Comment by Peter Roberts
The cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program has assumed even greater importance to the future of manufacturing with the likely demise of the growth centres initiative, though the CRCs too need further federal commitments in the short term to continue their good works.
The CRC’s match federal money with cash and in kind contributions form business, universities and public sector research institutions to tackle defined industry research needs, run for a defined period of time and are regularly refreshed with new CRCs formed to tackle emergent issues.
They are the single most important, perhaps the only really substantial federal program outside the defence sector, supporting collaboration to create a long term future for key sectors of manufacturing.
With the life of the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) coming to the end in 2022, a number of bidding consortia are forming round the country to continue its work in focusing public and private manufacturing R&D resources.
IMCRC, led by former automotive executive David Chuter and guided by an industry and politically savvy board, has been highly successful.
Since its inception in 2016, IMCRC has catalysed close to $220 million in transformative manufacturing research, successfully co-funding more than 50 industry-led R&D projects.
Vying to join the CRC program in an upcoming 23rd round of funding are:
- The CRC for Intelligent Manufacturing (CRCIM) focusing on Industry 4.0 issues with a vision for autonomy, interoperability and sustainability, including through significant development and application of industrial artificial intelligence
- The Regional Advanced Manufacturing CRC (RAMCRC) led by Deakin University would focus on building a collaborative research network across regional and remote Australia
- The Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites CRC (SoMACCRC) aims to drive composite R&D which will lead to decentralised composites productions capacity and sovereign independence
- And the Critical Supply Chain CRC (CSCCRC) would focus on technologies such as Internet of Things, AI, Block Chain and Supply Chain Management to improve Australia’s medial product supply chain.
Not all these CRC proposals will be funded, but some will – in June the two of the three new CRCs announced under round 22 of the program were involved in manufacturing – the Heavy Industry Low Carbon Transition (HILT) CRC, and the Marine Bioproducts CRC.
Perhaps the reason why CRCs, founded by the Hawke government in 1990, have received long-term, bi-partisan support is the involvement of universities and public sector research groups such as CSIRO and ANSTO which have huge political clout.
The doomed growth centres were industry driven and industry led, and did not prioritise collaborative research.
Information sessions will be held this week about the proposal for a CRC for Intelligent Manufacturing, details here.
Picture: Innovative Manufacturing CRC
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