The concept of 43pl began in 2001 with Mark Judd (Geomatic Technologies), Clive Fraser (now CRCSI) and Ian Williamson (University of Melbourne) recognising the spatial industry being characterised by many small companies and few large ones.

A series of national roadshows led by Mark determined a genuine interest from SMEs to participate in the proposed spatial industry CRC. The challenge of this interest however was to create a connection of many organisations that would encourage close work with researchers yet not burden the proposed CRC with many small one-on-one relationships.

The solution was the development of an overarching stewardship in the form of a single entity.
43pl (named because of the 43 SMEs with an expressed interest in participating in a single entity arrangement) was established as a unit (bare) trust and owned by a proprietary limited company with equity holders and a Board.

The timing was right.

In the early 2000’s the CRC Programme was strongly focussed on applied research that could be picked up by SME’s to accelerate growth; domestically and internationally. The Programme also promoted the need to build capacity to help SMEs take advantage of rapidly growing technologies.

However individual SMEs struggled to develop and maintain relationships with large research organisation and universities. And the unique construct of CRC’s obligated all partners to enter into a binding and formal joint venture agreement for the life of the CRC, along with agreements that required the joint venture partners to indemnify each other. To offset these risks the government agencies and universities required every partner to carry a specific minimum level of public liability and professional indemnity insurance. For most SME’s the cost was prohibitive.

A new approach was required.

The bases of 43pl is that its very nature is to act as a single large entity to provide a strong voice for SMEs. It also carries the public liability and professional indemnity risk on behalf of its members and the company’s constitution and unit trust deed firewalls the individual members without compromising access to the benefits of being a joint venture partner.

At the time – in 2002 – there were no examples of a 43pl equivalent in the 70 plus existing CRCs and even today, this structure remains unique to the CRC for Spatial Information. The 2015 Miles Review of the CRC Programme highlighted the importance of SMEs engagement across many of its 18 recommendations. 43pl was used as a case study example of how SME engagement can work effectivity – the only example to be included in the review report.

The idea of an industry cluster was seen as a trump card in formulating the bid for the Cooperative Research Centre for Spatial Information. The bid was lodged in 2002 and confirmation of its success was announced in December that year.

The CRC for Spatial Information began operations on 1 July 2003 with 43pl as an essential participant.

Now in 2015, the matured CRCSI works closely with the members of 43pl using a relationship management approach that develops strong individual relationships across the CRCSI, researchers and project leaders. The CRCSI relationship managers are the core contact and focal point for 43pl members to build capacity, clarify expectations, and match business needs with research capabilities.