This project underpins and enables the AWRI’s research, development, extension, and commercial activities through the leadership and essential services provided by the Corporate Services group. The group works closely with the AWRI Board to provide an appropriate mix of strategic, commercial, and scientific leadership, guidance and support to all AWRI staff.
Project personnel are highly experienced and possess a strong track record of delivery within their respective functions. This is demonstrated by factors including the steady growth in the scope of the AWRI’s activities, the enduring high level of support for the AWRI among its stakeholders, and a positive internal culture. A focus for many years on achieving operating efficiencies, reducing the organisational cost base (including achieving concessional status where available), and prudent financial management, has positioned the AWRI as a low-cost and efficient service provider on a sound financial footing. Future Corporate Services activities will continue to pursue such objectives.
Through the continued adoption and application of ‘best practice’ principles as they apply to the scope of the AWRI’s management and administration activities, essential support services will be efficiently and effectively delivered on an ongoing basis. These encompass leadership and administration, business development, contract management, finance and accounting, human resources, information technology, operations management and risk management (including work health and safety).
Core activities included financial management; budgeting; and reporting to the AWRI’s management, the AWRI Board, funding organisations (particularly Wine Australia) and various arms of government. Back office support was provided to other entities such as the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference, Interwinery Analysis Group and Wine Innovation Cluster. The AWRI’s diversified investment portfolio continued to generate an appropriate level of return, underpinning the organisation’s ability to further invest in critical capabilities and activities to support the Australian grape and wine industry.
Significant human resources efforts during the year related to the renewal of the internal Employment Agreement, which covers all AWRI staff. The voting process achieved a 91% participation rate with 98% of those voting approving the agreement, which came into effect in June 2018. The annual staff survey once again highlighted the AWRI’s positive working environment, with 98% of respondents confirming that ‘all things considered, the AWRI is a great place to work’. Themes which consistently contribute to this outcome include the diversity of work; the collaborative, productive and passionate workplace culture; engagement with industry; and professional development opportunities. Many of the AWRI’s directors make a substantial contribution in this regard by nominating for their directorship fees to be made available for such activities, and their support is gratefully acknowledged.
Cost-effective custom-designed and manufactured engineering solutions were provided to support a range of AWRI projects, with recent examples including sparging equipment for pilot-scale fermentations, supporting infrastructure for new instrumentation and apparatus for assessment of wine closures. Broader activities involved developing solutions to space constraints faced across the AWRI’s laboratory, office and storage environments.
Corporate governance and legal support
A key activity for the year was an application to the Australian Tax Office (ATO) for the AWRI to be recognised as an Approved Research Institute (ARI) and receive Deductible Gift Recipient status. Central to this application were amendments to the AWRI’s constitution to include, among other aspects, the establishment and operation of a Research Fund and a Research Committee, as required of ARIs. The ATO recently approved this application, backdating the ARI status to July 2000. Other corporate governance activities included the successful conduct of electronic Board elections, ongoing contract administration, maintaining and updating the organisation’s strategic and operational risk registers, general policy review and the planning and conduct of an incident simulation.
This year saw the implementation of a number of significant further initiatives contained within the previously developed IT Strategic Plan – supported and enabled by the IT Strategic Reserve previously created by the AWRI Board. Particular emphasis was placed on expanding storage capabilities, enhancing virtual server infrastructure, strengthening back-up procedures and network security, and implementation of several platforms to enhance system monitoring, reporting and software deployment. Such enhancements continue to add considerable value to almost every aspect of the AWRI’s operations.
Partnership to produce beer from ‘shipwreck’ yeast
A partnership between the AWRI, QVMAG and Lion Nathan saw a beer produced using the yeast isolated from beer bottles salvaged from the wreck of the Sydney Cove. The beer, known as ‘The Wreck – Preservation Ale’, was released to the public at several events in May 2018, and then made available for a limited time at selected venues around Australia. A press release announcing the beer in early May received extensive international coverage across multiple media channels, including print, online, radio and TV. Significant progress was also made in planning for a special release 750 mL format to coincide with Father’s Day in September 2018.