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The impacts of COVID-19 on MLA’s research, development and adoption programs

08 May 2020

How has the coronavirus outbreak affected MLA’s R&D? Here, General Manager of Research, Development and Adoption, Mick Crowley, discusses the impacts and how MLA is responding to ensure projects remain supported and delivered.

So far, how has COVID-19 impacted MLA’s ability to deliver research, development and adoption activities?

We’re in a unique position in that we’ve had limited exposure to COVID-19 disruptions compared to other industries, which has meant a lot of our projects have been able to progress as intended. That said, we’ve also been required to make some adjustments to project milestones and timelines.

Travel restrictions have caused the most disruption above anything else. MLA and our researchers have been prevented access to certain locations where our projects are – and projects with international partners have been especially impacted. That’s resulted in us needing to take a pragmatic approach to managing our R&D through this time.

What specific activities and projects have been most affected and what is MLA doing to respond?

In our Adoption program we’ve had to shift a lot of our content online, as many of our face-to-face workshops have been halted by COVID-19. Much of our focus here has been on capability building for our workshop deliverers to ensure they have the confidence and capacity to use remote delivery technologies effectively and fulfil program expectations.

Profitable Grazing Systems (PSG) is one program we’ve focused on with this shift. By offering webinars dedicated to upskilling the deliverers, it ensures PSG events now taking place online remain high quality for producers, even when physical events are not possible.

Companies we are investing in like Ceres Tag have experienced project disruptions, so we’re supporting them by assessing their milestones and producing realistic new deliverables for when they can get back out in the field and practically test their products.

We’re always looking for new solutions to respond to the situation and keep all of our projects progressing.  

Have there been any positive lessons so far out of this situation that you’re considering implementing going forward?

It’s been really positive to see how well we’ve adapted to the situation and made necessary changes as they have been needed.  

Learning how best to use technology in a time like this has given us a new level of flexibility in being able to continue with many of our projects even though our physical presence has been restricted. This has also presented new opportunities for delivering content.

In addition, we’ve been able to vary our projects to ensure we’re still getting the best value out of our investments for the benefit of the industry. We are now better equipped to respond proactively to situations like this in the future.  

How has your life changed personally? What’s it been like to oversee MLA’s research, development and adoption portfolio from home?

Over the last few years I’ve been travelling three to five days every week for stakeholder meetings and events, so it’s been a significant change in not being able to go anywhere since mid-March.

That said, technology has meant I have been able to continue to maintain many of my commitments as well as ensure my large team is focused on the key priorities for our stakeholders and our internal processes.

It’s an important period for us as we’re in the final few months of our current five year strategic plan while also consulting broadly on our new plan. We’re also finalising our Annual Investment Plan for the next financial year, so I’ve been putting my efforts into working through these important tasks.