Concerns over future of Cooperative Research Centres

The long-awaited terms of reference for the Abbott Government’s review of Cooperative Research Centres, released today, raise concerns about the future of the CRC program.

Established in 1990 under the Hawke Government, the CRC program is one of the great success stories of Australian research and innovation policy.

In 2012, an Allen Consulting Group study of the economic, social and environmental impact of CRCs from 1991 to 2017 found the program had generated a net economic benefit of $7.5 billion.

However, the Abbott Government’s short-sighted Budget stripped $80 million from the program and abandoned the 17th selection round for new CRCs.

This decision did not bode well for the program, and now the review has been announced with terms of reference that require it to “consider the content of the Commission of Audit reports, particularly in relation to research, development and innovation”.

The Commission of Audit found that “Cooperative Research Centres should be abolished, with funding rolled into the Australian Research Council Linkages programme” (p. 171).

Starting a review by questioning “whether the CRC program is the most appropriate vehicle to support business and researchers to work together” and referencing a report that recommended its abolition is not the most promising start.

Labor hopes, however, this exercise will confirm the findings of previous reviews, which showed CRCs to be an extremely valuable element in the suite of measures required to create a strong innovation system.


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