Our agricultural innovation system is world-leading but Australia’s agriculture sector faces unprecedented change. Changing global markets, increasing international competition, technological disruption, changing industry structures, and climate and water related risk present a myriad of opportunities and challenges for Australian agriculture.
The department, in conjunction with Ernst & Young (EY), will undertake a comprehensive consultation process with stakeholders across the agricultural innovation system, including research providers, rural research and development corporations, industry representatives, governments, investors, start-ups and accelerators, producers, grower and farm systems groups, processors and retailers.
This project will create a shared vision for the future of the agricultural innovation system and enable opportunities for a vibrant agricultural sector. The vision will be designed through engagement with stakeholders who were involved in the consultation.
We want to hear from stakeholders who participate across the many components of the agricultural innovation system to develop a clearer pathway for research, development and extension to boost productivity and growth in the agricultural sector.
The project will also investigate best practice systems for innovation across Australia and around the globe, both within and outside the agriculture sector.
Key areas of focus include:
- improving adoption of Australian research outcomes, including faster commercialisation of products
- increasing private and foreign investment in Australian research and Agtech development
- optimising rural research and development investments, so that our investments are targeted to activities that will maximise productivity and ensure the long term prosperity of the Australian agriculture sector
- improving collaboration across the agricultural innovation system and reducing duplication.
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Over the coming months, we will publish regular updates on the results of our stakeholder engagement and the developing vision.
13 December 2018
Consultation phase two
The team has now re-engaged with more than 50 stakeholders through interviews, workshops and focus groups. The second phase of the project focused on testing the insights from phase one and inviting stakeholders to guide the focus for the shared vision.
Stakeholders were presented with a range of strategic choices and asked to identify what they thought should be the primary areas of focus for the future of Australia’s agricultural innovation system. For example, stakeholders were asked to select whether the agricultural sector should aspire to primarily achieve economic, environmental or social outcomes.
The co-design process allowed participants to chart their own vision. The figure below highlights the strategic choices we asked stakeholders, with the stars showing where the majority of people landed.
While respondents submitted a broad variety of views on where innovation should focus, the majority view was the industry should focus on delivering economic outcomes supported by environmental and social outcomes. Stakeholders felt our agricultural industries should focus on the premium market (quality, consistency and safety) and look beyond the domestic market for regional and global opportunities. The agricultural innovation system should play an active role in delivering outcomes for the agricultural industry and the balance of investment in innovation should be balanced towards disruptive rather than incremental. Further, it was identified that there were opportunities to collaborate across the value chain, and to come together on national agricultural missions.
Bringing in the international research
The team have also interviewed 25 international stakeholders from the six countries of interest: Brazil, China, Israel, the Netherlands, New Zealand and the USA. The interviews were useful in defining a set of leading practices from among the overseas systems that enabled innovation to prosper.
These practices are:
- System leadership and coordination
- Clear understanding of value proposition and competitive advantages
- Focus on commercial outcomes and applied research
- Diversity of funding sources
- International collaboration
- Importance of the innovation culture
- Innovation hubs and centres of excellence
- Effective adoption pathways
While the practices are a product of the unique context of a particular country’s agricultural system, there are potential applications, and areas to consider, for Australia’s agricultural innovation system.
Drafting the vision
The team is enthusiastically authoring a draft report and bringing together all the research and insights from stakeholder engagement, while also continuing to refine and test the vision with a final group of stakeholders. With just a few weeks of the project left, we are excited to be close to submitting the final report to the Minister and to share the vision with our stakeholders in 2019.
21 November 2018
The end of phase one
Phase one of our consultation has drawn to a close and we have collated 12,000 insights from stakeholders across the agricultural innovation system. The second phase of the project is now underway with a focus on rigorously testing the possible options for a vision for the future and diving deeper into key topics like attracting investment and allocation of capital, increasing collaboration, and value chain integration.
Phase two will come to a close in the beginning of December. The focus will then turn to evaluating and synthesising insights from the stakeholder engagement and incorporating findings from research into innovation systems from other countries and other industries.
As we compare our system internationally and look for examples of best practice, Australia must seize the opportunity to increase collaboration across the innovation system. A key finding of the international research is the importance of incentivising and stimulating collaborations between both public and private partnerships, and start-up to private sector partnerships. For example, Israel’s Yozma Initiative has been identified as a key enabler for Israel to create an open innovation model that motivates players to collaborate on a domestic and international level.
We embarked on three regional roadshows in November to visit producers, processors and innovation hubs in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. These consultations have been invaluable to understanding the end-user of the innovation system—what they need to succeed and where they want to see investment. We spoke to more than 60 stakeholders across eight different cities with a variety of roles and capabilities in the agricultural supply chain.
One of the common themes of our discussions was a focus on local cooperation to better extend and adopt innovation. Given the diversity of climate and landscape in Australian agriculture, a focus on local application and testing would encourage collaboration in regions and across commodities.
“When it comes to new innovation, it’s about looking over the fence—someone starts it, then other people do it,”
“Animal welfare and social licence are just part of the cost of doing business,”
“Farmers are hungry for innovation—it’s a game changer for them,”
“We need to get young people excited about agriculture—it’s a complex system and we need to have the best minds involved,”
“Agriculture has some of the biggest, meatiest problems and it is fun to try and find solutions to the most challenging elements of an age old industry,”
1 November 2018
We have now engaged with more than 300 stakeholders through face to face interviews, teleconferences and workshops across the country. This comprehensive engagement has drawn out insights from stakeholders across all facets of the agricultural innovation system—including researchers, RDCs, industry representatives, producers, processors, investors, government agencies, and companies across the start-up, accelerator and incubator communities.
We are now focused on expanding our reach to producers and processors on the ground, with three separate regional trips underway. We’ll be visiting northern Victoria, southern New South Wales, Rockhampton and Townsville in Queensland. There will also be a regional trip from the Darling Downs in Queensland through to Armidale and Orange in New South Wales.
Early insights on the current state of the agricultural innovation system have been formed from more than 1,200 observations from the stakeholder engagement activities. These observations were grouped around ten key themes as below:
- Innovation recognised across the system as critical for the future of the agriculture sector.
- Key pillars of strength exist in the system including research capabilities, diverse commodities and the volume of government funding.
- The innovation system needs to be agile, adaptable and flexible.
- Lack of a clear uniting purpose; better coordination is needed to counter system-wide fragmentation.
- Greater integration across the agriculture value chain is needed.
- There is an opportunity for improved adoption of innovation through greater support and understanding of end-user needs.
- Investment and funding allocation optimisation is needed to balance incremental and disruptive innovation.
- There is a need to attract diverse local and international sources of investment.
- Collaboration between different elements of the system can be significantly increased for the benefit of the entire system.
- Improving the foundations of the innovation system will create a strong platform for the future.
The international analysis continues with the examination of innovation systems in other countries and industries to capture leading thinking on innovation. Examples of agricultural innovation systems studied in this analysis include Brazil’s research and development organisation Embrapa, China’s food security strategy emphasising strong agricultural research and development, and the Netherlands’ Food Valley and ‘Golden Triangle’ initiatives bringing together government, research and private sector players. Interviews with our international stakeholders are now underway and will continue into November.
15 October 2018
The joint EY and department team have now conducted more than 120 interviews in the first phase of the project.
The team has have interviewed a wide range of stakeholders involved in the agricultural innovation system in all capital cities and will shortly be heading to some of our regional centres to continue gathering information.
Opinions on the future of agricultural innovation vary but most stakeholders interviewed to date agree that innovation is key to encouraging transformational productivity growth in the sector. The agricultural sector must be prepared to meet the challenges of the coming decades and a shared vision for a future-fit agricultural innovation system is a vital part of that work.
Some topics that have been regularly discussed include:
- the need for greater collaboration throughout the system
- addressing the challenge of attracting, developing and retaining the next generation of talent across the agricultural sector
- an increased focus on the end-user and consumers’ needs to encourage the development and adoption of validated innovation across the full value chain.
International research and consultation is underway with a focus on countries with strong innovation models such as the USA, Israel, China, the Netherlands and Brazil.
Workshops are the next key phase of the project as we begin to develop and test the themes identified for the shared vision with a number of key stakeholders.