CRCs (Cooperative Research Centres)
FAL Lawyers is Australia’s top legal advisor to CRCs.
Founding Partners, Peter Francis and Jenni Lightowlers provided legal advice on the establishment of the very first CRC in 1991. Since then, we’ve advised more CRCs than any other law firm in Australia and have acted for over half of all CRCs (72 and counting).
Several successful spin-off companies from CRCs have also benefited from our considerable experience in collaborative research and technology commercialisation, which we’ve helped take their products closer to market in Australia, Asia, America and Europe.
Our experience is unmatched in providing legal advice CRCs on everything from conception and establishment to operation, commercialisation and wind-up on completion of the CRC. For several CRCs, we effectively act as in-house counsel, so we also advise on “business-as-usual” legal matters, from property leases to employment contracts and supply agreements.
With deep industry, academic and government networks, coupled with unparalleled knowledge of CRCs, we work with key industry operators and consultants to develop proposals for future CRCs.
We can assist in the presentation of CRC proposals to interested government agencies, universities and potential end users of future research and distil the complexity, risks and benefits of collaborative research between large numbers of parties.
Given our understanding of the principles, policies and practices governing the funding of research vehicles, we have helped numerous proposed CRCs to prepare for funding interviews. We know how to turn good ideas for research into something that demonstrates economic and social benefit for the future.
For a structure as complex as a CRC, it is important to establish the right kind of structure from the very beginning. We can advise you of the benefits and risks of each type of structure based on the particular CRC’s motivations and purpose. In order for so many participants to work together effectively, be they large businesses, research bodies, government agencies or universities, we can ensure that all function as a team based on commercially sensitive agreements that give maximum benefit to each participant individually and the CRC and wider community as a whole.
Going further than mere legal advice, we can access our considerable networks to identify high-calibre executives to assist with the running of the organisation.
A CRC must be operated on lean principles that ensure good corporate governance within a tax-efficient structure. Our experience is unmatched in terms of ensuring ongoing good governance in CRCs and collaborative research vehicles, as is our knowledge of the means by which participants join and depart a CRC during the lifetime of the venture and the best terms by which they do so.
We have unparalleled knowledge on the relevant taxation considerations that apply to CRCs, including exemptions that may apply for R&D and payroll tax.
Like any organisation, a CRC will require day-to-day business advice, be It on the terms of a property lease agreement, commercial contracts for goods and services or employment and human resources matters and any disputes that may arise. The CRCs we act for benefit from our unique understanding of the cultural and business considerations of CRCs, allowing us to act as an accessible, “go-to” legal resource. We also understand that not all legal agreements require the services of a lawyer, so we develop suites of template documents to help CRCs manage their legal costs.
The economic benefits of the CRC programme to the Australian economy and community have been assessed to be over three times the cost of the Australian Government’s investment (source: CRC Impact Study, Allens Consulting Group, 2012).
A key means of realising return on this investment has been to commercialise and, at times, bring to the international markets the valuable IP and technology developed by CRCs. FAL has played a significant role in helping CRCs achieve this, drafting and negotiating unprecedented licensing agreements with Australian and international organisations on behalf of CRCs and their spin-off entities. We can advise on the best strategies for commercialisation, whether through licensing agreements, joint ventures or the formation of spin-off technology companies.
As a result, we also have broad domestic and international commercial networks, allowing us to go beyond mere legal advice and assist CRCs with identification of opportunities to commercialise.
Wind-up and transition
CRCs, like many collaborative research ventures, are intended to have a finite lifespan. When that time is reached, we help ensure that the valuable research and IP that has been created is properly assigned and that participants are made fully aware of their ongoing rights and obligations once the CRC has ceased activity.
In many cases, there is much research that should be continued, developed and commercialised, in which case we advise on a transition to an entirely new corporate structure or the formation of spin-off companies purely aimed at commercialising research.
Our services for CRCs
We offer a full suite of commercial legal services to CRCs and research bodies, including:
- Contracts & Agreements
- Corporate Structuring / Transition
- Corporate Governance
- Grants / Capital Fund Raising
- Mediation and Dispute Resolution
- Intellectual Property
- Information Technology
- Patent & Technology Commercialisation
- Plant Breeder’s Rights
- Trade Marks & Brand Strategy
- IP Litigation & Dispute Resolution
- Taxation Exemptions
- Defence Export Controls
- Customs & International Trade
Experience in the Cooperative Research sector
Our experience is unmatched in the field, having advised more CRCs and their spin-off companies than any other law firm. Some examples of our work in the field includes the following:
CRC Optimising Resource Extraction: FAL Lawyers advised CRC ORE on corporate governance, IP commercialisation, taxation and a wide range of other legal matters.
FAL consulted with the CRC Association on the potential impacts of the Defence Export Controls Bill, 2011 (Cth) on the R&D sector, assisted in the drafting of the Association’s submission to the Senate Committee reviewing the Bill prior to its enactment and met with the Chair of the Senate Committee as part of a delegation to express concerns on what may have been inadvertent restrictions in respect of the conduct of research in Australia.
FAL assisted a CRC spinoff company developing polymers for use as corrective ocular implants regarding compliance with the US Food & Drug Authority (FDA) and CE regulations, leading to accreditation of the facility.
Vision CRC: FAL acted for Vision CRC on its establishment and on matters such as intellectual property, commercialisation, patent & technology licensing corporate governance, structuring issues, clinical trials and ethics committees.
CRC Deep Exploration Technologies: FAL advised CRCDET on establishment and operation, including commercialisation of IP and licensing.
CRC REP/Ninti One: FAL has advised the CRC for Remote Economic Participation (previously the CRC for Desert Knowledge) on establishment and operation, on matters such as corporate governance and intellectual property.
FAL advised a defence-sensitive CRC on the employment and privacy issues in respect of persons engaged on sensitive projects.
FAL provides ongoing legal and company secretarial support to Young and Well CRC, a not-for-profit collaborative research vehicle investigating the role of technologies in the well-being of young people.