Global collaborations

Previous Overview

ACIAR works with international partners to foster and implement global research collaborations that support strategic development in agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

The ACIAR 10-Year Strategy 2018–2027 proposes that by leveraging strategic international partnerships, ACIAR can continue to influence and promote more productive and sustainable agricultural systems for the benefit of low- and lower-middle-income countries and Australia. ACIAR builds and maintains multilateral partnerships with a range of international organisations, institutes and associations that are engaged in agricultural research and the delivery of global public goods. Our goal is to be a valued, engaged donor and a strong, innovative partner in international agricultural research.

The funding and support of international agricultural research centres is one of the roles of ACIAR, mandated by the ACIAR Act. ACIAR fosters and maintains active working relationships with international agricultural research centres by providing timely, reliable and consistent funding, as well as strategic advice on research and governance.

The largest component of support is provided to the CGIAR (formerly the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research Centres). The CGIAR is a network of 15 research centres dedicated to reducing rural poverty, increasing food and nutrition security for human health and improving natural resource systems and ecosystem services.

In addition to CGIAR, ACIAR establishes and fosters partnerships with other international research centres and networks relevant to our mission. A snapshot of these is provided on pages 19–20.

ACIAR also develops and manages co-investment alliances and partnerships with like-minded organisations and donors (page 21). Co-investment partnerships demonstrate deep trust, enabling partners to leverage capacity and complement research strengths to build a critical mass of resources to invest in more ambitious research.

During 2020–21, ACIAR will seek to strengthen multilateral collaborations by serving the international research community in three key ways:

  • as an engaged investor
  • as a strategic research facilitator
  • as a broker of Australian science (by engaging relevant Australian research expertise).

Australia as a global contributor

Partnerships built by ACIAR Global Research Collaborations contribute to Australia’s global citizenship goals. Our deep engagement in collaborative international research maximises the influence of the Australian agricultural innovation system and the international standing of Australian agriculture.

Investing in global agricultural innovation

Australia has invested in CGIAR since it was established in 1971. CGIAR is the world’s largest global agricultural innovation network, comprising 15 international agricultural research centres with more than 8,000 scientists who work mostly in low- and lower-middle-income countries. The location of these centres is displayed in Figure 2.1. The centres work towards a world free of poverty, hunger, malnutrition and environmental degradation.

With a presence in more than 70 countries, and a deep knowledge of local customs, values and markets, CGIAR research centres work closely with more than 3,000 partner organisations. These include national and regional research institutes, civil society organisations, academia and the private sector.

CGIAR, which approaches its 50th anniversary in 2021, is better connected to the global development agenda than any other agrifood research entity. CGIAR research centres are responsible for hands-on research programs and operations guided by policies and research directions set by the CGIAR System Management Board.

The centres conduct world-class, interdisciplinary research that combines biophysical and social sciences to deliver development impact at scale. CGIAR operates on an annual budget of about US$900 million.

During 2020–21, CGIAR will move towards a unified and integrated ‘One CGIAR.’ This will better equip the network to swiftly respond to new challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In essence, the reform involves a move from the network of 15 independent international research centres, currently configured mostly around agricultural commodities, to a more cohesive structure under a common board. ACIAR will be deeply engaged in the reform process, as it will involve profound change across CGIAR, its culture, values, people, policies and systems. ACIAR will actively contribute to the reform to ensure CGIAR is well placed to deliver against both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement, as well as to attract new funder contributions.

A map showing the locations of the 15 agricultural research centres of the CGIAR system
Figure 2.1 Agricultural research centres of the CGIAR system

Source: CGIAR

Enlarge map

Impressive return on investment

CGIAR delivers impressive economic and social returns on research investment. The return on investment for every US$1 provided to CGIAR is US$17. The outcomes of CGIAR investment contribute to the achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and advance the interests of all countries.

Australian agricultural industries have benefited from CGIAR research for five decades. Research outputs have helped keep Australian farmers competitive in world markets, by increasing yields and reducing costs. CGIAR germplasm has been incorporated into, and has greatly improved, Australian plant and livestock breeding programs.

For example, 98% of all wheat grown in Australia is derived from CGIAR wheat varieties, representing a major contribution to increased productivity on Australian grain farms. CGIAR germplasm is also prominent in improved varieties of sorghum, maize and chickpea in Australia.

ACIAR has been a regular and significant funder and research partner to CGIAR since 1982, as mandated by the ACIAR Act. Accordingly, Australia has high-level representation on CGIAR governance bodies, which in 2020–21 includes the System Council and its Strategic Impact Assessment Monitoring and Evaluation Committee, Transition Consultation Forum and Transition Advisory Groups.

Australia contributes to CGIAR alongside the World Bank, United States of America (USA), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Germany, India, United Kingdom, European Commission and Mexico among many others. Further information on CGIAR governance and funding can be found on the CGIAR Governance and CGIAR Dashboards sites on the CGIAR website. Australian scientists contribute at the highest levels of leadership within the CGIAR as Board Chairs and Board Members, Directors General and Research Program leaders.

Australian investment in 2020–21

ACIAR provides both unrestricted (core) and restricted project funds to CGIAR. More than half of the funding is unrestricted, and this is reviewed annually. Restricted funding is delivered through specific research projects delivered by individual centres in the CGIAR network. Australian support of CGIAR in 2020–21, through ACIAR, is forecast to exceed $24 million (Table 1.3).

Two specific CGIAR initiatives supported by ACIAR, by way of example, are the newly created CGIAR Generating Evidence and New Directions for Equitable Results (GENDER) Platform and the well-established Agricultural Science and Technology Indicators (ASTI) program.

The CGIAR GENDER Platform was created to put equality at the forefront of global agricultural research for development activities. It is well established that gender equality and empowerment of women is crucial in reducing poverty. The aim of the GENDER Platform is to transform gender research, within and beyond the CGIAR, and initiate genuine change towards greater equality and improved lives for smallholder farmers worldwide.

The ASTI program, active in South-East Asia and the Pacific, works with national and regional partners to survey and analyse data on the funding, human resource capacity and outputs of agricultural research in the Indo-Pacific region. Data collection is ongoing. ACIAR has supported the program since 2017. During 2020–21, ACIAR will continue to support national and regional analysis of the data to inform future agricultural research policy and decision-making in the region. The program also provides a basis to guide research investment decisions and build a foundation for the long-term monitoring of agricultural research investment and capacity.

To ensure research excellence and value for investment for Australia during 2020–21, ACIAR will:

  • participate at the highest levels of governance of the CGIAR system, through active membership and leadership on the CGIAR System Council, the Strategic Impact Monitoring and Evaluation Standing Committee, Transition Consultation Forum and Transition Advisory Groups
  • collaborate with other donors through participation in multifunder activities, that align with ACIAR strategy and Australian interests
  • lead coordinated Australian engagement with CGIAR, including consultation with DFAT and other Australian organisations, primarily through the CGIAR Australian Leadership Group, established by ACIAR in 2015
  • engage ACIAR Research Program Managers and Associate Research Program Managers in the technical oversight of CGIAR Research Programs.

Partnering in global and regional programs

In addition to our partnership with CGIAR, ACIAR has formal multilateral partnership arrangements with international agricultural research centres and networks. During 2020–21, we will support global research collaborations with:

  • The Pacific Community (SPC)
  • Asia–Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI)
  • World Vegetable Centre (WorldVeg)
  • Centre for Agricultural Biosciences International (CABI)

The Pacific Community

The Pacific Community (SPC), previously known as the Secretariat of the Pacific Community, has been the principal scientific and technical organisation working to support development in the Pacific region since 1947. SPC is an international development organisation owned and governed by 26 country and territory participants. It works in seven key areas relevant to development in the Pacific region, including climate change, disasters, non-communicable diseases, gender equality, youth employment, food and water security, and biosecurity for trade.

SPC and ACIAR have worked in partnership for over 30 years and SPC is a key partner for both ACIAR and DFAT. SPC helps deliver Australia’s wider strategies to support strong benefits from the region’s fisheries, agriculture, forestry and biosecurity sectors. ACIAR currently provides both core and project funding to the Land Resources Division and Fisheries Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems, with the current core strategic partnership arrangement ending on 31 December 2021.

The partnership arrangement between ACIAR and SPC supports core scientific, technical and management capacities, and activities in agriculture and fisheries that add value to the development activities of Pacific Island countries and territories in these areas. ACIAR funding is also aimed at building stronger strategic relationships between the two organisations, enhancing strategic management capacity in the Land Resources Division and strengthening capacity for coastal fisheries development in Fisheries Aquaculture and Marine Ecosystems. ACIAR is committed to supporting SPC to maintain the institutional capacity to sustain the capabilities of these divisions.

SPC facilitates the participation and engagement of ACIAR in regional consultation processes such as Pacific Week of Agriculture, Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services and Ministers of Agriculture and Forestry Services. During 2020–21, ACIAR and SPC will collaborate to progress strategic regional initiatives, particularly mitigating the impacts of current and future risks such as the COVID-19 pandemic. ACIAR will also engage with SPC to consider the nature of the strategic partnership after 2021.

Asia–Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions

The Asia–Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) promotes and coordinates the national agricultural research institutes in the Asia-Pacific region, through inter-regional and inter-institutional cooperation. APAARI’s Strategic Plan 2017–2022, Pathways to strengthened agrifood research and innovation systems in Asia and the Pacific, identifies strategic priorities that are used to inform our input into its wider regional consultation process.

ACIAR has a history of working with and supporting APAARI. ACIAR provides annual core funding for research communication, knowledge management, advocacy for agricultural biotechnology, support for capacity building and participation in expert consultations with national agricultural research system leaders in the region.

During 2020–21, ACIAR will chair the APAARI Executive Council and the Asia-Pacific Consortium on Agricultural Biotechnology and Bioresources, and support APAARI as the long-term coordinating agency for the ASTI Program for the South-East Asia and Pacific region. ACIAR will also engage with APAARI to establish a formal partnership arrangement.

World Vegetable Center

The World Vegetable Center (WorldVeg) is an international non-profit research and development institute committed to alleviating poverty and malnutrition in low- and lower-middle-income countries through increased production and consumption of vegetables. It also manages the world’s largest vegetable gene bank. WorldVeg undertakes research and development to realise the potential of vegetables for healthier lives and more resilient livelihoods. Through its extensive networks and research partnerships WorldVeg disseminates improved varieties of vegetable crops and promotes improved production methods to farmers. This results in higher vegetable harvests, higher incomes, more jobs and healthier, more nutritious diets.

Investment in WorldVeg is an investment in research into the nexus between agriculture, livelihoods, nutrition and health. ACIAR provides WorldVeg with both core funding and project-specific funding. ACIAR has a strategic partnership arrangement with WorldVeg (2019–22), which supports breeding activities and capacity-building in low- and lower-middle-income countries in Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The partnership is targeted at supporting vegetable breeding activities and capacity-building through the development of improved vegetable varieties (49% funding allocation), introduction of agricultural practices (36%) and collaboration and capacity building of public and private seed sectors (15%).

ACIAR funding has enabled:

  • efforts to better conserve vegetable crop biodiversity and develop more resilient crops to address current and future biotic and abiotic constraints to vegetable production in the context of climate change
  • the development, evaluation and validation of good agricultural practices for vegetable production that are safe for consumers, profitable and sustainable for all value-chain stakeholders
  • collaboration to strengthen the capacity of smallholder farmers and national partners from both the public and private sectors in vegetable production and commercialisation.

WorldVeg has brought significant benefits to Australian agriculture, particularly through its mungbean breeding program, which has provided the varieties grown across much of northern Australia for many years. WorldVeg also holds breeds of tomato with genetic resistance to tomato yellow leaf curl virus, which poses an ongoing threat to the Australian tomato industry.

Centre for Agricultural Biosciences International

The Centre for Agricultural Biosciences International (CABI) is an intergovernmental, not-for-profit organisation established by a United Nations treaty, of which Australia is a member country along with 49 other member countries from Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe.

CABI addresses issues of global concern through science, information and communication, with a focus on international development and research, publishing and microbial services. CABI works to improve global food security, combat threats to agriculture and the environment from pests and diseases, protect biodiversity from invasive species, and improve access to agricultural and environmental knowledge. CABI improves lives worldwide by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.

Australia’s funding, through ACIAR, enables CABI to address key issues of importance to both organisations. The four-year partnership (2019–23) between ACIAR and CABI supports Plantwise, the CABI Development Fund and Australia’s CABI membership (services relating to CABI’s scientific expertise, products and resources).

Plantwise is a network of plant clinics that provide practical advice to farmers. It is an award-winning global program led by CABI, that aims to increase food security and improve rural livelihoods by helping farmers reduce crop losses due to pests and diseases.

The CABI Development Fund invests in pilot projects to enable the development of strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation actions in smallholder agriculture.

Australia’s investment in CABI has contributed to improved agricultural outcomes for low- and lower-middle-income countries, and delivered benefits to Australian agriculture.

Building strength through collaboration

Co-investment programs enable ACIAR to harness the complementary skills of partners, leverage ACIAR funds, and engage in larger and more ambitious programs. Co-investment programs take many forms, from shared design and implementation of a suite of research, to programs designed to support industry and build capacity.

International Development Research Centre

Our most significant partner in terms of co-investment is Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC). IRDC was the model for ACIAR when Sir John Crawford submitted his recommendation to Prime Minister Fraser in 1981 to establish a centre for international agricultural development. Of all our partners, IDRC is most like ACIAR in that it is a specialist statutory agency investing official development assistance (ODA) in research.

IDRC has an agreement with ACIAR to build collaborations on a range of research initiatives of mutual interest until 2027. Current co-investment is a 50:50 partnership worth CA$25 million, of which CA$20 million has been allocated to the Cultivating Africa’s Future Fund (CultiAF2), described on page 163, and CA$5 million is allocated to the exploratory Food Futures Research Program. In 2020–21 ACIAR and IDRC will work to co-design new research investments that share the vision of both organisations.

Food Futures Research Program

The Food Futures Research Program is an innovative partnership between ACIAR and IDRC. The program seeks to canvass and support strategic agricultural research that will have a potential breakthrough and/or transformative impact on global food security in the near future. ACIAR and IDRC have jointly committed A$5 million to the program, which ACIAR is managing on behalf of the partnership. The program has undertaken foresight and impact analysis work to understand prevailing macro and sector trends in food security and identify the major future obstacles and key gaps in research. The USA’s Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research co-invested in this work which was undertaken by XPRIZE. The research resulted in the publication of an Impact Roadmap.

During 2020–21, the program will design and commission innovative agricultural research to address identified obstacles to help deliver a sustainable and food and nutrition secure future. Its research will identify and explore new ideas to address the challenge of reducing food loss in low- and lower-middle-income country value chains.

Alliance for Agricultural Research and Development for Food Security

The Alliance for Agricultural Research and Development for Food Security (Alliance) is a joint initiative between ACIAR, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture and the Crawford Fund. Alliance partners co-fund innovative approaches to research-for-development activities and delivery, using the unique and diverse strengths and expertise of the parties, to better promote and achieve food security.

The Alliance recognised the potential for demand-led plant variety design to transform plant breeding for small-scale agriculture and food security. In 2014 it established the project ‘Demand-led plant variety design for emerging markets in Sub-Saharan Africa’ (see page 161), which engages with plant-breeding and university sectors in many countries in southern and eastern Africa.

In 2020–21 the Alliance will co-design a portfolio of new research projects aligned with the vision of all Alliance members. The first project will investigate how farmers’ hubs are being used to deliver solutions and services to farming communities in countries such as Bangladesh and Cambodia. Specifically, the research will focus on the context and role of farmers’ hubs in disseminating information about new products, practices and services to smallholder farmers and the broader farming community.

Dr Julianne Biddle is the Director, Multilateral Engagement at ACIAR. Julianne has 20 years’ experience in plant science, working in research, science communication, education, policy and management. She has a keen interest in conservation biology, plant-pathogen interactions, ecology and plant physiology. Before joining ACIAR, Julianne worked at the University of Queensland focused on demand-led plant breeding in Africa and coconut physiology. Julianne grew up on a cattle farm in Central Queensland and has a Bachelor of Science with Advanced Studies in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biological Sciences from Griffith University, Honours in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology, Evolution and Genetics from the Australian National University.

Dr Julianne Biddle, Director, Multilateral Engagement at ACIAR


Julianne Biddle

Dr Julianne Biddle is the Director, Multilateral Engagement at ACIAR. Julianne has 20 years’ experience in plant science, working in research, science communication, education, policy and management. She has a keen interest in conservation biology, plant-pathogen interactions, ecology and plant physiology. Before joining ACIAR, Julianne worked at the University of Queensland focused on demand-led plant breeding in Africa and coconut physiology. Julianne grew up on a cattle farm in Central Queensland and has a Bachelor of Science with Advanced Studies in Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology and Biological Sciences from Griffith University, Honours in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a Doctor of Philosophy in Ecology, Evolution and Genetics from the Australian National University.

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