The economic, social and environmental impacts of the Cooperative Research Centres Program

Economics Technology Information technology Industries Australia

This study estimates the economic, environmental and social impacts of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program since it commenced in 1991 and out to 2017. Nearly 120 past and present CRCs have contributed to the study.


Between 1991 and 2017 almost $14.5 billion of direct economic impacts are estimated to have accrued from CRC produced technologies, products and processes. This includes $8.6 billion of impacts already materialised from 1991 to 2012 and a further $5.9 billion of imminent impacts estimated to occur over the next five years.

Data was gathered through a survey of current CRCs (as well as other sources). CRCs were asked to report estimates of their economic, social and environmental impacts — as well as how those estimates were made. Data was cross-checked against annual reports and economic studies where possible.

These impacts were then assessed using a model of the Australian economy. This allowed for an objective comparison to a counterfactual case — in which no CRC program existed.

Using this model, it was estimated that the program generated a net benefit to the economy of $7.5 billion over this period, or around 0.03 percentage points of additional GDP growth per annum. The majority of the increase in GDP has come about from increased export earnings.

Relative to the funds committed to the CRC program by the Australian Government, the CRC program has generated a net economic benefit to the community, which has exceeded its costs by a factor of 3.1.

Importantly, the benefits of the CRC program stem well beyond just economic measures. Where as previous studies have focussed on just the financial contribution of the CRC program, this study has identified significant:

  • environmental benefits including impacts on land, ecosystems, pollutants, natural resources, plants, animals and biodiversity; and
  • social benefits that affect the Australian community, the health and well-being of individuals and any other social implications.

The unique structure of the program has had a significant influence on the program’s ability to produce high quality research and link researchers with industry. In particular:

  • long term commitments made by CRC partners, provide CRCs with the capacity to tackle ambitious projects that require more time and resources than normally available; and
  • competition for CRC funding and the rigorous application process results in only the most prospective projects receiving support.

The CRC program has proven to be highly important to the Australia R&D scene. By linking researchers with domestic and international end users, the program has delivered significant economic, environmental and social impacts.

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