AUSTRALIA’S top wool research, development and marketing body will lose its general manager of research in April.
Australian Wool Innovation chief executive officer Stuart McCullough disclosed Dr Paul Swan’s voluntary resignation this week, although Dr Swan resigned on January 27.
The researcher has worked for 16 years at AWI and has held the position of General Manager-Research since December 2013. His last official day as AWI’s research GM is March 31, but he is not expected to depart AWI until the end of April.
AWI and Dr Swan said his departure from AWI was voluntary and is not connected with the current controversy over AWI staff ex-gratia payments disclosed at a Senate Estimates committee hearing. Nor was Dr Swan’s resignation connected with the forced redundancy of other senior AWI managers last year as part of a global restructure and succession plan.
At least seven positions were last year made redundant in AWI’s product processing and innovation, Information technology, marketing and business network departments, including AWI’s chief marketing officer Rob Langtry and Jimmy Jackson general manager – product development and commercialisation.
No brain drain at AWI
An AWI spokesman said Mr McCullough was not concerned that there has been a ‘brain drain’ from AWI’s executive ranks.
“Resources have been directed and allocated closer to key markets in the northern hemisphere with the appointment of Stuart Ford who manages the western hemisphere and John Roberts who manages the eastern hemisphere,” the spokesman said.
“Other key off farm research resources have been allocated in China to develop next generation wool fabric technologies.”
Mr McCullough said he has known and worked with Dr Swan since July 2001, when they both joined AWI, and has the greatest respect for his service to the Australian wool industry.
“(On January 27), Paul formally advised me of a decision he and I had talked about for over a year – and that is, his desire to reduce his workload and to ensure renewal of the general manager’s role – as a final part of the renewal of our research portfolio.
“Paul took on the general manager role to assist the company in a difficult time and has stayed through a challenging period including a review of performance, a levy poll, and renewal of our strategic plan and various other research, development and extension strategies,” Mr McCullough said.
“Whilst there is never a good time to lose a senior team member, especially one of Paul’s calibre, it is probably as close to the right time for renewal given we have completed our strategy documents and the industry is in such a healthy position.”
Mr McCullough said Dr Swan’s resignation will not be the end of his contribution to the Australian wool industry — which he joined as a junior researcher at the CSIRO in 1988 – or for that matter to AWI, which Dr Swan has served in various capacities over the past 16 years.
“Over the coming weeks, we will articulate our plans in this area, and Paul has advised that he intends to remain active, and continue to try and make a contribution to an industry I know he loves.”
Time for role renewal
Dr Swan said it has been a great honour and privilege to serve AWI and the wool growers of Australia in the GM-Research role and as custodian of AWI’s sheep production team.
He said his team’s achievements that were of particular importance to him were the renewal of AWI’s RD&E strategies with a deeper focus on growing AWI shareholder wealth and the improved relationship between the team and the AWI board. He also mentioned changes which have occurred in the direction of the genetics, fibre advocacy, biosecurity and reproduction portfolios, and what is now emerging in the farm automation and software development space.
“However, it is now past time for renewal of the role I occupy and to bring on some new talent – as a logical and inevitable part of the portfolio renewal process we’ve worked through over the past three years.”
Dr Swan said he would like to step back, reduce his workload, spend a bit more time at home, and take on some other professional and personal challenges.
“I want to do some writing, including finishing some papers dating back to my time in CSIRO, do a bit a grower training delivery again, and a bit more board-level work.”
Dr Swan said he intended to remain in the service of the wool textile industry, on a more-or-less part-time basis. He said he was positive about the future of Australia’s wool industry, and confident in AWI’s contribution to that bright future, in keeping with its strategic, industry good remit.
“I look back now with great satisfaction to the industry benefit now accruing from strategic investment decisions we made over a decade ago; investments such as Lifetime Wool Production which led to Lifetime Ewe Management, or the partnership with Meat & Livestock Australia to build and grow MerinoSelect, or the very exciting new pasture legumes that are starting to transform mixed enterprises, among many others.
“There is much to be proud of, and from the work in the pipeline, much to look forward to.”