RRAP R&D Program

The RRAP Concept Feasibility Study found that intervening on the Reef to help protect it, and to help it adapt to the impacts of climate change, could double the likelihood of sustaining the Reef in good condition by 2050. However, many uncertainties and gaps in knowledge must be addressed.

The RRAP R&D Program is designed to be responsive to the range of possible climate outcomes and the range of the Reef's ecological responses to this changing environment. It aims to strike a balance between minimising risk and maximising opportunity to save Reef species.

The program aims to reduce uncertainty, improve understanding of the Reef system, and quickly narrow a set of optimal interventions.

A key principle of structured decision-making is to begin with as many options as possible and apply a fast but rigorous filter. The RRAP Concept Feasibility Program started that process, filtering 160 intervention-scale combinations to 43 using four criteria:

  • Expected capacity to deliver
  •  Scale of operation and impact
  • The costs and risks of the associated delivery method
  • Duration of R&D and time until full deployment, relative to the rate of decline in the absence of intervention.

The remaining 43 potential interventions will continue to be filtered throughout the R&D Program at set ‘stage gates’. Interventions with the highest likelihood of success will be progressed to development stage.

R&D program principles

The R&D program was designed to deal with the inherent uncertainty associated with such a new endeavour, and strike an appropriate balance between risk, time and investment requirements by:

  • Driving early deployment of smaller-scale interventions as soon as feasible, to help protect high-value reefs
  • Quickly identifying and focusing on interventions with the highest likelihood of success
  • Reducing uncertainty around the benefits, risks and costs of those interventions
  • Managing resources in a flexible and cost-efficient way.

The first five years

During the first five years, focus is on delivering the underlying cross-cutting research (support and engineering research sub-programs that underpin the success of all, or groups of, interventions), and moving smaller-scale interventions to deployment stage. As the program progresses, focus will shift to deployment of larger-scale interventions.


RRAP strategy to progressively deliver interventions and refine the focus of the R&D program as research findings improve knowledge of feasibility, risks, efficacy, social acceptance and regulatory compliance.


The R&D program involves a series of complementary sub-programs designed to deliver targeted outcomes. Cross-cutting support and engineering sub-programs will support a suite of intervention-focused teams.

RRAP R&D Program structure. Six cross-cutting science and engineering sub-programs, supporting six intervention sub-programs.

The R&D sub-programs work together:

  • The Engagement and Regulatory Frameworks Sub-Program facilitates and guides the interaction and engagement between the program, Traditional Owners, key stakeholders and regulators.
  • The Decision Support Sub-Program provides the framework upon which to assess different intervention options and R&D investment prioritisation and focus.
  • The Modelling and Ecological Intelligence and Risk Sub-Programs helps examine the functional benefits and risks of interventions, and consider aspects such as scale, efficacy and integration with other types of interventions that may be deployed in parallel. Ecological Intelligence refers to filling the ecological knowledge gaps required to reduce uncertainty in critical process understanding.
  • The Cooling and Shading; Rubble Stabilisation; Moving Corals; and Enhanced Corals, Treatments and Aquaculture Sub-Programs each consider a set of interventions, progressively eliminating infeasible options and developing interventions to investment-ready status.
  • The Early Phase Intervention Assessments Sub-Program conducts desktop reviews of new and emerging interventions to determine whether R&D investment is warranted.
  • The Cryopreserving Biodiversity Sub-Program develops specific enabling-capability to increase the rate of R&D in areas linked to annual coral spawning cycles. It may potentially enable productivity improvements in coral seeding interventions. It also provides a capability to biobank endangered Reef coral species for future breeding and re-deployment.
  • The Systems Engineering and Integrated Logistics Sub-Program guides the progressive refinement and development of each intervention concept design. It designs the integrated deployment systems needed for interventions to work together and develop shared infrastructure and systems.
  • The Automation Sub-Program develops technology to substantially increase the efficacy and productivity of interventions developed. Even small-scale interventions on the Great Barrier Reef are major undertakings due to the massive scale of the system.

Further details of the R&D program design principles are provided in R4: Research and Development Program.