Rosewood History ('the Long & Winding Road')
Rosewood Research’s origins trace back over 60 years, when its predecessor, the Bread Research Institute of NSW, was established in 1947. Formed by a dedicated group of individual bakers within the NSW Bread Industry, Rosewood's precursor was established by the Bread Manufacturers Association of New South Wales.
The organisation began operating with the purchase of a property on the Pacific Highway in North Sydney in 1948. A single storey building containing laboratories, offices, a library and an experimental bakery was constructed with a second storey added in 1953.
Throughout the 1950s the organisation allowed CSIRO to relocate some staff to North Sydney. This coupled with the continued expansion of the organisation led to the realisation a larger facility would soon be required. In 1958 the organisation came to an agreement with CSIRO to locate to vacant land at North Ryde and shortly after commenced construction of new buildings. Subsequently the North Sydney property was sold and the organisation moved to its current site in North Ryde on a 99 year right to occupy from CSIRO. This move entrenched a long association with CSIRO who also used the facilities to house staff and conduct collaborative research work.
The organisation soon became a leading research and services institution for bread and baked products for the Australian Bread Industry. In time the focus broadened to include research into the quality of wheat varieties to assist bakers improve the quality of bread throughout Australia.
In the 1970s, 80s and beyond the focus was extended further to research on products utilised in international markets. This included Japanese udon noodles utilising wheats from Western Australia, Arabic flat breads from hard grained wheats from South Australia and Ramen noodles from high protein wheats from Eastern Australia. Research commenced on Chinese steamed breads during the 1990s.
The work conducted by the organisation over many decades has had significant impacts on the development of the baking and associated industries, not only in Australia but internationally as well. Examples of this include:
- Development of the Australian Rapid Dough Process which transformed the Baking Industry and drove productivity and quality
- Research on doughs, yeasts and ingredient interactions together with hygiene and mould elimination
- Quality evaluation of wheat varieties to increase bread quality in Australia
- Research on the health and nutrition of bread
- Engineering solutions for energy savings across the baking industry
- Research into Asian noodle types and their wheat quality requirements
- Leading international research on middle Eastern flat breads and Chinese steamed buns
- Milling research on Australian wheat varieties to establish commercial quality profiles
- Technical milling research on processes and treated grains
As the organisation grew over time and its research broadened, the North Ryde facilities were continually renovated and expanded. In the 1980’s, with the support of the Australian Wheat Board and the Flour Millers Council of Australia, a Pilot Mill was constructed on the site that allowed these organisations to conduct milling trials and assess milling quality in a commercial manner.
Throughout its first four decades the Bread Research Institute was predominantly financed by a voluntary levy from bakers who were largely members of baking associations. This allowed testing work to be conducted on their behalf on the quality of bread and baked goods. This income was complemented with a combination of commercial work and research grants from industry participants to conduct research and testing in areas relevant to the industry.
As the industry and markets evolved over time it became apparent the organisation's business and operating model required updating. In 1988 it was decided the organisation needed to become more commercial, and based on this, committed fully to becoming a user pays, fee for service based organisation. While many of the research and testing services remained, it was apparent for the organisation to survive, it needed to put tighter controls around what services were provided for various clients across the industry. These changes were timely as the levy ceased in the early 90s and the organisation transformed more clearly into an independent, services based organisation.
In 1996 the organisation changed its name from the Bread Research Institute of Australia Limited to BRI Australia Ltd to more accurately reflect the growing diversity of research and service activities it conducted for the broader grains industry. This decade also saw a critical event in the organisations history being the purchase of the site from CSIRO in 1999. Throughout the 90’s CSIRO had progressed plans to develop its North Ryde site, selling off parcels of land to turn the site into a Corporate Park. This afforded BRI the opportunity to purchase the land on which its buildings resided and after many years of protracted negotiations the site was finally purchased in 1999. This afforded BRI more business flexibility and also resulted in the acquisition of a significant asset to secure the future for the Company.
In the early 2000s, having purchased the property, the Board began strategic planning on how it might best use this asset for the organisations long term future. While the change to a more commercial style of organisation in the late 1980s had been successful and provided a good flow of income, it was apparent this model was becoming difficult to sustain going forward and reassessment of the strategic direction was required. The ongoing cost of employing staff and maintaining the infrastructure were significant. The company had no ongoing products and was essentially offering research services on a contract basis, mixed with commercial work. In an environment where research projects were competitively tendered with a low conversion rate, competing against subsidised entities such as universities, it soon became apparent the current business was unlikely to survive in the long term. The only solution was for the business to develop its own ongoing income streams that would finance its operations, and over time the concept of becoming a research investor instead of provider evolved. The purchase of the property provided this opportunity and in 2001 Masterplans were drawn up and submitted to Ryde Council for a Two Stage Development of the site, including the construction of two separate commercial office blocks. The successful completion of these projects would provide a sustainable, long term source of income and provide funds that could be invested back into the industry without the need to physically own and maintain the research infrastructure.
In 2002 a DA was submitted and approved for Stage 1 of the development. The years following saw a significant amount of work on the proposed property development and much consideration given to the appropriate company structures to take the organisation forward. A property trust, Pathway Properties Pty Ltd, was set up and in 2007 a company restructure undertaken. At this point the company's property assets were transferred into the property trust and the company’s traditional research services business transferred to a new subsidiary entity known as BRI Research Pty Ltd. The structure allowed each individual business to be split out separately and provided risk mitigation should either business suffer setbacks. BRI Australia Ltd continued as the parent company overseeing the subsidiary entities and investing available funds into research. In time the property company would generate funds for BRI Australia Ltd to invest back into the industry.
In 2007 a finance facility was obtained and Pathway Properties undertook Stage 1 of the property development, a 5 storey commercial office block. It was also at this time that the restructure resulted in a very significant event. The transfer of the research services business into a private company theoretically made it possible for a third party to purchase it. A number of expressions of interest were subsequently received culminating in an offer from one party and a subsequent sale in late 2008. As the Board had held reservations on the long term viability of the research services business the sale was timely and allowed the parent company to shift its focus more towards the investment model it had ultimately wanted to move to.
As the purchase of BRI Research Pty Ltd involved the sale of the ‘BRI’brand it dictated the parent company, BRI Australia Ltd, change its name. Hence BRI Australia Ltd transformed into Rosewood Research Ltd late in 2008.
In July 2008 the construction of Stage 1 of the property development was completed. Unfortunately economic events worldwide via the GFC would make leasing the finished building extremely difficult. As the organisations financiers became increasingly worried it was clear that debt finance may soon become difficult to obtain and apparent that a potential fall back solution might be required. After much consideration and advice it was decided in 2010 that Rosewood Research Ltd would transfer to a company limited by shares allowing for a possible future injection of equity to prop up the company if debt finance couldn’t be sourced. Fortunately in late 2010 an enquiry was received from 3M to lease space in the completed development. Finally after approximately 3 years of the completed building sitting empty, 3M moved into the new building in September 2011, providing a sustainable revenue stream for the ensuing years.
With Stage 1 now completed, and fully leased, Rosewood continues to review its options in regard to the Stage 2 development. The original facilities on the site, the subject of Stage 2, continue to be utilised to conduct work for the benefit of the baking and broader grains industry. While Rosewood's financial resources have been substantially restrained since 2008 resulting in a hiatus in any significant industry investment, it is envisaged the successful planning and completion of Stage 2 of the property development will provide a sustainable source of funds long into the future for the organisation, and for the long term benefit of the industry.
Rosewood Research has recently launched the Rosewood Research Partnership Program to help train the next generation of scientists and industry leaders.