While ACIAR is primarily a broker of and investor in research partnerships, the ACIAR Act also directs us to invest in the development of research outputs—taking research findings to scale. For a given research project, the investment required to translate research findings into wide-scale implementation may be orders of magnitude more than the cost of the original research. Any ACIAR investment in development needs to be highly strategic and catalytic.
A promising way of tackling this challenge is for ACIAR to invest jointly with larger development donors in co-designed and co-managed initiatives, in a single country, across several countries or a region. An example is the Cultivate Africa’s Future program co-funded with Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC).
Our most important partnership is with our sibling portfolio agency, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). We have a range of co-investments in which ACIAR funds and manages the research effort to build a solid knowledge base for subsequent scale-out and development funded by DFAT. Total DFAT investment in this partnership over the last five years exceeds $100m. DFAT also co-invests in our capacity building program through the Australia Awards.
Co-investment partnerships signify strong trust between institutions. This pathway enables ACIAR to leverage our resources, access complementary expertise, as well as engage in larger and more ambitious research programs than we could fund alone. As such initiatives mature, our focus changes from research for development, to research in development.