Just 20 years ago the Australian sheep industry was in dire straits – today it is worth more than $8.6 billion per year, an increase of almost 50 per cent compared to when the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation was launched in 2001.
The Sheep CRC was funded for three terms of operation from 200 - 2019 by the Commonwealth, and the official history of how it revived the industry's fortunes was launched in Canberra today by the Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews.
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Andrews said the dramatic turnaround was achieved despite the national flock decreasing in size by more than 40 per cent over this period - on a 'per sheep' basis the real gross value of production has increased 2.6-fold.
"While many factors have contributed to its change in fortunes, it cannot be disputed that one of the major drivers has been the work of the Sheep CRC in delivering transformational new technologies" she said.
"The Australian sheep industry has become a global leader in the use of genomic technologies to enhance productivity, has embraced the big data revolution with new predictive apps, and is delivering consumers with eating experiences that are second to none".
Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the book, Concept to Impact: The story of the SHEEP CRC 2001–2019, captured the scale of the industry collaboration and resulting transformation.
"While many factors contributed to this economic boom for the Australian sheep industry, it is safe to say that it hasn't happened by chance" Rowe said.
"Transformational industry change like this requires vision, clear objectives, a well thought out strategy and adaptable tactics to deliver real impact.
"Everything that the Sheep CRC did was driven by an understanding of consumer preferences and industry needs so that we could enable the entire value chain to profit from delivering wool and meat products that consistently surpassed these expectations".
Dr Tony Peacock, CEO of the CRC Association said he hoped the book would provide a useful road map for other industries and research organisations to follow in delivering high-impact research for the Australian economy.
Peacock said a good example was the Drought Future Fund – this complex national program would benefit from the principles established in the CRC Programme to ensure a clear strategy based on collaboration and co-investment amongst stakeholders.
"Since the early 1990s when the CRC Programme was created the processes in managing the Programme have continued to evolve around the need to engage industry end-users in the collaboration and the importance of supporting innovation development through parallel education and training programs. There is increasing evidence that this CRC approach works to deliver integrated programs that have national impact" he said.
And while the Sheep CRC came to a close on 30 June 2019, sheep industry leaders are planning a forum to develop a new collaborative research organisation to continue the transformation into the future.
The book is available by contacting Polly Ward (firstname.lastname@example.org) before 25 October.
Concept to Impact: The story of the SHEEP CRC 2001–2019
During the 1980s and '90s, Australia's sheep and wool industries were lurching from crisis to crisis—with variable prime lamb prices and the suspension of the wool reserve price scheme—and something had to give.
By the turn of the century the industry had sufficiently organised itself and its resources and was investing heavily in marketing, but a new approach to R&D was needed to restore the iconic status of sheep in Australian agriculture.
Over the course of 18 years the Cooperative Research Centre for Sheep Industry Innovation (Sheep CRC) helped transform the industry into a global powerhouse of efficient production of consistently high-quality meat and wool based on incredible new technologies.
But it almost never existed, with the Sheep CRC surviving two early scares which could have killed off one of Australian agriculture's highest performing research agencies before it was even born.
Concept to Impact records the people, the politics and the powerful new technologies that have changed the face of Australian sheep production forever.