Program 2: Develop responsible research innovation practices and market accessibility through stakeholder engagement

Undertaking research into the socio-economic considerations and opportunities for innovation in alignment with community need

University Investigators: Joan Leach, Carolin Plewa and Rachel Ankeny

Potential Partners and Institutions for Placements: Grain Trade Australia, Office of the Gene Technology Regulator, Australian Seed Federation

Contact: Program Leader Rachel Ankeny

Overview: The need to re-imagine Australian agriculture to meet national and global needs in light of climate change is pressing.

New technologies with the potential to increase outputs, lower environmental impacts, and produce more profitable and healthier foods are a critical part of the picture. To be successful, such technologies must be aligned with expectations and values of diverse stakeholders including scientists, breeders, farmers, investors, regulators, and the wider community.

We aim to map and develop a robust analysis of the ethical, regulatory and engagement landscape of agricultural technology in Australia and to equip the next generation of research, industry, and policy leaders to make social engagement and innovative technological development aligned with community needs and values the norm, through robust research and a tailored training program.

The Programs

Program 2.1 Training in Responsible Innovation and Community Engagement (UA/ANU)

Responsible research innovation (RRI) approaches provide a framework for understanding innovation, regulation, ethical practice and engagement from the bench to the community.

We aim to model public and other stakeholder understandings of responsibility in innovative agri-tech; to investigate drivers of and impediments to responsible research practice, using case studies based on innovative and potentially contentious aspects of crop science; and build capacities within science to engage in scientific practices that are simultaneously innovative, responsible and publicly beneficial.

Our hypothesis is that accounts of RRI to date are not adequately grounded in the Australian context, and thus are not fit to purpose, particularly when applied to emerging technologies.

This project will address a series of interrelated research questions, using quantitative and qualitative methods, to assess how different stakeholders including the general public conceptualise ‘responsibility’ for innovative research, the drivers of and obstacles to making ‘responsible’ or ‘trustworthy’ decisions about research, and how to most effectively engage stakeholders about responsible innovation.

Program 2.2 Market Shaping via Community and Industry Engagement (UA)

One of the key impediments to building capacity for innovative crop development is the relative lack of Australian small and medium enterprises (SMEs) that have resources and capability to drive innovative technologies from early stage to market. Gene editing has the potential to be a market disrupting technology which allows SMEs and research organisations to enter a market dominated internationally by a smaller number of multinationals.

This program will use a novel approach to markets, viewing them as complex ecosystems that evolve over time and can be co-created with stakeholders, which is termed ‘market shaping.’

We aim to analyse drivers of (and impediments to) successful collaborative industry-academia in agri-biotech, particularly with SMEs, with a focus on skills, processes and institutional structures; to apply a market-shaping approach, using case studies drawn on research within the ITTC; and to develop and trial researcher training in market shaping, including stakeholder engagement capabilities.


—What academic backgrounds are appropriate for Program 2?

We envision that this program will be of interest to two types of students: those with background in the life sciences who have some experience in public engagement in science or similar and who wish to shift academic gears and get involved in responsible innovation.

In addition, we welcome students with backgrounds in the social sciences or humanities that have studied history, philosophy, sociology, science communication, or social studies of science and who have strong interests in the intersection of these fields and the life sciences and agriculture.

—What methods or skills might it be helpful to have before enrolling in this program?

Strong communication skills, qualitative or quantitative skills in the humanities or social sciences, critical analytic skills, and strong library-based research skills will all come in handy.

—Are there cross-over projects available if I want to have one hand in the sciences and the other in the social sciences?

For the right students, this might work out—please contact one of the team for a discussion.


The ARC Training Centre for Accelerated Future Crops Development is funded by the Australian Research Council under its Industrial Transformation Training Hubs Program to run from 2022 to 2027.

It is a collaboration of universities, government research agencies and the Australian grains sector’s key stakeholders in training, R&D, social engagement, responsible innovation, breeding, marketing and delivery.

It also has international partners in gene-editing, SynBio, crop breeding, and, other partnerships for co-developing deep technologies to transform the agriculture industry and global food security.