRC2 bid illustrate the type of broad, outcomes-oriented programs that would be considered:

  • More efficient use of available feed
  • Improve the efficiency and performance of wool fibres delivered to spinners.

Successful programs would be user oriented, demonstrate wide collaboration, include industry participation and show clear pathways for technology adoption.

CRC Concept

Maximum encouragement would be given to further development of the CRC concept. The Wool CRC itself would highlight the value gained from collaboration, both within programs and between programs, but it would also focus on the increased proportion of funds obtained from the private (non-levy) sector. Other cooperative ventures could readily develop.


Having received funding for one or more of its programs, the Wool CRC (and other program administrators) would be expected to:

  • Exercise its own judgement in allocating funds between projects/sub-projects.
  • Be responsible for management of the programs, for meeting agreed milestones and for being fully accountable for the funds received.

That is, results will count, not detailed administration.

Technology Adoption

There would be a coordinated approach to technology transfer, both on-farm and post-farm, but each program would also carry a responsibility to ensure effective adoption of resulting technologies. In such an environment, the Wool CRC would become a dynamic commercial enterprise in which its programs evolve continuously in response to research outcomes and shifting industry priorities.

Dr Lionel Ward
CRC director

In this issue of The Wool Press: