Dr Steve Rogers, Current Director of Research and Innovation at Charles Darwin University

Collaborative research defines the career of Dr Steve Rogers

Throughout Steve’s long career he has participated in CRCs both as a researcher and as a manager. When Steve joined the world of CRCS in 1992, the CRC program was only into its second year of operation. It is now coming up to its 30th

Steve believes the real beauty of CRCs is that you could be doing fundamental cutting-edge research whilst at the same time delivering applied solutions that industry and the end-user requires. These two things combined is what makes the program so unique and important in the innovation system. 

Steve came to Australia from England soon after finishing his PhD in Microbiology to expand his horizons and enjoy the nicer weather. The University of Adelaide had hired him as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in 1992 and there he worked closely with the CRC for Soil and Land Management. 

The CRC was based in the Waite Research Institute which has an international reputation and he was particularly interested in a project that complimented his background in microbial biochemistry and environmental technology. The project was in heavy metal contaminants in soils and their impact on microbial activity and nutrient cycling. 

Steve collaborated with the CSIRO, Sydney Water, SA Water, and the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) in his research. He is a passionate believer in the importance of collaboration with industry to co-design research projects that benefit the end-user. The key advantage of the CRCs, he said, was that they “bring together the industry, government, and end-users of research with the research providers.”  

His experience as a postdoctoral researcher with the CRC for Soil and Land Management had a powerful impact on his career trajectory. He remained in the collaborative research space as a Research Scientist in CSIRO and then the CEO of two CRCs from 2005 until 2012. Those CRCs were the CRC for Landscape Environments and Mineral Exploration (CRC LEME) and the Parker CRC for Integrated Hydrometallurgy Solutions.  

As a CEO, pursuing collaborative research taught Steve to recognise the importance of understanding what drives and motivates different organisations. A CRC combines a collection of people from organisations with very different cultures and business drivers and making them work together can be much like herding cats as he puts it. It requires the co-design of research projects which recognises the key issues of the different partners to really make it work.  

Steve led the wind-up of both CRCs and emphasised the importance of legacy. He and his teams spent up to a year planning the wind-up and thinking of the legacy of the organisations. The legacy of CRC LEME was a textbook called Regolith Science which was the first book of its kind. CRC LEME’s website also remains online, and the reports of its research are publicly available and for anyone interested can be found here. 

Steve’s advice to CRCs planning their wind-up is to think about products and materials which their end-users and industry can access down the track.  

Presently, Steve is the Director of Research and Innovation at Charles Darwin University, where his experience in the CRCs is propelling him to continue setting up industry-research collaborations. His current work involves bringing together a disparate group of organisations and creating a shared vision, which sounds much like running a CRC.  

Outside of his career, Steve has been a volunteer firefighter in WA and the NT for 11 years, enjoys bush camping with his wife and is an amateur cook.