By Emily Mantilla
Next year, 2014, was scheduled to be the last year of operation for the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre (Seafood CRC). However, a one-year extension has been granted, allowing the Seafood CRC to celebrate its eighth birthday and providing more time to prepare an application for a new Seafood CRC.
The successful extension is welcomed as good news, as participants’ and government funds held by the Seafood CRC are 96 per cent committed but only 80 per cent spent. The extension year will cover this gap, allowing projects to be completed in an orderly manner.
The Seafood CRC will work with those participants who still have significant funds to commit to ensure the funds are used to good effect.
Looking to the future, the extension year will also allow the Seafood CRC to submit a new application to continue beyond 2015. The ‘rebid’ will cover pre and post-harvest research activities and will be open to existing and new participants.
The overall aim of the rebid will be to form a Seafood CRC with participants who hold a common vision on major research opportunities to create new ways forward for the seafood industry. Existing participants may wish to continue some of their research activities, as well as proposing new initiatives.
New participants in the post-harvest area will be encouraged, as will new participants in aquaculture and fishing. Small industries and companies will be urged to contribute through consortiums with similar businesses.
The task of building a bid is enormous and we have to start now. If the new Australian Government follows the same procedures as previous years, it will announce priorities for new Seafood CRC bids (round 17) in February 2014 and applications will be due by mid-June 2014. Successful applicants will be advised in December 2014, with funding to commence on 1 July 2015.
The Seafood CRC, together with the FRDC, is preparing an investor’s prospectus. To enable us to do this, we will undertake a range of consultative activities over the coming months. These will include workshops and individual meetings with potential participants to identify who is willing to invest and the nature of their research, development and extension questions.
Current Seafood CRC themes will also be assessed to determine if there is interest in continuing some activities to ensure participants maximise their existing investment.
The prospectus must be completed before the end of December 2013 for circulation to all potential investors. Organisations wishing to participate in the rebid will then be requested to provide up to $10,000 to help in the preparation of the application, which can cost upwards of $150,000.
It is anticipated the new Seafood CRC will have a total cash budget of at least $10 million per year. The convention in Seafood CRC bids at present is that the Australian Government provides about half the funds required, which offers a considerable incentive for industry investment in research.
To discuss participation in the Seafood CRC rebid contact Len Stephens (email@example.com).
A new website has been launched to improve access to research reports and general information about seafood safety.
The SafeFish project, and the related website, is an initiative of the Australian Seafood Cooperative Research Centre in conjunction with the former Seafood Services Australia and the South Australian Research and Development Institute.
One of the initial aims of SafeFish was to provide technical support to Australia’s negotiation positions in CODEX, the commission established by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the World Health Organization to develop internationally consistent food handling and safety standards.
Since it was established in 2009, SafeFish has produced risk assessment reports that have helped to open or reopen markets for Australian seafood.
The same reports provide evidence for Australia’s seafood safety claims – an important issue for our major trading partners, and can be accessed directly from the website.
Cath McLeod, who has served as chair of SafeFish since its inception, has now stepped down from the role. She worked tirelessly on behalf of the seafood industry to ensure that decisions were based on sound science and, where there were information gaps, she created research teams to fill those gaps. Alison Turnbull has taken on the role of chair from Cath McLeod.
For more information on SafeFish or to download publications and reports go to the website. To discuss a particular technical food safety or trade issue contact Alison Turnbull (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Len Stephens, email@example.com