Rural Innovation System Performance Review

Howard Partners has been engaged by the Council of Rural Research and Development Corporations to undertake a Performance Review of Australia’s Rural Innovation System.


Terms of Reference



The purpose of this project is to describe the performance and impact of Australia’s rural innovation system. The project will collate and analyse evidence across a range of metrics in order to present a comprehensive review of the overall performance of the system, highlighting areas of strength, opportunities for improvement and gaps in our knowledge base.



The National Research and Innovation (R&I) Committee is seeking an analysis of evidence available through which the performance of Australia’s rural innovation system can be articulated and understood. This evidence may cover issues such as how resources are allocated and utilised, how information flows and various organisations and actors interact, what outcomes are being achieved and what impacts result from the effort.


R&D plays an important role in driving the productivity and competitiveness of Australia’s primary industries. The Productivity Commission estimates that the annual funding for rural research, development and extension is $1.5 billion. About three quarters of this provided by Commonwealth and State Governments, with the private sector contributing the remainder.


The Australian rural innovation system (covering agriculture, fisheries and forestry) is highly complex with multiple funders and suppliers of rural R&D, including the Commonwealth, State Governments, Universities, Rural Research and Development Corporations, Australian agricultural industry, and international partners (public and private sector). The rural innovation system covers a spectrum of activities that drive, facilitate and support the creation, transfer and application of knowledge. In turn this knowledge enables ongoing improvement in the productivity, profitability and competitiveness of our rural industries and sustainability of social and environmental landscapes.


A major component of the rural innovation system in Australia is the National Primary Industries Research, Development and Extension Framework. The Framework seeks to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of RD&E delivery across Australia through the coordination of financial, human and infrastructure resources, and increased collaboration within the research community. This project is not focusing on understanding the performance or influence of the Framework on the rural innovation system, although it is expected that the findings may be useful for that purpose.


The research, development and extension (RD&E) system for primary industries in Australia has been reviewed extensively and is considered to have served Australia well (examples include a review from the OECD in 2015, and by the Productivity Commission in 2007 and 2011). However, the complexity of the system, multitude of participants, diffuse nature of public and private benefits and the difficulty of evaluating and attributing the impact of research effort means that articulating and understanding the efficiency and effectiveness of the system as a whole is particularly challenging. Meanwhile government and industry resources are contested as budgetary and industry circumstances change.


Terms of Reference:

The project is to implement an approach to understand and articulate the performance of the rural innovation system, identify gaps in the available evidence, and make recommendations regarding opportunities for improvement.


The project will:

• Assess the performance framework used to assess the national innovation system for application to the rural innovation system, and propose adjustments as necessary

• Identify and collate evidence against agreed metrics under the performance framework

• Identify gaps in the available evidence

• Develop a comprehensive report assessing the performance of Australia’s rural innovation system in national and international contexts

• Recommend opportunities for improvement.



1. Assessment of the national innovation system performance framework and scorecard for suitability as a basis of the performance review , with proposed adjustment for consideration by the project working group

2. Draft table of contents for the final report for consideration by the working group;

3. Draft review and presentation of evidence (sources, quality, availability and gaps) and analysis for the working group, and the R&I Committee;

4. A final report incorporating detailed analysis against the performance framework and scorecard, conclusions and recommendations based on the feedback provided by the working group, including a short executive summary; and

5. A summary slide presentation suitable for presentation to the R&I Committee, Council of Rural Research and Development Corporations (CRRDC), and Agriculture Senior Officials Committee (AGSOC).


Further Information

Dr John Howard

M 0403 583 600





During 2017 Howard Partners is celebrating 18 years as an independent public policy research, advisory, and management consulting firm.


Howard Partners Pty Ltd, in collaboration with Technopolis Group Limited, based in the UK, is currently providing  professional advice for the development of a long term strategic plan ‘to maximise Australia’s innovation potential, positioning Australia to seize the next wave of economic prosperity and ensuring Australia’s wellbeing and economic growth in the future’.


Howard Partners recently completed an assignment to assist the  Hunter RDA to develop a regional  'smart specialization strategy' -  an integrated, place based, and transformation policy framework that will provide a basis for regional development investment.


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