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AWRI Board announces new Managing Director

Chairman of the Board of The Australian Wine Research Institute, Mr Peter Dawson, announced today the appointment of Dr Dan Johnson as the new Managing Director, effective 1 December 2011. Dr Johnson will succeed Dr Sakkie Pretorius who has led the AWRI over the past seven years and has been appointed recently as Deputy VC Research at University of SA.

In making the announcement, Mr Dawson commented that “the search for our new Managing Director was conducted globally, and the Board was pleased with the high quality of applications received for this position.”

In the appointment of Dr Johnson to the position, Mr Dawson said, “Dr Johnson has made a significant contribution to the development of the AWRI, and benefit to the industry, over the past five years in his capacity of General Manager – Business Development. His understanding of the Australian wine industry, combined with his proven business and science skills made him the stand-out candidate for the position. The Board believes that under Dr Johnson’s leadership, combined with a continued focus on world-class research, the AWRI will be best placed to continue to lift its delivery of value to the Australian wine industry. We are delighted to appoint Dr Johnson to the role.”

In accepting the role, Dr Johnson said, “Whilst science is in my heart, the numbers are in my head. If there is one issue that unites the Australian wine sector, that issue is economic reality. In my new role as Managing Director of the AWRI, I recognise the significance of this issue and the need for Australia’s wine industry and its value chain to generate competitive advantage through technical innovation.

Over the past 56 years, the AWRI has proved itself to be more than the Australian wine industry’s own research company. It has become one of Australia’s truly globally competitive research institutes, internationally renowned for its world-class expertise and capability.

Since I joined the AWRI as General Manager – Business Development five years ago, I have seen the AWRI excel in its pursuit of scientific breakthroughs. I now have the privilege of leading its transition to a new phase.

As a scientist, I am passionate about world-class science and its publication in high impact, peer-reviewed journals. I am, however, equally passionate about its application in industry, making a meaningful difference to Australia’s wine community. The future of the AWRI lies in a common purpose, shared with its partners and stakeholders: a purpose grounded in economic reality and sustainability, supported by world-leading scientific and technical capability.

I look forward to working with the Australian wine industry in order to deliver outcomes that underpin that sustainable future.”

For further information:
Peter Dawson, Chairman: email: peter.dawson@awri.com.au
Rae Blair, Communications Manager: email: rae.blair@awri.com.au


Dan holds currently the position of General Manager – Business Development at The Australian Wine Research Institute, where he has worked since July 2006. During this time, he has worked alongside the Managing Director of the AWRI in all matters of strategy and operations management and is specifically responsible for the management of AWRI’s commercial affairs and business relationships.

In total, Dan has been directly involved in raising and/or administering more than $150 million for research institutes and venture capital firms and been directly involved in 9 biotechnology start-up companies.

Dan has been instrumental in driving various initiatives at the AWRI. One significant example is the leveraging of levy-payer funds to attract substantial revenue from a diverse range of funding agencies and corporate partners. In effect, industry is now receiving more ‘bang for their buck’. In addition, Dan has been actively involved in the formation of the Wine Innovation Cluster on the Waite Precinct and in AWRI’s move into the scientific disciplines of metabolomics and bioinformatics.

Prior to joining the AWRI, Dan held the position of Business Development Manager at Bio Innovation SA. In this role Dan worked as part of a team that annually administered several million dollars in grant funding and formed South Australia’s first dedicated life science venture capital fund, Terra Rossa Capital, which has funds under management of approximately $35 million.

Dan’s career choices and achievements reflect his two great professional passions – science and business. Having worked as a scientist and in various roles closely aligned to science, he is passionate about R&D but is equally passionate about the practical application of that R&D.

Dan has published several peer-reviewed articles in journals including the Journal of the American Chemical Society and Biochemistry, and presents in scientific and industry fora on topics such as biotechnology and the wine industry, and is the inventor and owner of a granted patent.

Dan is a ‘lifelong learner’ with an exemplary academic track record, holding both a PhD and an MBA, for which he won several prizes and awards. He is a graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

On the personal side, Dan is married with a daughter. A self-confessed ‘cricket tragic’ he loves nothing better than sitting back to watch Australia take on England at the cricket with a glass of Australian wine in hand.