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Industry innovators afforded greater collaboration as a cluster

Lauren Jones

The newly established Wine Innovation Cluster (WIC) on the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide was officially launched today by the Hon Rory McEwen, Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries.

The new $28 million building at the Waite Campus is the new home of five key organisations in wine and grape research, including the Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), CSIRO, the University of Adelaide, the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) and Provisor Pty Ltd.

WIC staff will be located in three buildings, all located in close proximity on the campus. They are the new, 7000m2 Wine Innovation Central building; Wine Innovation West, the existing Provisor and CSIRO office, which has undergone a $4m extension and refurbishment; and Wine Innovation East, the existing Roseworthy Hickinbotham Wine Science Laboratory located at the higher end of the campus.

The Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI), the University of Adelaide’s wine science and viticulture staff and some staff from the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI) took up residence in the Wine Innovation Central building in early October.

AWRI managing director Sakkie Pretorius said the WIC means “more than a change of address for the AWRI” from its previous premises on the Waite Campus.

“Each of the partners’ functions will be enhanced by a joining of diverse skills, achieving results for our stakeholders that would not be possible working as stand-alone agencies,” Pretorius said. “The establishment of the WIC is a big moment for Australian grape and wine producers.”

The partners, each of whom will retain their identity, have entered into a Charter of Participation that broadly sets out the collaborative framework.

“The members of the WIC are not an exclusive club, and WIC provides the platform to enhance collaboration not only with the WIC partners, but also with other organisations both within Australia and overseas. The partners will export our strong research culture and focus on industry driven research priorities such as sustainability, climate change challenges and quality from a consumer’s perspective,” Pretorius said. “Our aim for the WIC is to be recognised as the research cluster that others benchmark against, and not a PR stunt that can become a smoke screen for mediocrity.”

Careful of not creating too many ‘mouths to feed’, the WIC leadership group, responsible for the overall strategy and policy, includes the senior leaders of the five partner organisations, and is overseen by Stuart McNab as independent industry-nominated chairperson and Phil Hanson as part-time executive officer.

The WIC research group, which drives science integration and program development, has a rotating chairperson from WIC partners and is supported by the executive officer. The research group will hold scheduled monthly meetings, with special meetings held as required, such as leading up to submitted research projects for Grape and Wine Research and Development Corporation (GWRDC) funding. The leadership group will meet on a bi-monthly basis.

The significance for grape and wine producers is research effectiveness that was not previously possible through the multi-disciplinary approach and the delivery of end-user outcomes in shorter timeframes, achieved through a tighter and more effective collaboration across the whole value chain from the vineyard through to the consumer.

“WIC partners have been collaborating individually on research projects for a long time. This July, we commenced the first research project for which the WIC as an entity applied for and received grant funding,” Hanson said.

The project ‘Integrating carbon and water economics of grapevine for optimal management in challenging environments’ is funded by the GWRDC at a cost of $250,000/year for three years, totalling $750,000, with costs matched by the WIC partners to reach $1.5m in total. The project will provide greater capacity for managing vines under water stress, and aims to assist grapegrowers to return to optimal production when drought conditions ease. As part of this multi-disciplinary project new tools will be developed to help assess vine performance under water stress and determine the way water and carbon economics of the grapevine integrate.

For further information visit www.wineinnovationcluster.com <http://www.wineinnovationcluster.com/>

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