A new national natural hazard research centre: now seeking contributing partners

The new national research centre for disaster resilience and disaster risk reduction is seeking partners to sign up, contribute to and influence the next decade of natural hazards research in Australia.

This is an exciting and significant progression in the development of the new centre and an opportunity for current Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC partners, as well as new partners, to be involved.

The process of establishing a new national research centre is a complex one, involving extensive consultation with interested parties, including government, emergency service agencies and research organisations, as well as the many other organisations involved in or impacted by natural hazards, including critical infrastructure, insurance, telecommunications and community support agencies. Over the next few months, these groups will be sought for comment and input.

Putting together a new centre
At the beginning of this month, the Commonwealth Government asked the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC to respond to grant guidelines for the establishment of a new national research centre for disaster resilience and disaster risk reduction, which had been announced in July last year. The CRC is currently working on a response, due by the end of April.

The new centre is due to begin operating from 1 July 2021. The first six months will be focused on the establishment of the centre and its governance structures, a 10-year research agenda, staffing and operation.

The CRC’s response to the Government guidelines will contain two key documents:

1)      Establishment plan – outlining the steps to get the centre up and running. This process includes sound governance structures, as well as an organisational structure that ensures end-user contributors have active input into what the centre will do.

2)      Research strategy – a plan for the development of a high-level 10-year strategy, plus a process for a detailed rolling biennial research plan with annual reviews.

Prior to this, the CRC had been asked to help with the definition of an initial research agenda for the centre, which was made available on the CRC’s website and circulated to many interested parties across the country for comment.

The CRC’s response to the grant guidelines will also incorporate the feedback that the Government received while consulting with stakeholders in late 2020.

How to become a contributing partner 
Critical to all of this is the need to understand who the new centre’s partners are going to be. The Commonwealth has committed $85 million to the centre across 10 years, with the expectation that there would be co-investment from end-users.

The CRC has now been tasked to coordinate the process of actively seeking end-user partners to invest in the new centre and play a role in influencing how it runs. These early partners will have a unique chance to shape the direction and development of the centre during its establishment phase, ensuring that the initial research portfolio and individual research plans will meet their needs. Investment in the centre will also allow partners to substantially leverage the funds they invest, by receiving access to the centre’s research output and expertise.

Here is some more key information about the new centre:

  • The research program and overall direction will be driven by an End-User Advisory Panel, comprising those partners who substantially invest in the centre.
  • A small skills-based Board, with key research and utilisation committees will drive the importance of collaboration, research use and knowledge transfer.
  • It will establish active nodes in most jurisdictions, to support the utilisation and translation of local and national research, and to harness the operational and policy capabilities within those jurisdictions.
  • The 10-year research strategy will see investment in a mixture of short-, medium- and longer-term projects defined by the end-users and delivered through the best researchers and research partners in Australia.
  • The detail of the research will be defined in a rolling two-year plan that will be reviewed annually to ensure changing end-user needs continue to be met.
  • It will have a strong student and education program that strengthens and supports natural hazard researchers at the postgraduate level and beyond.

The CRC is now in the process of developing an investment prospectus to seek expressions of interest from potential end-users. Please contact the CRC’s CEO Dr Richard Thornton for expressions of interest or more information: richard.thornton@bnhcrc.com.au.