New CRCs share $127m for waste reduction tech

Brandon How

Agricultural methane and plastic waste reduction technologies are the focus of the newest cooperative research centres following the completion of Round 24 of the popular federal government research grant program.

After a year-long application and assessment process, the government announced that two successful Queensland-based bids would share $127 million in funding over the next decade.

Some $87 million will go to the Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Zero Net Emissions from Agriculture, making it the government’s largest single CRC grant. The remaining $40 million supportsthe Solving Plastic Waste CRC.

Industry and Science minister Husic also announced on Tuesday that Round 25 of the CRC program would open on January 8 next year and close on March 5.

The CRC for Zero Net Emissions from Agriculture’s interim CEO Matthew Morell. Image: Lyndon Mechielsen

Together, the two new industry-led research centres are expected to leverage more than $315 million in cash and in-kind contributions from more than 118 project partners from across industry, universities, and government.

The successful applicants beat four other shortlisted CRC bids, which were predominantly focused on technologies that support reductions in greenhouse gas emissions and the energy transition.

The unsuccessful CRC bids in Round 24 were the Alternative Proteins CRC, Copper for Tomorrow CRC, Scaling Green Hydrogen CRC, and Pollination Security CRC.

The successful CRC for Zero Net Emissions from Agriculture bid was led by the University of Queensland and Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, alongside 73 partners, including all six state governments and the Northern Territory. Overall, it says it would have access to $300 million of resources.

The CRC for Zero Net Emissions from Agriculture’s interim chief executive and Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation director Professor Matthew Morell said “time is of the essence if we are to hit out 2030 and 2050 [emissions reduction] targets”.

On top of its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, the federal government has signed up to a global methane pledge, committing it to cutting global emissions of the gas by 30 per cent on 2020 levels by 2030.

“Reducing emissions across Australian agriculture is a significant challenge given the diversity of agricultural products we produce, the unique challenges presented by our environmental conditions and the need for new technology to drive emissions [down],” Professor Morell said.

Also based out of Queensland, the Solving Plastic Waste CRC bid was led by Griffith University and has access to $140.6 million worth of cash and in-kind support overall.

Dr Ian Dagley served as bid leader and Dr Leonie Walsh as interim chair. Dr Dagley had previously been chief executive of the CRC for Polymers for 21 years, while Dr Walsh was the former Victorian lead scientist.

The federal government is currently not on track to meet its 2025 National Packaging Targets, which includes a commitments to recycle or compost 70 per cent of plastic packaging and to have an average of 50 per cent of recycled content in packaging

“We need to mobilise Australian industry to play its role in the transition to net zero now. But we also need to think about the next big steps, which is why it is important to get Australian science and industry working together on this,” Minister Husic said.

“There are very few challenges more crucial than achieving net zero emissions and tackling plastic pollution.

“I wish these two new CRCs every success in achieving the important objectives they have set.”

Cooperative Research Australia chief executive Jane O’Dwyer congratulated the successful CRC bids, but said she was disappointed that “more CRCs were not successful in this round”.

She highlighted that bidding for a CRC is a “long and demanding process” that often requires years of preparation even before the application process begins.

“We were hoping to see more new CRCs than in recent years, tackling the biggest challenges Australia has and unleashing private sector investment in R&D,” Ms O’Dwyer said.

In an impact analysis of the program, undertaken in 2021 by economic consultancy ACIL Allen on behalf of the Office of the Chief Economist, every dollar invested in the CRC program between 20012 and 2020 was found to generate $5.61 in benefit for the economy.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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