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set to strengthen
ACIAR held a workshop in late 2014 to seek ideas for
strengthening its engagement with private-sector partners
BY NICOLE BAXTER
rivate-sector engagement has been
part of ACIAR’s poverty alleviation
strategy for many years, primarily as
a way to link-up improved on-farm
productivity to markets. A renewed
policy focus on this important area has also
brought opportunities to further expand
ACIAR’s role and capability to bring the private
sector into developmental projects.
To support this work, ACIAR brought
together influential Australian and international
leaders from private agribusinesses and the
public sector. They met in Canberra to discuss
opportunities and challenges to broaden the
base of private enterprises engaging with
Fifteen private-sector representatives met
with ACIAR Commissioners and staff, along with
personnel from the Department of Foreign
Affairs and Trade.
Private-sector attendees came from the
Indo-Pacific region including Fiji, Indonesia,
Singapore, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, the Philippines
and Australia. They represented small and
medium enterprises, large global corporations
and finance companies.
Dr Nick Austin, ACIAR CEO, says the one-and-
a-half day workshop highlighted ACIAR’s status
as an ‘honest broker’ of partnerships in helping
to alleviate poverty in developing nations and
particularly among small landholders.
Workshop participants encouraged ACIAR to
engage more strongly with the private sector
and to work through the challenges to chart a
“I think the thing ACIAR brings to the table is
an enormous amount of credibility, it has reach
and networks that extend around the world,” says
Don Heatley, a cattle producer from Queensland
and ACIAR Commission Chair.
“ The private sector is always looking for
ways, places, people and networks to engage
and, actually, that is what ACIAR has.”
Dr Graeme Wright, manager for breeding
and innovation at the Peanut Company of
Australia, identifies extensive opportunities
for greater engagement during the pre-
competitive phases of agricultural research.
In particular, he points to pre-breeding for
stronger engagement. This involves sharing
public and private resources to translate
advances in biology into practical solutions
for improved farm productivity. He says
collaboration in pre-competitive research helps
overcome challenges relating to ownership of
intellectual property and targets the research to
areas of interest to the private sector.
Dr Wright says overcoming these challenges
requires plenty of dialogue, planning and
transparency between public and private-
sector partners before a project starts, to ensure
there are “no surprises during the project”.
He believes ACIAR needs to examine case
studies of successful and non-successful
private–public partnerships to learn what works
and what does not.
“Start small and build up to bigger models,
and put some runs on the board,” he says. “It
may take five or more years to decide the most
effective model for operation.”
Noel Janetski, Indonesia-based technical
adviser to PT Koko Smart, sees three benefits for
ACIAR in building closer links with the private
sector: impact, mutuality and sustainability.
“ There is a greater chance of success if
ACIAR works with the private sector,” he says.
“By working together, we are more efficient
because expertise is used from both sides.”
Mr Janetski says the private sector has
resources, markets and distribution systems,
and that pooling resources with ACIAR would
result in greater adoption of research findings
and more lasting impacts on small landholders.
In terms of mutuality, he says collaboration
between ACIAR and the private sector develops
trust and transparency, improves the credibility
of each party and leads to shared benefits.
PRIVATE-SECTOR ENGAGEMENT WORKSHOP
ISSUE ONE 2015 PARTNERS
1. Victorian grain grower and ACIAR Commissioner
Tony Gregson (left) and ACIAR general manager
corporate David Shearer at the ACIAR Private-Sector
2. Private and public-sector representatives at the ACIAR
Private-Sector Engagement Workshop held in Canberra
in November 2014.
3. Evi Eriana Wirawan (Sinar Mas Forestry, Indonesia)
and Catherine Marriott (ACIAR Commissioner) share
a laugh at ACIAR’s Private-Sector Engagement
Workshop. Sinar Mas Forestry, with Evi Eriana Wirawan
in the lead, have collaborated for about 10 years with
Australian researchers on ACIAR projects in Indonesia to
understand disease, site management and sustainability
of tropical acacia and eucalypt plantations.
4. (From left) ACIAR Policy Advisory Council president
Professor Kym Anderson (University of Adelaide),
Dr Nick Austin (ACIAR CEO) and ACIAR Commission
chair Don Heatley OAM.
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