The Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information (CRCSI) is seeking a business model for its third incarnation. Peter Woodgate, the chief executive of the CRC, devoted a session of the recent CRCSI annual conference to debate ways and means of ensuring its survival and sustaining its ongoing initiatives.
Like all Cooperative Research Centres, CRCSI was originally conceived as a tripartite organisation with input from government, the private sector and academia, with substantial funding from the federal government. This arrangement is given formal expression in the CRC by its colleges: one for ‘government’, one for ‘research’ and ‘43pl’, a consortium representing small to medium enterprises (SMEs).
[CRCSI’s] work on spatial infrastructures, especially on the cadastre, saved the nation millions of dollars annually.”
Significantly, there is a sunset clause in the enabling legislation that terminates CRCs after seven years.
There has never been much doubt but that CRCSI performs a valuable role in the industry so when, in 2010, it was proposed to extend the CRC for another seven years, there was very little opposition from within or without the industry. However, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that the federal government will not support a third round, when the second iteration of CRCSI winds up in July 2018. Agreements for CRCSI-3 will need to be in place by August 2017.
Nevertheless, CRCSI management is undertaking a vigorous fight to preserve it with a third iteration. Steve Jacoby, who leads CRCSI’s Government College said the CRC was too valuable to fail. He said its work on spatial infrastructures, especially on the cadastre, saved the nation millions of dollars annually.
Woodgate laid out the central problem: CRCSI is dependent on the federal government for about a third of its funding. Replacing this will be a big, but not impossible, task.
David Sinclair, who chairs 43pl, the umbrella company that represents small and medium enterprises in the CRC, said 43pl would be part of any future incarnation of the CRC, but he said changes were needed. “The question is: Does 43pl add value to the voice of SMEs over and above the voice they would have as individual members?” he said.
He said there was a need to improve participation in 43pl. “Far too many of the current partners are passive members”, he said. As CRCSI covers both Australia and New Zealand, he also said the organisation needed to do more to ensure that New Zealand SMEs benefitted from membership. He said the organisation needed to be seen as the researcher of choice.
Dr Zaffar Sadiq Mohamed-Ghouse, a director of international relations at the CRC, says two strategies to re-invigorate the CRC’s finances, already in train, are for greater engagement with government agencies in state jurisdictions and the pursuit of international opportunities. Mohamed-Ghouse is also the chairman of the upcoming Locate and ISDE conference in 2017, where the latest in spatial and surveying research is set to take centre-stage.
Significantly, the CRC used its annual conference to sign three Memoranda of Understanding: one with the World Health Organisation’s Collaboration Centre on e-Health; one with Doctor Nik and Associates, a Malaysian engineering company with interests in Lidar and flood mapping; and one with IIC Technology in Hyderabad, a 6,000 staff hydrographic surveying firm.
The CRC is attempting to address its relationship with state jurisdictions by appointing staff in each of the states. They will be charged with managing relationships within that jurisdiction. Mohamed-Ghouse says there is significant opportunity for the CRC to pick up revenue from state jurisdictions to replace federal money, but CRCs offerings needed to be targeted more precisely to the particular requirements of each organisation.
Under the new dispensation, Peter Woodgate will remain as chief executive of the 30 or so staff.