CRC sugar: an experiment in a novel approach to sugar industry R&D

Lawn, R.J. (2003) CRC sugar: an experiment in a novel approach to sugar industry R&D. Proceedings of the Australian Society of Sugar Cane Technologists, 25. pp. 1-12.

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CRC Sugar was established in 1995 to undertake research and education to build the skills and technology for a competitive and environmentally responsible sugar industry. CRC Sugar was constituted as a collaborative joint venture between 13 organisations: the five major sugar milling companies (Bundaberg Sugar, CSR Sugar, Mackay Sugar, NSW Sugar and Sugar North), CANEGROWERS, BSES, SRDC, two divisions of CSIRO, the Queensland Department of Natural Resources and Mines and three universities, The University of Queensland, Central Queensland University and James Cook University, the centre host. Together, these 13 organisations conduct ~85% of sugar R&D. CRC Sugar’s operational strategy has been to add value to the work, through collaborative, multi-disciplinary research, to tackle difficult or complex ‘systems’ issues in partnership with research end-users. CRC Sugar has leveraged an additional $3.5 million annually into sugar R&D, in the form of competitive CRC Program cash, in-kind contributions from extra-industry research providers, and conditional establishment grants from the Queensland and NSW governments. Among CRC Sugar researchers’ key achievements are the pioneering ‘whole-of-industry’ approach to alternative options for cane supply scheduling; a science-based understanding of the industry’s water quality and other environmental impacts; improved management of acid sulfate soils; a targetted approach to customising nutrient management to local needs, taking account of soil type and nutrient recycling from mill muds, effluent and green cane trash blanketing (GCTB); tools to maximise economic returns from limited water; tools and approaches for ameliorating soil sodicity and acidity; better understanding of the wet tropics low CCS issue; a range of decision support tools to assess options and explore risks and trade-offs; and an innovative education and training program. Benefit: cost analysis of selected projects indicated that the potential benefit from the cane supply options work alone exceeds the aggregate 8-year cost of the Centre. There were ‘transaction’ costs in operating CRC Sugar, mainly in the form of the time and effort spent on building collaborative links with other researchers and industry, and on accountability. The main gap when CRC Sugar’s term ends will be in the nature and extent of environmental research, with much of the ongoing research diverting to organisations focussed on environmental protection rather than sustainable sugar production. CRC Sugar’s legacies include the whole-of-industry approach to exploring options for securing operational efficiencies, a comprehensive, science-based appraisal of the industry’s environmental footprint, ‘best bet’ options for improved environmental management, stronger industry engagement by extra-industry research providers, and a paradigm shift in favour of collaborative, participative, systems-based research.

Item ID: 283
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 0726-0822
Keywords: collaboration, research management, sustainability, systems research
Date Deposited: 11 Sep 2006
FoR Codes: 07 AGRICULTURAL AND VETERINARY SCIENCES > 0703 Crop and Pasture Production > 070302 Agronomy @ 51%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 49%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8203 Industrial Crops > 820304 Sugar @ 51%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960505 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Forest and Woodlands Environments @ 49%
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