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CRC for Forestry News special edition (July 2012)

Dear colleagues,

I want to take this opportunity to give you all an update of the state of play with the CRC for Forestry, and early developments with the soon-to-be-established National Centre for Future Forest Industries (NCFFI).


Gordon DuffProfessor Gordon Duff, CEO of the CRC for Forestry

Many of you will have noted the welcome contribution by the Australian Government, via the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education (DIISRTE), of $2.5 million of seed funding to help establish the National Centre. At the same time, we have been in discussion with DIISRTE about extending the Commonwealth Agreement for the CRC for Forestry, to enable a transition, as envisaged by DIISRTE, to the new Centre. So, while the CRC and the new Centre will be distinct entities, we expect to be able to novate some projects, project funding and, potentially, IP and other assets.

Without doubt, the most important assets of all are the goodwill and networks that have been established and consolidated during 21 years of operation of the CRC for Forestry and its predecessors. The Board of the CRC and I consider the maintenance of these networks to be of paramount importance to the future of innovation in the sector, and we will be working towards that end.

All this means that the wind-up of the CRC joint venture and the CRC company will be delayed, probably by some months. While an interim extension has already been offered, we will need to obtain formal Commonwealth approval for extended or new activities that will be undertaken over the next year, some of which will probably be handed over to the new centre in due course.  The request for Commonwealth approval of an amendment to the Agreement is due on 31 August.

The CRC for Forestry has reached the end of the seven-year Commonwealth contract, having successfully delivered against all contracted outputs and milestones, as well as delivering on a number of new activities that were not covered in the initial Commonwealth Agreement. While there is no new Commonwealth funding for the CRC, like many CRCs, we have been able to access additional sources of funds during our seven-year term, giving the Board the opportunity to invest in some high priority activities that will continue past 30 June 2012. The negotiated extension to the Commonwealth Agreement means that we will be able to do this under the auspices of the CRC Program.

While we have been promoting the concept for some time, the announcement of seed funding for the NCFFI came at relatively short notice. The seed funds have been made available to the University of Tasmania and, at the time of writing, the details of the contract between UTAS and the Australian Government are only just being finalised, and an implementation plan is being drafted, so there is not a lot of detail available at present.

My understanding is that the intention is to establish a sustainable centre that works in partnership with key stakeholders including industry, other research organisations and government. The new centre will initially focus on three thematic areas:
  • Future options: Options and opportunities for higher value uses of the now-maturing plantation hardwood resource, in the context of declining industrial access to native forests.
  • Productivity: Urgently needed solutions to second rotation productivity decline in hardwood plantations, developed in a multi-rotation, economic framework. Innovations in logistics and applications of emerging technologies to forest operations will be a key focus.
  • Risk Mitigation: Reduction of the investment risk associated with new species/environment combinations in industrial, farm-forestry and environmental services (e.g. carbon, biodiversity, salinity management) tree plantings.


While all this has been taking place, many of you will be aware that Mark Brown has been working towards the establishment of the Australian Forest Operations Research Alliance (AFORA), which has grown out of the CRC for Forestry Program 3—Harvesting and Operations. AFORA is similarly national in scope, with the headquarters located at the University of the Sunshine Coast. Mark and I are both of the view that, ideally, there will be a close affiliation between AFORA and the new Centre, and we will be working towards that end.

I will write again as soon as I’m in a position to share more information about the extension to the Commonwealth Agreement, and the directions of the new Centre.

Professor Gordon Duff
Chief Executive Officer
Cooperative Research Centre for Forestry