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 and Board, funding organisations (particularly Wine Australia) and various arms of government. Administrative support was also provided to entities such as the Australian Wine Industry Technical Conference, Interwinery Analysis Group and the Wine Innovation Cluster. Other notable activities included managing the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 on the AWRI’s asset base, cashflow and liquidity; assisting in the formalisation of leasing and collaboration agreements; financial modelling and business case development in support of a range of strategic and capital investment initiatives; and ensuring ongoing compliance with various evolving accounting standards.
The AWRI’s human resources capability maintains responsibility for a broad range of functions including recruitment, employment contract management, visas, payroll and compliance activities. In 2020/2021 the AWRI continued the migration of many employees from fixed-term to permanent contracts of employment, supporting its ability to attract and retain world-class talent. An internal Leadership Development Program was launched, aiming to provide high-performing staff who exhibit leadership potential with practical experience, formal training and other opportunities for personal and professional growth. The initial cohort of this program, as well as other employees, undertook a range of professional development activities during the year, a number of which were funded through many AWRI Directors nominating for their directorship fees to be made available for such purposes, for which their support is gratefully acknowledged. The annual staff survey once again highlighted the AWRI’s positive working environment, with 95% 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; close engagement with industry; and the AWRI’s well equipped and modern facilities.
In July 2020 responsibility for operations management transferred to the AWRI’s Research Laboratory Manager, Angus Forgan, in an expanded role following the retirement of the AWRI’s long-serving Operations Manager, Mark Braybrook. This role has responsibility for a range of workplace health and safety activities including chairing the AWRI’s Safety Advisory Committee and oversight of periodic safety inspections and assurance programs, chairing the AWRI’s Institutional Biosafety Committee, maintenance of Office of the Gene Technology Regulator accreditation, and auditing and maintenance of the five Physical Containment Level 2 (PC2) laboratory facilities used for specialised research on genetically modified organisms. Operations management activities continued to include the delivery of engineering and infrastructure solutions for various AWRI groups and projects, most notably the successful commissioning of a new NMR Research Laboratory within the AWRI’s premises, which provides a dedicated and secure space for a new NMR and other specialised analytical equipment. Other infrastructure solutions included preparations for installation of a new mass spectrometer within the Commercial Services Trace Analysis Laboratory, and an organisation-wide review of space usage in response to constraints across the AWRI’s laboratory, office and storage areas and a planned expansion in capabilities. Operational measures implemented in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic remained an important area of focus, including physical measures such as splash shields and signage, the management of visitors and contractors and a range of other actions to maintain productivity while ensuring staff welfare. The AWRI continues to work closely with the University of Adelaide and other co-location partners, including on the development of a campus Bushfire Management Plan.
Corporate governance and legal support
During the year the AWRI Board welcomed three new elected Directors and one new Special Qualification Director. All Directors participated in comprehensive induction sessions prior to their first meeting to assist in preparation for their role. The Board commenced a review of Board composition and appointment processes, the outcomes of which are expected to be implemented in 2022 following a stakeholder consultation process. The Board also participated in a workplace health and safety update session with a focus on COVID-19-related developments such as working from home. Other activities included maintaining good corporate governance processes in relation to risk management, policy review and contract management.
In addition to provision of the usual IT support services to all employees, delivery continued of a range of strategic initiatives which saw the substantive completion of the AWRI’s IT Strategic Plan 2019-2021, on time and under budget. Key achievements during the period included the enhancement of network capabilities, an expanded back-up program and a range of IT security enhancements. Significant resources continued to be directed towards supporting remote working arrangements in response to the operational challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Providing resilience against cybersecurity threats continues to be a key organisational priority and is likely to represent a core focus of the next IT Strategic Plan, to be developed over the coming year.