Agricultural research and innovation in Australia will continue to be influenced by the Sheep CRC long after it closes its doors on June 30, a review has found.
Over the life of the Sheep CRC a total of 81 postgraduate students completed their training and contributed to the CRC's research programs, with more than 92 per cent of those subsequently retained in the broader agricultural industry, and 62pc continuing to work specifically in the livestock industry.
As part of its final reporting activities the Sheep CRC has undertaken a postgraduate tracking exercise to review the impact of the training provided to these researchers and their subsequent career trajectory.
The review revealed most now work as research scientists or in academic positions within Australia.
Sheep CRC chief executive James Rowe said the results of the tracking survey confirmed the value of industry-funded PhD programs in contributing skilled researchers to the agricultural workforce.
"The net present value of the CRC's research outcomes has been assessed as being more than $500 million based on the current rates of adoption of the new technologies and the impact they will have on productivity over a 15-year period to 2029," Prof. Rowe said.
"The PhD students supported by the Sheep CRC have been crucial to this success and it's very satisfying to know that their skills will continue to contribute to the improvement of the agricultural industry well into the future."
The postgraduate training program was established by the Sheep CRC and former Beef CRC under the leadership of Dr Graham Gardner in an effort to meet shortfalls of researchers coming into the industry, by providing industry relevant research activities and annual professional development courses.
Dr Gardner was the driving force behind the success of the program, providing professional screening during student recruitment, and ensuring good support and mentoring of students through a structured program of professional development.
A 2004 survey of sheep industry needs for graduates by Taylor Nelson Sofres Plc estimated the demand for new postgraduates from the 100 industry organisations surveyed, to be 222 over the period 2004-2009.
The Sheep CRC's contribution to the training of 81 postgraduate students has been vital to meeting this demand, with the costs of stipends and the annual Postgraduate Conference - estimated at $7.12M - now proven to be one of the CRC's best investments.
"All student projects were closely aligned with CRC research programs and on this basis, the postgraduates contributed around 240 FTEs to our research initiatives," Prof. Rowe said.
"Combining quality training and skills development with state-of-the-art research is a classic win-win scenario."
The CRC is now encouraging other industry bodies to step forward to include postgraduate training programs as part of their major research initiatives, featuring regular postgraduate conferences combined with professional development, to ensure a continued flow of industry-ready researchers into the future.