CAPE was first established on 1 October 2004 as a way in which the University could address global issues involving open innovation, in partnership with companies of international importance. The CAPE Partner companies were strategically placed in the supply chain in orthogonal relationships without conflict of interest.
Operating under the original CAPE Strategic Partnership Agreement it provided a new form of joint university-industry research that was leading edge, vertically integrated and commercially relevant. In addition to the Partner companies, Carl Zeiss SMT was appointed as a CAPE Associate in the field of electronic imaging.
Under the terms of the Strategic Partnership Agreement, the first five year phase of CAPE was due to have ended on 30 September 2009, but, by mutual agreement between the CAPE Partners, the term was extended for a further six months until 31 March 2010. After that date, CAPE entered into a period of reconstruction and negotiation until the end of March 2011 with confirmed continued interest in the negotiation of a new Partnership Agreement from two of the original CAPE Partners, Alps Electric Limited and Dow Corning Corporation, as well as significant interest in future CAPE membership from other parties.