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Radical surgery is the answer to innovation woes

30 September 2004

It is not every day that a research scientist proposes a substantial cut in research funding. But this is part of the solution that Dr Ann Hamblin proposes to kick start R&D investment into new agricultural initiatives.

Dr Hamblin, Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Resource and Environmental Studies at ANU, was speaking today at the 4th International Crop Science Congress in Brisbane. The Congress has brought together over 1000 delegates from 65 countries to focus on the key issues for cropping systems that provide food, feed and fibre for the world.

“We need to cut funding for traditional agricultural R&D by 10%, and use that money to fund research into the future of agriculture, like covenanting land for biodiversity, and promoting new products from Australian plants and animals,” said Dr Hamblin.

“This radical approach is likely to ruffle feathers in the R&D community,” she said.

“The way we fund agricultural research is all wrong. The current model locks us into conservative industries and keeps the lid on innovation. Up to 95 cents of every agricultural R&D dollar goes to the old staple industries: beef, wool, wheat and so on. Less than 5 cents goes into the new growth areas,” Dr Hamblin said.

“The Government exhorts us to innovation and says it wants to promote international competitiveness, but ignores the needs of innovation and commercialisation of new technologies,” according to Dr Hamblin.

Dr Hamblin predicts that the total R&D allocation is unlikely to increase in future.

“There are good precedents for such a radical approach such as the example of CSIRO’s highly successful move into IT, which was funded by a big cut to its traditional areas,” she said.

4ICSC would like to thank all its supporters including the following major sponsors:
AusAID, CSIRO, Pioneer Hi-Bred International and QDPI

More information:
Cathy Reade, Media Manager, 4th International Crop Science Congress
Mobile: 0413 575 934

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