The GRDC’s three enabling functions—Corporate Services, Corporate Strategy & Impact Assessment and Legal & Procurement—are responsible for key operational activities in relation to:
- corporate governance and legal services
- corporate strategy
- preparation of statutory documents and submissions to government reviews and inquiries
- human resource management
- finance and administration
- quality management
- risk management
- information management systems
- impact assessment.
These activities provide essential support for the corporation’s responsibilities under the Primary Industries and Energy Research and Development Act 1989 (PIERD Act) and the Commonwealth Authorities and Companies Act 1997 (CAC Act), and equip individual output groups to deliver their targeted outputs.
Outlined in this section, and throughout this annual report, are key activities undertaken by the Corporate Services, Corporate Strategy & Impact Assessment and Legal & Procurement groups during 2010–11.
GRDC Finance team members. (From left) Carmen Jiang, Contract Payments Officer; Nino Divito, Accountant Reporting and Danielle Jakubowski, Manager Finance. Photo: GRDC
Business process review
The GRDC is improving its business processes specifically in relation to weaknesses and improvements identified within the GRDC’s five core business processes. In 2010–11, the areas of focus were:
- capacity building—in 2010 the GRDC undertook a review of all initiatives offered under the Communication and Capacity Building output group. The review looked at areas of improvement for existing awards, new opportunities that could be utilised and consistency with the GRDC Capacity Building Strategy. As a result, the GRDC implemented recommendations from the review ranging from amendment to award criteria, modified application forms and reporting requirements, electronic submission of application forms and additional opportunities for students with an interest in agriculture
- evaluation of progress reports—in February 2011, the GRDC National Panel approved a change in the process for the evaluation of annual progress reports. The change allows managers to assess reports and defer to regional panel members and/or relevant expertise for advice. This created greater efficiency by allowing managers to assess reports directly, rather than through a multistep process, and by reducing the travel time and administrative workload of panel members.
In 2010–11, the GRDC continued to undertake R&D portfolio analysis to provide more effective and efficient selection of investments.
One of the primary goals of the GRDC’s portfolio management is to achieve a balanced portfolio of projects in terms of the following parameters:
- project type (strategic basic, applied, experimental development, extension, commercialisation and capacity building)
- delivery time to growers of R&D outcomes (long-term projects versus short-term projects)
- probability of overall success (high-risk long shots versus lower risk sure bets)
- level of expected on-farm benefits relative to investment required
- induced spillover benefits to industry
- level of expected benefits to be achieved for the broader community.
The GRDC recognises the important role that agribusiness plays in the grains industry broadly and specifically in relation to RD&E. The focal point for communication with the agribusiness community is through the National Agribusiness Reference Group (NARG). GRDC Managing Director, John Harvey, briefs members of NARG in Canberra in March 2011. Photo: GRDC
The GRDC’s portfolio is grouped under 30 clusters. This enables groupings of projects around a common theme (for example, summer crops, crop protection, supply chain and markets) to be assessed generally, rather than have more than 900 individual projects examined independently.
These clusters have formed the basis of assessment of expected relative benefit flow:
- to industry
- to the broader community.
Clusters of projects are also commonly assessed for impact, rather than individual projects. Further information on the GRDC’s program of impact assessments is provided in Part 2.
Different approaches are used to monitor, evaluate and manage projects, depending on project characteristics. For example, evaluation and management approaches for projects with standard GRDC research agreements are different from the approaches used to manage the GRDC’s involvement in incorporated and unincorporated joint ventures.
Portfolio monitoring and reviews
‘Portfolio monitoring’ is a broad term that covers a range of activities undertaken by the GRDC to ensure that individual projects achieve their objectives and scheduled milestones, and that the R&D portfolio as a whole continues to address industry and government stakeholder priorities. The portfolio in 2010–11 included more than 900 projects, at various stages of development, spread across four output groups.
The portfolio monitoring system includes internal guidelines and/or procedures for:
- identifying and managing risks associated with individual projects during planning and implementation stages
- evaluating progress reports for project performance against objectives
- developing business cases, terms of reference and timeframes for a limited number of formal reviews of targeted investment areas. Four formal reviews were conducted in 2010–11, covering the Australian Cereal Rust Control Program, the National Oat Breeding Program, the Cereal Endophyte Program and the Future Farm Industries Cooperative Research Centre.
At the project level, portfolio monitoring involves an annual assessment of each project, by way of an annual progress report that identifies progress against the aims and milestones of the project. Satisfactory progress reports must be submitted to the corporation before further payments are made to research providers.
Other GRDC portfolio monitoring activities in 2010–11 included:
- financial audits of a selected group of projects
- external visits to research providers’ facilities, including research laboratories and sites where field trials are carried out
- internal monitoring procedures to assess the performance and efficiency of administrative activities associated with managing the large investment portfolio. This includes tracking the status of progress reports against internal performance targets and producing summary reports for the Board, management and staff.
The GRDC’s information technology (IT) environment supports and maintains the integrity and continued functioning of the records and project management software. In 2010–11, the upgrading of existing systems to ensure continued high availability and enhanced functionality was a major focus.
A number of reporting enhancements were made during the year to give GRDC program managers and project administrators better access to financial statistics across their project portfolios. During December 2010, the GRDC implemented a system to improve the transparency of the application and approval processes for capacity-building initiatives.