New taskforce to oversee national livestock genetics funding decisions

James Nason, 23/09/2016

Applications are being called for candidates to fill a new skills-based taskforce, which will oversee future national livestock genetics research funding decisions.

The National Livestock Genetics Consortium Taskforce will decide in future which cattle and sheep genetics research projects should be recommended for funding by the MLA board.

The application process to fill 10 places on the taskforce opened last night, following a meeting of livestock genetics research industry stakeholders in Brisbane yesterday.

A selection committee made up of funders will select the skills-based taskforce by the end of this month, which will allow the new funding process for the period from now to 2020 to get underway.

Applications for funding must be lodged with the interim taskforce by October 15, to ensure they can be considered for funding at an MLA board meeting in November. However MLA Managing Director Richard Norton indicated an out of session Board meeting could also be considered to approve projects.

MLA’s Michael Crowley is the interim CEO of the Taskforce and will now focus on developing a three-year strategic plan.

About 50 livestock genetics industry stakeholders at a meeting in Brisbane yesterday – mainly involving funders, geneticists, researchers and producers – identified about 40 priority areas for funding.

That was compressed to about 16 areas, and will ultimately be brought down to about five key investment areas to guide the taskforce’s future investment decisions, Mr Norton said.

Mr Norton will chair the taskforce.

He said MLA will be taking full accountability for the outcomes and was providing the resourcing required to get results.

“I will chair the taskforce to give the MLA Board the confidence that we are up and running and looking to deliver outcomes, and not committees,” Mr Norton said.

“And that is the main sense of urgency MLA wants and is communicating back to industry – don’t kill this process with committees, we’re asking you to get on and deliver results.”

Mr Norton said applicants for the Taskforce will be assessed according to a skills-based matrix.

“We want a mix of the best minds in science and production around genetic improvement and the new technologies that are coming,” he said.

“We want to make sure the production sector is well represented. Adoption is the key to the success of this consortia.”

As reported by Beef Central yesterday, MLA, which is by far the largest funder of livestock genetics research in Australia, last week rejected a plan for a standalone national livestock genetics consortium which had been developed over recent months by an industry implementation committee.

MLA’s view was that the plan developed by the implementation committee would not be nimble enough to deliver the outcomes required to achieve a key industry goal of increasing genetic gain by 2 percent by 2020.

MLA’s view was that decisions around key investment in the 120 page implementation plan were ‘a number of committees away’ which indicated that projects had little hope of being approved this calendar year.

In exerting more control over to how the process moves forward to fast-track investment and research progress, MLA is also shouldering more responsibility for its outcomes.

If the process succeeds or fails, either way the result will be on MLA.

Mr Norton said the taskforce structure was not “set in cement”.

“This is the structure now, if it is not working, or needs to be refined or needs to be reformed, we can enhance or modify the process over coming months as required.”

MLA’s view that the NLGC Implementation Committee’s plan was “not going to be nimble enough to get projects up and running this year” has drawn a response from the committee’s chair.

University of New England professor John Gibson told Beef Central this morning that the large group of stakeholders who established the committee earlier this year gave it no mandate to prioritise investments.

However, the committee was acutely aware of the need to have a process to ensure that investments commenced this financial year, he said.

“To this end the implementation plan included a detailed description of a process to prioritise and approve 2016/17 investments,” he said.

“The plan was simple, had an explicit timeline, ensured the stakeholder engagement and transparency that stakeholders had requested, and could have proceeded without the need for any out of session Board meetings.”



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