2016 Autumn - Switching on farm innovation

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FPJ1301C - Barlow et al. (2016), Innovation in Australia’s Agrifood Systems: Are Australia’s Universities Ready for the Next Challenge?

FPJ1301B - Barlow, S, Kingwell, R, Prately, J, Keating, B (2016), Innovation in Australia’s Agrifood Systems: Are Australia’s Universities Ready for the Next Challenge?, in Farm Policy Journal, vol. 13, no. 1, Autumn 2016, pp. 15-23, Surry Hills, Australia.

Australia’s universities play a key role in the agricultural innovation ecosystem, publishing the majority of the agricultural research papers and training the next generation of agricultural researchers and practitioners. This university sector has expanded significantly, and become more independent and internationally focused over the past 25 years since the transformational reforms of the Hawke Government.
The agricultural innovation ecosystem also has developed significantly over the past 25 years since the establishment of the Research and Development Corporations which have predominantly evolved into industry owned corporations with elected boards. CSIRO and state departments of agriculture have also evolved significantly in this period with some downsizing in their research and extension capacity.
These developments have led to fragmentation rather than coordination and integration of the agricultural innovation ecosystem as sectors and institutions have responded to their individual rather than systemic drivers of the agricultural innovation system.
Currently the university system and its agricultural researchers are focused on performance in the Excellence of Research for Australia (ERA) evaluation rather than delivery to the agricultural innovation system. Its linkages to the national research organisation, CSIRO, are neither strategic nor transparent and will not facilitate CSIRO in its new role as a national innovation catalyst.
Australia’s university sector could play a major role in the national agricultural ecosystem if university researchers and their postgraduate students could be incentivised to contribute, by recognition of the impact of their research on industry in the ERA process and by industry levy funding for more strategic research being available.
To achieve these and other measures that support greater oversight, integration and coordination of the agricultural innovation ecosystem, an independently chaired Agrifood Innovation Council reporting directly to the Prime Minister through PMSEIC is required.
To achieve greater agribusiness involvement in this innovation system, significant incentives need to be established for the formation of private/public partnerships in research, innovation and postgraduate training; involving universities, industry and farming groups.

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