Vale John Kerin, thanks for the CRC programme

John Kerin who served as minister for primary industries, trade and transport between 1983 and 1993, and was treasurer for six months in 1991, has passed away, aged 85.

His passing is important to note as he was behind the setting up of 15 research and development corporations around rural industries and the founding of the Cooperative Research Centres programme.

In a country known for its lack of collaboration between industry and research, and between companies themselves, both programmes stand out as exemplars of government intervention in markets that effected genuine change.

Kerin served as Minister for Primary Industries (1983-1987), Minister for Primary Industries and Energy (1987-1991), Minister for Transport and Communications (1991), Minister for Trade and Overseas Development (1991-1993) and Treasurer (1991) in the Hawke government.

Kerin also worked with bodies including the Australian Meat and Livestock Corporation, CSIRO, the Poultry Cooperative Research Centre, the Australian Weed Research Centre and the CRC for Tropical Savannas Management.

His innovation of rural research organisations has had enormous impact on sector productivity in areas such as grains and wines.

Founded in 1990 the CRC programme brought together industry and public sector research in limited time programmes to research problems common to industry.

Over three decades of the programme’s operation, CRC funding has induced around $200 million per
year of new private R&D. The estimated average additionality of investment in CRCs is 1.47. It is estimated CRCs have increased GDP by $32.5 billion.

The government has invested $5.1 billion in CRC’s, with industry and research partners contributing $3 billion in cash and an estimated $12 billion through in-kind contributions.

In the manufacturing area, the most recent the Innovative Manufacturing CRC, which recently reached the end of its planned life, was a stand out in its achievements.

IMCRC has delivered 71 industry-led manufacturing research projects that are set to create more than $4.2 billion in financial benefits to industry by 2030.

In 2015, a second CRC policy element, CRC Projects, was introduced to encourage greater SME involvement in collaborative research.

The contribution John Kerin made to encouraging collaborative research cannot be underestimated.

And it stands in stark contrast to recently politically-decided grant programmes which had neither industry’s nor the economy’s best interests at heart.

Picture: Crawford Fund/John Kerin

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