Food - Capability Statement

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Develop internationally competitive, sustainable, profitable, high intensity and high production capacity in new and existing food products and maintain Australia’s reputation for clean, safe and quality-controlled food production.


Key facts for the Food Priority

  • It is estimated that approximately $380 million of the $2.65 billion supporting national priorities is allocated directly to the Food Priority area.*
  • In terms of citation impact, an indicator of research quality, Australian research on this Priority ranks:
    • 2nd out of 10 when compared against selected Asia Pacific countries**
    • 8th out of 14 when compared to selected European countries, Canada and New Zealand.***
  • 47 per cent of Australian publications are produced with an international co-author.

*  Data on two key initiatives – university research block grants and the R&D tax incentive – are not collected in a way that supports analysis against priorities.
** Selected Asia Pacific countries: India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and Vietnam.
*** Selected European countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.
China and the United States were not included for the Food Priority due to database constraints on publication numbers.

Current research strengths

Australia’s comparative advantage in bulk commodities and its reputation as a source of safe and quality-controlled food is underpinned by strong capabilities and investment in agricultural, biological and environmental sciences research. Australia’s existing research strengths are mainly in pre-farm gate research, including:

  • biology
  • agricultural biotechnology
  • plant science
  • biosecurity.


Practical challenges

  1. Knowledge of global and domestic demand, supply chains and the identification of country specific preferences for food Australia can produce.
  2. Knowledge of the social, economic and other barriers to achieving access to healthy Australian foods.
  3. Enhanced food production through:
    • novel technologies, such as sensors, robotics, real-time data systems and traceability, all integrated into the full production chain
    • better management and use of waste and water; increased food quality, safety, stability and shelf life
    • protection of food sources through enhanced biosecurity
    • genetic composition of food sources appropriate for present and emerging Australian conditions.


Action within this Priority will support a more coordinated approach to food and agribusiness research, development and training. It will assist Australia to overcome current research weaknesses and take advantage of strengths by:

  • boosting industry-research engagement, particularly with small and medium-sized enterprises, by lifting awareness of opportunities
  • increasing the ability of producers to adopt new technologies and practices
  • enhancing collaboration between food and agriculture researchers and complementary disciplines to improve data collection and analysis
  • facilitating technology transfer to local business through international R&D collaboration
  • encouraging cross-disciplinary research to drive high technology food manufacturing and agriculture
  • coordinating and utilising existing infrastructure and maximising investment to deliver world class facilities at scale
  • maintaining the pre and post farm-gate food industry researcher pipeline.

Recognising that Australia has existing research strengths mainly in pre-farm gate research, these opportunities can enhance capability relevant to post-farm gate applications.

International Citation Comparison, 2010 to 2014


For this Priority, each circle represents one of the comparator countries, grouped into region by colour: circle size represents number of publications, while circle placement indicates the country’s weighted citations relative to Australia. Data are from Thomson Reuters InCites, the Priority identified by a keyword search.

Australian Government Expenditure on Science and Research Priorities


The Australian Government invests $9.7 billion in science, research and innovation. Approximately $2.65 billion of this investment can be attributed to research aligned to the nine Science and Research priorities. Data on university block grants and the R&D tax incentive – two key initiatives that have critical roles in supporting strategic, mission-directed research - are not collected in a way that supports analysis against the priorities.

Sources: 2015-16 Science, Research and Innovation Budget Tables; Research Strategies Australia, Science and Research Priorities and Practical Challenges, May 2015.

Australia’s Science and Research Priorities

Australia’s Science and Research Priorities identify areas that are of immediate and critical importance to the nation and its place in the world. They help align our research to industry and will make sure that we capitalise on our comparative advantages and address challenges.

The Australian Government will use the Priorities to guide a proportion of its research investment to areas of critical need and national importance. This capability snapshot is a vital step to make sure that we get this strategic investment right – it is about understanding what we spend now, what we are good at and where we need to improve.

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