Turning Ideas into Dollars

Dr Stephen Miller, Director AGBU

AGBU is unique in the world with very few analogues. The world has other great research institutes in animal genetics and there are other centres delivering direct outcomes to farmers, but AGBU is one place that does both and does it well. When I was starting a PhD in beef cattle breeding in Canada's most prominent institute in this field 25 years ago, I explored where I should go for outside experience. The answer from my mentors was clear "if you are interested in beef cattle genetics, you need to go to AGBU ".  I spent one year at AGBU in 1995, which was then a place where the world's most renowned scientists were interacting directly with the farmers they serve

I returned to AGBU in 2020, motivated again by the quality of the innovation being achieved. This excellence is still the case today, but with more people, and across more species. AGBU's longevity is proof of this success as continuous delivery of genetic improvement to industry has meant it has been continually supported and, over a 4-decade span, this has meant AGBU needed to always be bringing the next strategic innovation to market. In the past two decades one of the most disruptive technologies in the history of livestock breeding became available - genomics. With genomics, AGBU software needed to adapt rapidly to enable high density genotypes on hundreds of thousands and, in the future, millions of animals, and the application is again, world leading in terms of complexity and speed, like it always has been.

The core of AGBU innovation has been to turn the efforts of farmers in terms of recording animal performance and pedigree into accurate selection tools. These tools have returned billions of dollars to industry. Research is turning dollars into knowledge.  Innovation is taking that knowledge and turning it back into dollars.  The research segment of this research innovation continuum is very familiar in a University and Research Institute setting, and is being done the world over quite successfully. The next phase of the continuum is taking research knowledge and

turning it back into dollars, in the form of efficiency, productivity, or market share improvements for the Industry.  Why the innovation phase is missing or fails in many instances' plagues research

funding entities the world over. ABGU has succeeded because of its alignment with industry, and in having an integrated understanding of the project's commercialisation pathway.

Getting the results of R&D actually used means adapting R&D output to delivery channels, working with partners to ensure understanding and the capacity to actually use the outputs. For instance, AGBU works with the Agricultural Business Research Institute (ABRI) - a controlled commercialisation branch of UNE, established in 1970. ABRI is charged with marketing AGBU products directly to beef producers, breeders and breed societies. In all cases of applied innovation, licensing agreements across other commodities are tailored according to the different collaborative arrangements specific to each industry.

The success of AGBU innovation is also fuelled by a diverse range of staff, including world

renowned scientists in statistical modelling and programming of large animal breeding problems, but also in the practical modelling of industry data. This practical modelling of industry problems, is one of the keys to the adoption success. The scientists at AGBU work alongside breeders, talking directly to them. AGBU scientists are household names with many Australian farming

families. This practical knowledge and direct connection with users is what really makes AGBU software have such an impact in the field. By understanding the client's needs and knowing how they create a solution targeted for that need, AGBU responds directly to a research "pull". This response to a "pull" from industry makes all the difference, compared to the alternative method of pushing tools into the market that are rarely fit for purpose.

Throughout AGBU's 46 year history, powerful centres in breeding and genetics have risen and fallen around the world, yet AGBU has remained. Australia's farmers have benefitted from this continuity and the collective talent housed on the UNE campus as it turns out innovation they can apply in their operations. Within AGBU, scientists are energized knowing their research is having a direct impact in the industry and really matter to real people.  This symbiotic relationship is sure to fuel innovation for decades to come.