How to reinvent a countryRecent reports and policy initiatives, such as the Australian Government's new Industry Innovation and Competition Agenda, have drawn attention to Australia's ongoing struggle with translating new ideas into real world applications.
In this dossier, we report on these events and provide a comprehensive review of Australia's innovation performance compared to the rest of the world. ...read the dossier
Nurtured successThe $482.2 million over five years Entrepreneurs' Infrastructure Programme announced in the 2014 federal budget is taking shape, with a phased delivery of services having commenced in July 2014. ...read full story
If the scrapping of the nation's first carbon price mechanism sent a message that the new industry is in for a difficult ride, the recent Warburton Review of the Renewable Energy Target (RET) confirmed that the political wind coming from Canberra has changed direction.
Here we provide a broader update on recent developments in the sector, including a summary of the Warburton Review...read full story
Healthy investments...read full story
...and aging demandsAmong the various measures targeting special areas of medical research, the Australian Government's 2014-2015 federal budget included an additional $200 million for dementia research. ...read full story
Cartoon: NHMRC, modified from Belie Mellor.
In July, the NHMRC took another step towards addressing this with the launch of the Advanced Health Research and Translational Centre program....read full story
Being special...10 July 2014 - The Australian Government has formally approved a $35 million investment into Type 1 juvenile diabetes research, an initiative first announced in the 2014-2015 federal budget.
...read full story
Space to the future15 July - The Australian National University has officially opened the doors to its new space engineering infrastrucure, the Advanced Instrumentation and Technology Centre (AITC).
It is unique in Australia in that it provides for the engineering of space equipment right from the design stage through to the launch-pad ready stage....read full story
Champions leagueJuly/August 2014 - The ARC has awarded 16 new Australian Laureate Fellowships together worth $42 million, and 150 new Future Fellowships together worth $115 million. ...read full story
Big picture dollars
Northern dreamingThe Australian Government's Green Paper On Developing Northern Australia, released in June, envisions significant opportunities for an economically already thriving region of Australia, with the resources industry at the core of its economic expansion.
The Green Paper is part of a process towards a broader policy framework for the region's ongoing economic development, which the Government plans to detail in a White Paper within the next 12 months. To this end, it has also formed a National Strategic Partnership with the governments of Western Australia, Queensland and the Northern Territory....read full story
All you need is IPIP Australia's second update* on the state of our intellectual property system reports that the number of Australian patent applications continues to grow strongly, up by 13% in 2013.
Demand for design rights grew by 7%, plant breeder's rights by 9%, while trade mark filings remained fairly steady....read full story
Born to be wide10 June 2014 - Somewhat overshadowed by the suprise decision of Germany to pull out of the Square Kilometre Array Project, the CSIRO reported promising test results from its Australian SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP) telescope.
...while even the sky has a limitEarlier in June the German Government informed the SKA director-general of its intention to end the country's SKA membership by June 2015.
...read full story
Industrious hubs12 June - The Australian Government announced that seven new Research Hubs will be created through grants totalling almost $24 million over the life of the projects.
Image: University of Newcastle
The funding is provided under the ARC administered Industrial Transformation Research Program scheme, a legacy programme of the former Gillard Government and established as a component of the ARC Linkage Program. The programme also includes the Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, for which, however, so far no funding round has been advertised for 2014....read full story
... and collaborative splurge27 June - A new round of grants under the ARC Linkage Projects scheme will provide a total of $88.2 million for 251 collaborative research projects. ...read full story
Supercritical power03 June 2014 - A collaborative research project between the CSIRO and solar energy firm Abengoa Solar has reported the highest level of 'supercritical steam' ever produced using solar energy.
The Advanced Solar Steam Receiver Project achieved a steam pressure of 23.5 megapascals at temperatures of up to 570 degrees Celcius using the two solar thermal test plants at the CSIRO Energy Centre in Newcastle.
The ultimate goal of this research is the cost competitive production of baseload electricity through solar power....read full story
Digitised sanityThe nation's progress with the establishment of a Personally Controlled Electronic Health Record (PCEHR) is still marred by the complexity of the task, and some shortcomings in its implementation.
Yet, it is a very worthwhile effort to pursue, according to a review of the project commissioned by the Australian Government in 2013....read full story
To ehealth or not to ehealth?
However, This is assuming that there is no significant change in the way healthcare is administered.
The expectation is that the emerging health information technologies (HIT), such as personal e-health records, will significantly reduce the incidence of human errors and increase efficiency in the administration of healthcare.
But this hope is not uniformly shared, with scepticism especially entrenched among health professionals....read full story
Explorative responsesAccording to the Canadian Fraser Institute 2013 survey of global business leaders, Australia is already one of the most attractive destinations for investments in the world, with WA even taking out the top spot (see story Sovereign reputation').
But the Australian Government is continuing to "restore investor confidence in Australia's economic workhorse" with the release of its interim response to the 22 recommendations of the Productivity Commission's (PC) Inquiry Report into Mineral and Energy Resource Exploration....read full story
...for offshore mannaNine new exploration permits potentially attracting more than $372 million in investment over the next six years have been awarded as part of Round 1 of the Australian Government's 2013 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release.
As can be explored in more detail in our infographic, all but one of the awarded permits are located in the Carnarvon, Browse and Bonaparte Basins offshore from Western Australia (including one within the Territory of Ashmore and Cartier Islands). The one exception, a permit located offshore Victoria in the Otway Basin, was awarded to Origin Energy Resources.
Stay away from bleeding heartsMay/June 2014 - Cyber security is becoming a pressing issue for Australian online users, and is a focus of the Australian Government's 2014 Stay Smart Online Week launched on 2 June 2014.
But as a report released by the CSIRO in May highlights, the challenge is emerging across all sectors of society as we increasingly rely on digital services, including public services such as patient health records and taxation data....read full story
...as a peak is in sightThe enormous growth in mobile service delivery through wireless communications requires available radiofrequency spectrum, for which demand could almost triple by 2020.
But because of practical limits, the radiofrequency spectrum is a limited resource. Consequently, there is the possibility that we are heading toward a 'spectrum crunch', and to overcome this challenge we will require new technologies and expanded infrastructure.
This is according to a new CSIRO report which canvasses a 'wireless' future where new digital services will have a pervasive impact on almost every aspect of our life. And the agency promotes its own Ngara technology platform as a tool to help prevent potential spectrum bottlenecks in rural and remote Australia....read full story
...with emerging non-fixation issuesThe current plan for a National Broadband Network includes around 8% or 1 million premises for which fixed line broadband technology is not an economically viable option.
Instead these premises will be serviced through fixed wireless technology or two satellites that are currently under construction.
By no means these are confined to remote or even regional Australia, but often are at the edge of cities, metro fringe areas and the outskirts of country towns.
In May, NBN Co released its redacted review of the progress made in the non-fixed line footprint, and identified substantial issues with the approach taken by the company....read full story
From clever back to lucky
or say it with Shakespeare: "Put out the light, then put out the light"14 May 2014 - The Australian Government has handed down its first budget which is to fix a budget 'emergency' that has so far not been recognised by any of the major international rating agencies.
Despite the promise of a targeted fund for medical research, for which funding is at present up to a hostile Senate, science and innovation in this country will be hit hard, with significant cuts across areas of research, education and training.
We provide here a budget wrap up on R&D and also explore in more detail a major claim underlying the budget: the existence of a budget emergency....read full story
Prior to the White Paper, the Climate Change Authority (CAA) published the final report of its Targets and Progress Review in February 2014. The report presents an alternative view on how Australia should proceed with its emissions reduction effort, while it is also providing factual context to the Government's new policy proposal.
And more recently, on 9 May 2014 the Government made its Emissions Reduction Fund Draft Legislation available for public comment. The main bill of this package is the Carbon Credits (Carbon Farming Initiative) Amendment Bill 2014, which essentially expands the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) to allow crediting of emissions across the Australian economy....read full story
Blowing with the windWind energy is in many countries the fastest growing renewable energy source, although its use is largely concentrated in Europe and the US.
In December 2013 highly densely populated Germany had 23,645 wind energy projects installed on land providing 33.729 megawatt of energy. But the industry is also experiencing rapid growth in India and China.
In Australia, which has vast wind energy resources, primarily in the western, south-western, southern and south-eastern coastal regions of the country, the industry has also seen a significant expansion. As previously reported, the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) Energy in Australia 2013 report estimates that by mid century wind energy could produce around 21% of Australia's electricity.
However, there are concerns that in Victoria planning restrictions and health concerns may have impacted on the industry. While this has led to the stalling of some projects, the State's 420 megawatt Macarthur Wind Farm, the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere, just became fully operational (January 2013) ...read full story
Productively connected on the run03 April 2014 - New research released by the Australian Communication and Media Authority (ACMA) revealed a link between Australia's mobile broadband connectedness and its productivity and overall economic growth.
Commissioned by ACMA and the Centre for International Economics, the Economic impacts of mobile broadband on the Australian economy, from 2006 to 2013 study surveyed 1,002 Australian businesses.
It found that in 2013 mobile broadband led to an estimated increase in Australia's economic activity of $33.8 billion, of which $26.5 billion was attributed to time savings for businesses using mobile broadband....read full story
Improving the rollout or putting the cart before the horse?09 April 2014 - An updated Statement of Expectations issued by the Australian Government to NBN Co ahead of an independent cost-benefit-analysis has received mixed responses from media commentators.
Earthly delightsAustralia's mining sector is in a process of transition, as new investments in projects are in decline while existing projects enter the production phase.
This is the overall message from the following report on recent developments, which also show that this does not equate to an end of the mining boom. Earnings from exported commodities are expected to increase driven by China's demand, especially for iron ore, and the commencing export of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG)....read full story
State-us Quo of R&DWe have put together a collection of stories that we consider, justified or not, more relevant on a regional level. They cover the months February to March 2014.
In future, these stories will also be accessible in our 'States' section....read STATE stories
Counterproductive helpersA new report from the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics (ABARES) has traced the history of agricultural policies in Australia.
It reveals how the deregulation of the sector and the removal of distorting producer support over the past decades led to strong agricultural productivity growth...read full story
The new funding totals $133 million for projects across five NHMRC schemes:
- 11 Program Grants worth a total of $101.6 million will support multi-disciplinary team-based research;
- 7 Partnership Project grants worth a total of $4.4 million will support collaborative research between researchers and policy makers...read full story
Renewed doubts17 February 2014 - The Australian Government has released the Terms of Reference for a review into the Renewable Energy Target (RET) scheme. By existing law a review of the RET is due in 2014.
The Government also announced the appointment of a four member independent review panel, which will be chaired by Dick Warburton. The panel will primarily consider the contribution of the RET in the reduction of emissions, its impact on electricity prices and energy markets, as well as its costs and benefits for the renewable energy sector, the manufacturing sector and Australian households.
The Government expects a report from the panel by the middle of this year for it to provide input into the Energy White Paper process....read full story
Big not welcome?In early 2013, the former Gillard Labor Government proposed to ammend the just 2 years earlier introduced R&D Tax Incentive for a more targeted support of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
It was part of the A Plan for Australian Jobs (APAJ) policy, through which the Government responded to the Smarter Manufacturing for a Smarter Australia report.
With the proposed amendments large companies with turnover of $20 billion or more would not longer be entitled to the non-refundable 40% R&D Tax offset.
Following the September 2013 election, the Government decided to proceed with this proposed tightening of elegibility to the R&D Incentive as part of the Tax Laws Amendment (Research and Development) Bill 2013...read full story
Mighty dancers21 February 2014 - The Australian Government has announced it will invest $186 million in the 16th round of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program.
The funding will go towards the establishment of three new CRCs, while also providing for the extension of four existing projects...read full story
How to play togetherAs the topics of modern research become ever more complex, scientists increasingly see the need for collaborative approaches across the usual boundaries of scientific expertise.
However, interdisciplinary work is not without challenges, as was recently highlighted in The Character of Interdisciplinary Research report which the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) released in January....read full story
Cheap readAustralia's clinical genomics research is set to gather further steam through the Garvan Institute's acquisition of Illumina's HiSeq X Ten Platform.
Garvan is is one of the first in the world to acquire the machine. Announced by Illumina in January, the HiSeq X Ten Platform can process around 20,000 genomes a year. And run at capacity, the current cost of $10,000 for the sequencing of a human genome could drop to an estimated $1,000 each.
The technological advance in the field has been tremendous. Just a decade ago the price tag for a sequence of a human genome was more than $1 billion, and the process took months. With the Illumina sequencer there is now a practical avenue available for the clinical translation of genomic medicine such as through routine analysis of cancer biopsies and people with genetic disorders. The technology is also expected to facilitate population-scale genomics research.
The HiSeq is located at Garvan's Kinghorn Centre for Clinical Genomics, and at present awaits clinical accreditation. It will then be accessible to clinicians and researchers who are interested in establishing a clinical service or exploring the sequencing of large cohorts.
Climate of change
Cloudy daysTwo recent studies led by researchers from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science at the University of New South Wales have contributed important new insight that will improve climate change projections.
Based on the current trajectory, the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is likely to double from preindustrial levels over the next 50 years.
Computer models simulating our future climate under such conditions have produced a broad spread of temperature scenarios that span from 1.5 to 5 degrees Celsius. This variance is largely due to differences in how clouds and their feedback on global climate are accounted for.
In a study published in Nature in January, Professor Steven C. Sherwood and coworkers report a mechanism for the formation of low-level clouds, which removes much of this uncertainty. However, the authors show that climate models that are correctly simulating this feedback tend to be constrained towards more severe future warming scenarios, indicating increases by at least 3 degrees Celsius with a doubling of CO2 in the atmosphere...read full story
And in February, a study led by Professor Matthew England and published in Nature Climate Change explained why, despite increasing atmospheric greenhouse gases (GHG), the global average surface air temperature has stayed more or less steady since 2001 - but is likely to significantly increase again in future...read full story
Hot optionsThe rising costs in electricity prices can be largely attributed to the need for investments in network infrastructure to meet peak power demands.
Thus an estimated $45 billion in electricity network infrastructure is expected for the period 2010 to 2015 alone.
Concentrating solar thermal power (CSP) could provide a cost competitive alternative to expensive network upgrades, according to a collaborative study funded by the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA)....read full story
Emitted futureIn December the Australian Government released a Green Paper on its new Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) initiative.
The ERF is the core component of the Government's Direct Action Plan, which aims to reduce emissions to 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.
To this end, the plan, which is modelled on the United Nations Clean Development Mechanism, will encourage low-cost and effective emissions reduction opportunities....read full story
Profitable uni-verseAccording to the Finance 2012: Financial Reports of Higher Education Providers, the 2012 operating revenue of Australia's 39 universities amounted to $25.2 billion, an increase by $6.6% from the previous year.
This included $24.6 billion for higher education activities, with the remainder earned from vocational education and training operations.
The bulk of the income was through funds from the Australian Government, which increased by 10.2% to $14.7 billion. Of this, $11 billion were provided through grants and $3.7 billion were from loans to students.
The reported operating expense of the 39 universities was $23.3 billion, of which employee benefits made up 56%, leaving an operating surplus of around $1.9 billion.
In 2012, the universities had assets valued at $59.5 billion, which were offset by $16.6 billion in liabilites, leaving a net asset position of $42.9 billion.
The funding will commence in 2014.
The 12 centres, which were selected from a pool of 22 proposals at a success rate of 54.5%, will collaborate with 106 organisations from 44 countries. This is expected to leverage more than $392.2 million in cash and in-kind support....read full story
Three off the hook17 December 2013 - With cuts to research on the horizon, the Australian Government's Mid-Year Economic and Fiscal Outlook (MYEFO) brought a redirection of funds towards three major fields of medical research: type 1 diabetes, dementia and tropical disease research. ...read full story
Its president Dr Ross Smith said that the cuts would further limit the capacity of these 'world class' grants, which already have a success rate of below 25%. Governments needed to set priorities for research but that priority setting was very different from political picking and choosing.
"Peer review is simply the best way of ensuring tax-payers dollars are invested in world class research every time."
Broad bandits seeking new directionThe Australian Government has followed up on the completion of a Strategic Review of the National Broadband Network with the release of data on the state of Australian broadband infrastructure.
The summary report on Broadband Availability and Quality Survey shows that 91% of Australian premises now have access to fixed line broadband.
Mobile broadband services through 3G and 4G technology can be accessed from 81% and 59% of premises, respectively, while all of Australia is covered by satellite broadband, although this type of service has a ceiling to the capacity of service delivery.
This still leaves some Australians with limited access to broadband services, but it appears that the quality of broadband connections may be a more pressing national issue.
Thus the delivery of broadband services to more than a third of Australian premises was found to be have peak download speeds of less than 9 mega bit per second (Mbps).
However, even with access to fast broadband it is not guaranteed that Australians actually participate in the 'Digital Age'. In fact, a study by the CSIRO and the Australian Centre for Broadband Innovation (ACBI) identified a significant 'broadband gap' with one in five adults not using the Internet at all and particularly smaller sized businesses showing low activity online.
The report raises the concern that a lack of certainty about the future rollout of Australia’s broadband infrastructure and the predominant focus on cost and scale rather than the potential benefits of next generation broadband are distracting from getting Australia prepared for the 'digital age'. Read full stories:
However, much less recognised is the amount of organic carbon stored in our oceans. So called 'blue carbon' initiatives try to change this. It includes the Blue Carbon research initiative by the GRID-ARENDAL centre, which supports the United Nations Environment Programme (see also our 2011 dossier 'Ocean Views')....read full story
One for allThe new Australian Government is in the process of streamlining the complex environmental approval process for offshore petroleum projects in Australian seas.
Following up on a key election promise, it aims for a 'one-stop shop' procedure in all Australian jurisdictions. In broad terms, this concerns maritime zones that lie within coastal waters of states and the Northern Territory (up to 3 nautical mile off the coast) and Commonwealth waters (3 to 200 nautical miles from the coast).... read full story
...going fishing (for oil)23 October 2013- The Australian Government expects a record investment of around $580 million over the next three years as a result of Round 2 of its 2012 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release (see also our previous story Hydrocarbonic investments).
Over a six year period the total investment could be up to $730 million, according to a statement released by Industry Minister Ian Macfarlane.
Around $540 million guaranteed investments stem from three proposals that target a new oil and gas exploration area offshore South Australia in the Great Australian Bight (see 'Tough Bight to chew on' in our previous story). The sites of exploration are approximately 200 to 300 kilometres west to south-west of Ceduna. The permits were awarded to Chevron Australia New Venture Pty Ltd (2) and a joint venture of Murphy Australia Oil Pty Ltd and Santos Offshore Pty Ltd (1).
A further two permits are offshore Western Australia and were awarded to a venture of Woodside Energy Limited and Mitsui E&P Australia Pty Ltd, and to Shell Development (Australia) Proprietary Limited.
Seven further areas released did not receive compliant bids, with one further bid still under consideration.
Hot air action16 October 2013 - The Australian Government released its Terms of Reference for the development of an Emissions Reduction Fund (ERF) in the lead up to a Green Paper due in December 2013.
It will be followed by a White Paper in early 2014 for the ERF to take effect from July 2014, concurrent with the repeal of the carbon price legislation.
The ERF will be a major component of the Direct Action Plan initiative that is to replace the current carbon price legislation (A respective draft legislation package was released on 15 October 2013)....read full story
Oh yes, Minister
With a new Government still to find its way, many key science and research programs of its predecessor will be re-evaluated.
This includes initiatives supporting the development of renewable energies.
On 21 November the House of Representatives passed a package of 7 bills with the primary objective to repeal the current carbon price mechanism and the, at the conservative side of politics, unloved Climate Change Authority. The legislation is now to be debated in the Senate.
With its proposed legislative changes, the Government also wants to remove the $10 billion Clean Energy Finance Corporation and scrap $450 from the $3 billion the previous Government had allocated for the Australian Renewable Energy Agency. In addition, a $370 million ARENA was to receive in 2014-15 will be deferred to 2019-20.
The agency will still have a sizable funding of $2.5 billion and, according to a statement released in November, its funding vehicles - the Emerging Renewables Program, the Accelerated Step Change Initiative, the Community and Regional Renewable Energy Program and the Regional Australia's Renewables & Industry Program - will continue accepting proposals....read full story
Stemming the challengeThe clinical scope for regenerative medicine is undoubtedly great, with much of the expectations focussed on stem cell therapies.
However, for most applications envisioned for human embryonic stem cells (ESCs), and more recently human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and mesenchymal stem cells, 'potential' may still most accurately describe the state of development.
Here we trace the progression of new stem cell therapies into clinical practice, in Australia and abroad.
In a recent review covering the translation of stem cell discoveries, one of Australia's most distinguished experts in the field, Professor Alan Trounson, writes that there is great momentum in the basic research across the breadth of potential applications.
However, "the spectrum of translational studies is rather limited"....read full story
Dollars for the scholarsOctober/November 2013 - Australia's major research funding agencies, the National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Australian Research Council (ARC), have awarded research grants and fellowships worth a total of over $1 billion dollar.
The 2013 funding round of three NHMRC research support schemes and five fellowship schemes will support 963 new projects with $551 million.
This year the agency received over 5000 applications for NHMRC Project Grants, NHMRC Partnership Project grants, European Union Collaborative Research Grants and NHMRC fellowships. From this pool of applications only around 19% were selected for funding.
However, as is explored in more detail in the infographic, the success rate of organisations varied significantly....read full story
Better safe than sorryIP Australia has released its Australian Intellectual Property Report 2013, the first report in a new annual series on the state of Australia's Intellectual Property System.
What makes this report an interesting read is that it is not just providing data on trade mark and patent filings. Within the context of an analysis of Australia's IP activity it also delivers a well rounded review of Australia's position as a trading nation.
A central message is that for advanced industrialised economies it is innovation, not production, that drives growth. It is now less important where products are assembled than who owns key resources and new ideas, for which IP is a key. Thus, the iPhone is wholly assembled in China but for just 2% of the overall profit.
Australia's investment in ideas as a percentage of GDP is below that of other developed countries, especially innovation leaders such as the US, Sweden and Switzerland. It has also not yet made the important shift towards so called intangible assets (R&D, design, organisational expertise and branding) which are important facilitators of new product development and productivity improvements.
For example, in the US the intagible stock of capital is equal to 91% of tangible assets, whereas in Australia it is only 4%....read full story
... and invented protectionThe Advisory Council on Intellectual Property (ACIP) has provided further pieces to the ongoing process of overhauling our patent system.
At the end of August, it released an options paper for its review of the innovation patent system. It follows on from an issues paper released in 2011.
In addition to this review, the ACIP has also started a review of Australia's designs system, for which it released an issues paper in September 2013.
Australia's system for innovation patents primarily targets small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). It was established in 2001 as a form of second tier patent protection, which can be obtained relatively quickly and cheaply with a lower inventive threshold than is set out for standard patents.
In fact, the threshold for standard patents has just been further raised through the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment (Raising the Bar) Act 2012.
The idea behind innovation patents is that SMEs can protect incremental inventions on the way to a marketable product. However, there are concerns that by providing similar protection levels to standard patents the system also opened the door to the unjustified blocking of new technologies, particularly in the information technology industry....read full story
Fly like a BERD6 Sept 2013 - In 2011-12, Australian businesses continued to increase their spending on R&D (BERD).
However, as a proportion of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) spending decreased slightly from 1.28% to 1.24%.
According to new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), BERD was $18.3 billion in 2011-12, an increase of 2% from the previous year, of which 96% was also funded by the business sector.
As in previous years, almost all of the funds were spent in the research fields of Engineering (62%) and ICT (30%), mainly undertaking experimental development (62% of BERD) and applied research (32% of BERD). Typical for Australia, only around 1% of BERD was directed towards pure basic research.
Despite the overall increase of BERD, Queensland and Victoria reported a significant downturn in spending - down $180 million and $141 million, respectively. This was offset by large increases in Western Australia (up $320 million and South Australia up $215 million)....read full story
...with the right performance enhancerThe potential of innovation for improving business performance has been highlighted in a recent report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
The Selected Characteristics of Australian Business, 2011-12 broadly covers data from the agency's 2011-12 Business Characteristics Survey which asked businesses about their performance compared to the previous year, which innovations they undertook during the period and their use of ICT.
Across all relevant indicators, including productivity, respondends indicated markedly better performances when they also engaged in a form of innovation activity (see figure). Thus, innovation-active businesses were more than twice as likely to report an increase in productivity (34%) than businesses that were not innovation-active.
It has to be noted, though, that the results do not discern how innovation-activity relates to performance improvements....read full story
Strategic desertSeptember 2013 - There is expressed discomfort within the R&D community that for the first time since 1931 an Australian Government does not include a Minister dedicated to science and research.
As it stands, the newly appointed Minister for Industry, Ian Macfarlane, will have some responsibility for R&D and innovation, including for the CSIRO.
But the emerging picture suggests that science policy will now be even more fragmented across government portfolios than in the past.
In light of this we revisit a report Australia's Chief Scientist Professor Ian Chubb released in July.
The report Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) in the National Interest: A Strategic Approach established that while there is considerable public investment in the STEM sciences in Australia, the returns are not optimal and urgently require a more strategic approach....read full story
Dear pie sought in the skyNew funding of $26 million over 6 years by the Western Australian Government launches the next phase of the International Centre of Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).
image: John Goldsmith
The Government announced its ongoing support in its August budget (see 'It's budget time').
ICRAR was established in 2009 as a joint venture between Curtin University and the University of Western Australia.
International in its scope, the research institute was set up to create a collaborative environment for scientists and engineers working with industry on projects related to the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) project.
In May 2012, the Australian-New Zealand partnership was tasked to host components of the SKA telescope, in a split arrangement with South Africa.
The project is to operate over a wide range of frequencies, from less than 100 megahertz (MHz) to several gigahertz (GHz). In preparation, the project partners set up 3 major precursor projects, the South African MeerKAT telescope, and in Australia the CSIRO-led SKA Pathfinder (ASKAP), launched last year as well as the $51 million Murchison Widefield Array (MWA), constructed by an international consortium of universities....read full story
Marinating leader17 August 2013 Associate Professor Tim Ward will lead the 4-year South Australian research program on the Great Australian Bight.
Announced in April (see 'Taking a Bight' for details),
the $20 million Great Australian Bight Collaborative Research Science
program by the CSIRO, Marine Innovation Southern
Australia (MISA) and BPproject will research the
Bight's ecosystems, marine resources and socio-economic importance.
Light playJuly 2013 - The Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing (IPAS) has opened its new $92 million headquarters at the University of Adelaide.
'The Braggs' was partly funded through a $29 million grant from the Australian Government and will house scientists working with photonics and soft glass optical fibre.
IPAS follows on from the university's former Centre for Expertise in Photonics, which conducted research into the generation and control of light. Led by Professor Tanya Monro, its successor now pursues a cross-disciplinary approach to improve measurement and sensing technology in a close relationship with industry partners.
The potential applications of IPAS research spread across a broad spectrum of areas, including defence, manufacturing, health and the environment. For example, current projects include a new sensor to detect early-stage gastric cancer, and the development of optical fibres that identify corrosion in military planes. (The IPAS was featured in an IN FOCUS article in our ARDRmagazine 12-09 issue).More information:: www.adelaide.edu.au/ipas
One direction: Asia08 July 2013 - A new National Centre for Asia Capability is to address a critical need of corporate Australia for an Asia capable workforce.
Set up as a national program it will combine the expertise of government, business and universities to provide Asia focused training programs, research and the development of regional networks
It is the first of its kind in the world and follows a key recommendation in the 2012 report of the Asialink Taskforce for an Asia Capable Workforce.
The Australian Government announced funding of $36 million towards the project, which will be administrated by the University of Melbourne's Asialink and include the University of New South Wales as a partner organisation.More information: www.unimelb.edu.au
Hot largesse in the making31 July 2013 - The construction of the largest solar power station in the southern hemisphere will start from January 2014, after the Australian Renewable Energy Agency(ARENA) reached financial close with AGL Energy Limited (AGL).
image: AGL/First Solar
The project to be established across 2 sites in NSW will have a combined capacity of 155 megawatt, 15 times larger than any other solar power station in Australia.
The total costs of the construction are estimated at $450 million, of which $166.7 million will be from ARENA with a further $64.9 million provided by the NSW Government. The project will also benefit from $40.7 million from the Education Investment Fund which will fund solar power research by project partners, the University of Queensland (UQ) and the University of New South Wales (UNSW)....read full story
Traceable fortunesA recent statement by CSIRO suggests the agency is making headway in a development that could considerably boost the potential rewards of gold miners.
In a pilot study CSIRO conducted with Canadian firm Mevex a new gamma-activation analysis (GAA) technology was 2-3 times more accurately detecting gold than the industry's standard chemical 'fire assay'.
By scanning mineral samples with high-energy x-rays, the technology was able to detect gold ore below a threshold of 1 gram per tonne of rock. This could facilitate the recovery of otherwise discarded traces of gold present in mineral samples.
Each year, Australia produces gold worth a total of around $10 billion. Yet, according to CSIRO, a gold processing plant typically recovers only between 65%-85% of ore present in mined rock. Just a few percentages of improved yield could amount to hundreds of million of dollars worth of additional mining revenue.
As pointed out by project leader Dr James Tickner, the new technology could also be cheaper and more sustainable. GAA can be set up in an automated process, while chemical analysis involves the sending of samples to a central lab. With GAA there is also no need for the use of heavy metals, such as lead, in the analysis of samples.
CSIRO is now searching for a suitable commercial partner to implement a full-scale facility in Australia, which could be up and running in 2-3 years time.
If successful, GAA may in future also be adapted to the detection of other high-value metals, including silver, lead, zinc, tin, copper and the platinum group metals.More information: www.csiro.au
Cruising onshore01 August 2013 - The $37 million National Sea Simulator (SeaSim) has opened its doors at the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS).
Located at Cape Ferguson south of Townsville the facility is close to quality seawater and at a distance to urban population. According to the AIMS, these are ideal local conditions for the $37 million initiative, which is to simulate ocean conditions and the potential impacts of natural events and human activities....read full story
Horizons to the future30 July 2013 - Monash University has launched its $175 million New Horizons Centre.
The new research hub at the Clayton Innovation Precinct is co-funded by the Australian Government, Monash and the CSIRO with the objective to advance Australia's manufacturing capabilities and facilitate collaborative research across disciplines and departmental, faculty and intstitutional boundaries....read full story
It's one world25 Jul 2013 - The CSIRO has launched its new Biosecurity Flagship.
It will run with an annual budget of $30 million and draw on CSIRO's extensive expertise in biosecurity research. This includes recent developments such as an equine Hendra virus vaccine and the delivery of a a biological control of the silverleaf whitefly, one of the world's most invasive pests.
The Flagship places a strong emphasis on developing a One Health (formerly One Medicine) approach to improve the response to emerging biosecurity threats.
The One Health strategy is a global interdisciplinary initiative that aims to integrate human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental science. It emerged from the understanding that human health, animal health and the health of ecosystems are interdependent....read full story
XY still the norm09 July 2013 - The Australian Research Council (ARC) has awarded 17 Australian Laureate Fellowships.
Worth a total of $47 million, they support national and international scientist working in research fields that range from improved child health, language learning, energy from seabed soils, to studies on bacteria.
The only women in the elite circle of eminent scientists are Professor Glenda Sluga from the University of Sydney, who was awarded the Kathleen Fitzpatrick Australian Laureate Fellowship, and Professor Tanya Monro from the University of Adelaide, who received the Georgina Sweet Australian Laureate Fellowship.
However, the apparent gender inequality was not based on a lower success rate of female applicants but instead reflects that only 14 of the 112 applicants were women....read full story
What do we really want30-08-2013 - Can we define the progress of our society more comprehensively than just by how we fare economically?
A final project report released by the Australian Council of Learned Academies (ACOLA) and VicHealth is a first step to provide a sound scientific basis to answer this question. The report covers a pilot of the Australia’s Progress in the 21st Century (AP21C) project, in which ACOLA and VicHealth collaborated with the Australian National Development Index Limited (ANDI). Further partners in the project were the Australian Conservation Foundation (ACF), the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS), the Foundation for Young Australians (FYA) and the Young and Well Cooperative Research Centre.
To date, the widely used proxy for the state of a country's progress is its Gross Domestic Product (GDP). It is easily measured and compared. Nevertheless, it becomes increasingly clear that broad economic indicators fall short of capturing the true wellbeing of a society, notwithstanding that they are retrospective rather than forward looking....read full story
Fissionary outlookAustralia is blessed with abundant renewable energy, including wind, solar, ocean waves and geothermal.
It is also the world's third largest supplier of uranium for use in electricity generating nuclear power stations. With this large domestic access to fuel source, electricity generation through nuclear power could be an obvious option.
Yet, despite the potential of nuclear power stations to produce electricity largely emissions free, it has not been at the forefront of public debate, and was not an issue raised in the lead up to the election.
The Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE) has recently called for the issue to be put back on the national agenda. The organisation says that Australia has a moral responsibility to debate how its uranium is used and disposed of.
...read full story
Super-flops at ANU31-07-2013 - The National Computational Infrastructure (NCI) high performance computing centre has opened at the Australian National University (ANU) with the launch of its $100 million supercomputer Raijin.
Running at 1.2 petaflops (floating point operations per second) when performing at its peak, Raijin is Australia's fastest supercomputer and thus a major addition to the nation's rapidly advancing computing capacity....read full story
...for mining and disasters09-07-2013 -The National Computational Infrastructure supercomputer will be the backbone of a partnership between CSIRO, Geoscience Australia and AuScope developing a national integrated geoscience network.
Visualisation and spatial information storage software as well as 'virtual laboratories' operating in the cloud will support the project, which is to provide better access to Australia's geoscience data....read full story
Born to be wildJune 2013 - The Tasmanian Forests Agreement (TFA) passed into law on 30 April 2013.
It is hoped to mark the beginning of a more sustainable timber industry in the State, after a long protracted struggle between conservationists and forest industry.
The Royal Ascend of the Act also fullfills a requirement of the2011 Tasmanian Forests Intergovernmental Agreementwhich stipulates a cooperation between the Australian and Tasmanian Governments in an effort to transform the State's ailing economy.
Over $200 million of federal financial assistance can now flow into an Economic Diversification Fund and will primarily target projects in the areas Tourism, Dairy, Aquaculture, Horticulture, Forestry and Energy....read full story
Patent power to the Crown26-06-2013-In June, the Intellectual Property Laws Amendment Bill 2013 passed the House of Representatives and is now before the Senate.
Healthy money going southThe Australian Government has provided $40 million for a new South Australian Centre for Cancer Biology (CCB) facility.
youtube video published by DPTI South Australia
The 16 research teams of the centre are currently located within SA Pathology but with a recent partnership between the University of South Australia and SA Pathology the centre will now also become a key component of the State's new Health & Biomedical Research Precinct.
The precinct is a major investment in health and biomedical research in the State. Its key infrastructures include a new Royal Adelaide Hospital, funded with $2.1 billion by the State, and the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute , which received federal and state investments of $200 million and $79 million, respectively.
In addition to the CCB funding, the Australian Government is investing a further $60 million in another key project of the precinct, the Integrated Clinical School facility by the University of Adelaide.
Getting the priorities right21-06-2013 - The Australian Research Committee has followed up on one of the actions detailed in its National Research Investment Plan released at the end of last year.
In June it announced a set of 15 strategic research priorities, which are to drive investment in areas of immediate and critical importance to Australia. They will supersede the National Research Priorities (NRPs), which have been discontinued....read full story
Hydrocarbonic investments17-06-2013 - Australia's petroleum industry is a major contributor to our national wealth.
According to the figure by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association (APPEA), Australia's trade balance in petroleum products is negative since 2003-04
However, we are net importers of crude oil and refined petroleum products as production is declining while domestic demand, particularly for transport fuel, is increasing.
Since 2003-04, our balance of trade in petroleum products has been negative, as illustrated in a figure by the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, and the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics recently reported in its Australian Petroleum Statistics that in 2012-13 the total export value of Australian petroleum products was around $28 billion while the value of imports was around $40 billion.
However, there is a general understanding that Australia needs to increase its effort in petroleum exploration. Here we cover recent developments related to this crucial industry.... "read full story
Manufactured board14-06-2013 - The Australian Government has announced the board of the new Manufacturing Precinct.
Peak-less into the futureApril-June 2013 - Early last year the ARDR reviewed the emerging advanced biofuels industry, both on a domestic and global level.
Both companies have recently received $5.4 and $4.4 million, respectively, through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency's (ARENA) Advanced Biofuels Investment Readiness Program.
...read full story
Sharing the gap07-06-2013- ARENA has established a new $60 million SHARE (Supporting High-value Australian Renewable Energy) initiative, which from 1 July will accept industry applications for projects that aim to close the knowledge gap in 3 priority areas. ...read full story
Under one umbrellaThe Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) and CSIRO are joining forces in an agreement that covers a broad range of technologies.
These include horizon scanning and emerging technologies, manufacturing technologies, advanced technologies, advanced materials, intelligent processing, energy storage, autonomous systems, sensors and bio-technology.
Under the alliance Australia's largest publicly funded organisations will also share professional development training programs for staff, undertake staff exchanges and joint community outreach activities and share infrastructure including participation in each other's innovation precincts.
More information: www.csiro.au; see also DSTO's 5 year strategy covered in Facing defensive prospects
It's budget timeMay-August-2013 - Over recent months Australian governments have delivered their 2013-14 budgets in an ongoing difficult global financial environment.
We here report on the federal budget as well as on state budgets from the Victorian, Queensland, South and Western Australian Governments.
...read full story
Economic abyss in sight?Australia's economy is increasingly dependent on its mining industry but how long will the current boom be able to prop up the domestic economy?
Just a few years ago it was believed to be lasting, possibly for decades to come. But the tides have turned with mega projects either cancelled or delayed, such as the $36 billion Browse LNG project (Woodside), the $30 billion Outer Harbour Development at Port Hedland (BHP Billiton) and the $20 billion Olympic Dam Expansion (BHP Billiton).
A report by the Bureau of Resources and Energy Economics (BREE) covering the six months to April 2013 shows that the stock of investments in committed resources and energy projects has indeed plateaued, albeit on record levels at about $268 billion....read full story
Charged changes30-05-2013 - The Future Grid Cluster was launched in Sydney to develop an analytical framework for the most cost effective integration of renewable energy sources and technologies into Australia's electricity grid.
Funded with $13 million over 3 years, the project is a research collaboration between the CSIRO and the universities of Sydney, Newcastle, Queensland and New South Wales.....read full story
Heads firmly in the cloud29-05-2013 - The cloud is emerging as a major way of delivering a wide range of ICT services such as the external storage of data and the provision of processing power on external web servers.
- quickly and cheaply scale up or down;
- share computer resources;
- access services from multiple devices;
- access capacity on demand; and
- easily meter the consumption of services.
Can we put it on their table?25-05-2013 - With the release of Australia's first National Food Plan the Australian Government has provided a potential framework for Australia's agricultural industries for the coming decade.
The plan delineates the Government's policy position for the future of the sector, and sets out 16 goals to 2025.
Only months out from a general election, it is uncertain to what extent the plan will be implemented but, together with other recent reports on this issue, it does provide a coherent perspective on the broader context and the mix of challenges and opportunities that face the nation's food producing industries.
Earlier in May, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) presented a 5 year outlook in its Agricultural Commodities: March Quarter 2013 report that suggests the agricultural sector will need to lift its innovation performance to return to productivity growth levels required to deliver on increasing global demands for food. ...read full story
Regional boost10--5-2013 - Announced in the federal budget, Charles Sturt University will receive $5.9 million from the Australian Government to build a Food, Soil and Water Research Centre. As part of a new $40 million science precinct, the Port Macquarie campus, the centre will address local as well as global issues.
It is planned to be developed by 2015, in partnership with the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council, and expected to cost a total of $8 million.
More information :http://minister.innovation.gov.au
Fracklustre advances16-04-2013 - The Australian Government released a discussion paper that aims to improve how companies monitor greenhouse gases during the exploration and production of coal seam gas.
These include the use of hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' in CSG production. There is now some evidence that fracking may lead to more emissions than, for example, conventional CSG extraction techniques.
The proposed amendments to the current rules for fugitive emissions estimates, which are specified by the National Greenhouse and Energy Reporting (Measurement) Determination 2008, are in line with new requirements in the US, which were introduced by the US Environmental Protection Agency in 2011 ...read full story
Partners in healthOver the past months, the NHMRC released several announcements that relate to its NHMRC Partnership for Better Health initiative.
Established to better translate research into health policy, the initiative has two components - the Partnership Project scheme which supports investigator driven specific projects and the Partnership Centres, which are broader in focus with teams of researchers and decision-makers together addressing multiple objectives.
The themes of each centre is negotiated by the Knowledge Broker (at present Professor Philip Davies) with co-funding partners.
According to NHMRC information, there are currently two agreed themes: a Partnership Centre that is to deal with cognitive and related functional decline in older people, and a Partnership Centre addressing perspectives on preventing lifestyle-related chronic health problems.
The partners in the $25 million centre include the NHMRC and the several NGOs including the Brightwater Care Group (WA), HammondCare (NSW), Helping Hand Aged Care (SA) and Alzheimer's Australia.
The new centre will bring together consumers, researchers and aged care providers in a research program that will be led by chief investigator Associate Professor Susan Kurrle,and is driven by the needs of the health sector.
Dollars for healing buddies10-04-2013 - The Australian Government will provide $7.9 million for 11 Partnerships for Better Health - Partnership Projects, which will be jointly funded by the NHMRC and partners including Commonwealth and State agencies, hospitals, medical research institutes, and patient advocacy groups.
Infectious collaborations10-04-2013 - The Australian Government has also announced a new medical research partnership with the Government of Singapore to jointly fund the work of five research teams based in both countries.
The projects will address three of the most infectious diseases in the Asia-Pacific region - tuberculosis, dengue fever and influenza.
The funding is provided through the NHMRC and Singapore's Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR).
Participating Australian research institutions include the University of Melbourne, Monash University, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the Macfarlane Burnet Institute for Medical Research and Public Health, the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory and Melbourne Health.
Healthy system with gaps in translation05-04-2013 - The Australian Government has released the Strategic Review of Health and Medical Research - Better Health through Resesearch.
Chaired by Simon McKeon, the review panel reached the overarching conclusion that Australia's health care system performs well by international standards - only Japan, Spain and Italy achieve higher life expectancy at lower cost.
Nevertheless, there is an insufficient connection between health and medical research (HMR) but calls and health care services delivery.For example, the panel cites a recent CareTrack Australia report according to which around 43% of Australians do not receive appropriate, evidence-based healthcare.
Laying out a 10 year strategy, the panel details 21 recommendations that aim for a better integration of HMR into all aspects of the healthcare system.
Major points include that current HMR investment should be optimised and be boosted with additional competitive programs that could be accessed by a broader range of researchers than current programs. Measures to improve research capacity in the health sector include support for initially 100, and over a 10 year period up to 1,000 research grants for health professionals...read full story
Prolific targets01-02-2013 - In February, the Australian Government announced 38 grants worth total of $10.6 million for research projects targeting cancer, including the understanding of genetic variants of cancers, improved support for carers, and research into improved treatments.
Facing defensive prospects12-04-2013 - In April, the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO) launched a 5 year strategic plan in the face of a changing global security and Defence environment.
These external challenges coincide with a tightening resource environment. Set out as a guide for the organisation's future research, collaborations and business activities, the paper identifies ten key strategic initiatives and related actions comprised in four broader themes ...read full story
...well fed04-04-2013 - The University of Tasmania has launched the Centre for Food Innovation (CFI) in Launceston.
image: Australian Defence Force
The centre was established as a tripartite partnership between the university, the CSIRO and the Defence Science and Technology Organisation (DSTO).
According the university, it is a 'groundbreaking collaboration' that will link Tasmania to national food research networks and initiate joint research projects.
The facility will not only promote added-value food production for regional Tasmania but also enhance the food science and technology capabilities of the DSTO Scottsdale facility, which is currently upgraded with $18.7 million from the Australian Government.
Research driven by the CFI will, for example, aim to extend the shelf life of food using innovative processing and packaging technologies and to develop technologies for new specialised foods that could find dual use in Defence and civilian markets.
Potential collaborative partners of the CFI include the Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture, Australian Maritime College logistics, the School of Human Life Sciences and the Sensing Tasmania (Sense-T) network. The centre will also work closely with the Food Precinct as part of a national food network.
Clean competition02-04-2013 - A key initiative of the Clean Technologies Supplier Advocate and the Supplier Advocate Program, the Australian Clean Technologies Competition, was launched in early April.
It is the third since the initiative commenced in 2011.
Selected applicants will receive mentoring from some of the country's leading advisors on commercialisation, business modelling, funding solutions and successful techniques for pitch delivery. In addition, finalists will also be assisted in participating in export markets and participate in a Government-led trade mission in Asia.
Entries close on 3 June. For further information visit www.cleantechcomp.com.au.
Spacious ambition09-04-2013 - Australia's first space policy was launched at ANU's Stromlo Observatory in early April.
From 1 July 2013 there will also be a new Space Coordination Office which, as part of the Department of Industry, Innovation, Climate Change, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, will coordinate and showcase Australia's domestic civilian space activities.
The Australian Government has increasingly recognised the importance of space research, including through the $40 million over 4 years Australian Space Research Program and the creation of a Science Policy Unit. This renewed interest is also founded in the increasing economic contribution of space capabilities, such as satellites.
According to the Minister Assisting for Industry and Innovation, Senator Kate Lundy, Satellite imagery alone has added around $3.3 billion to GDP in 2010. And positioning technologies such as GPS added an estimated $1 billion to GDP in 2008, which is likely to increase to between $6 and $12 billion by 2030. NewSat, an Australian satellite communications company just completed a $600 million financing package for its Jabiru 1 satellite. And the NBN project includes an investment of nearly $2 billion in satellites that will provide remote Australia with access to the Internet.
The Satellite Utilisation Policy now released closely follows the Principles for a National Space Industry Policy, which it now replaces as a statement of Australia's objectives and direction for civilian space activities....read full story
Sinking feelings20-02-2013 - According to a three-year study recently published by CSIRO scientists and international coworkers in the journal Biogeosciences, the Australian landscape soaked up around one third of the carbon emitted by fossil fuels in Australia over the past 20 years.
It also established that emissions from exported fossil fuels greatly exceed fossil fuel emissions from within the country. Thus in 2009-2010 Australia exported 2.5 times more carbon in fossil fuels than was emitted from fossil fuels burned within Australia.
The Australian Terrestrial Carbon Budget project is one of 14 regional and continental studies around the world that are part of a key initiative by the Global Carbon Project, the Regional Carbon Cycle Assessment and Processes (RECCAP)initiative. Through RECCAP the GCP aims to establish the mean carbon balance of large regions of the globe at the scale of continents and large ocean basins, including their component fluxes.
In their analysis for Australia, the scientists to into account account fossil fuel emissions within Australia and through exported fuel, and also how much land carbon is either lost or gained as the 'breathing' of plants and soil responds to variable climate and rising CO2 concentrations. It also considered effects of fires, erosion and deforestation. The work established that over the past 20 years rising atmospheric CO2 caused a 15% increase in plant production compared to pre-industrial times, whereby the fertilising effect was found to be larger in warmer regions of Australia.
In the period 1990-2011, the average take-up of carbon plants was 2.2 billion tonnes, significantly more than the average uptake over the past 100 years, which reflects the fertilising effect of atmospheric CO2. But for any individual year the amount was highly variable. In fact, in wet (high-growth) years, the Australian bioshpere absorbed more carbon from the atmosphere than the total of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, while in dry years, nearly the same amount was again released back to the atmosphere.
Most of the absorbed carbon (56%) was found to be on account of grassy vegetation, dominant in the dry and savannah regions, while woody vegetation accounted for the remainder (44%).
Taking a Bight09 April 2013 - The Great Australian Bight, off the central and western portions of the South Australian coastline, will be the target of a unique $20 million science program by BP Development Australia (BP), CSIRO and Marine Innovation Southern Australia (MISA), a consortium of a number of South Australian institutions*.
Announced in April, the project will be undertaken over four years.
It is one of a few whole-of-ecosystem studies of the marine environment and the potential resources in the Bight, with the broader objective of supporting sustainable development in the region.It will target the following 7 broader themes:
- Pelagic Ecosystem and Environmental Drivers
- Benthic Biodiversity
- Ecology of Iconic Species and Apex Predators
- Petroleum Geology and Geochemistry
- Socio-economic Analysis
- Integration and Modelling
The research results will be available to stakeholders interested in the region through publication in science journals, literature and published reports.
*MISA is a collaborative consortium of South Australia's major marine research institutions, including SARDI (South Australian Research and Development Institute), the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the South Australian Museum.
Disastrous foresight14-03-2013 - The University of Melbourne, National ICT Australia (NICTA) and IBM Research-Australia are collaborating in the development of a next generation IT platform for improved disaster management - the Australia Disaster Management Platform (ADMP).
The ADMP will process vast amounts of geo-spatial and infrastructure information from multiple data sets to create real-time practical information streams on disaster events. This will allow users to become aware of emergency situations in real-time. The platform will also be used for the development of simulation and optimisation models within available and changing constraints.
Patently friendsChina and Australia are forging closer ties on many levels, including intellectual property.
The key objectives of the Raising the Bar reforms are to raise the quality of patents granted in Australia and to more closely align the inventive step standard required for Australian patents with international standards. In effect, Australia's patentability test is now similar to other large IP Offices, including that of China, and hence it is more straightforward for Australian technology exporters to secure a patent in China
...read full story
Diverse knowledge gap03-04-2013 - The new Centre for Biodiversity Analysis was launched in Canberra as a partnership between the CSIRO and the Australian National University (ANU).
According to the centre's director Professor Craig Moritz (ANU), its work will aim to improve our understanding about Australia's biodiversity and help governments and non-governmental organisations to translate policy into action.
map: Australian Government Department of Environment;
image: CSIRO, Marie Davies
Productive challenges25-03-2013 - While most sectors in Australia have experienced slowing but still positiv growth of productivity, in the mining sector multifactor productivity declined by around one third in the decade to 2010-11.
Thus a decrease in productivity can also reflect factors such as the depletion of ore deposits, as ore grades or other aspects of resource quality declines as more inputs are needed to produce a marketable product. Similar trends are observed in comparable resource rich countries such as Canada and the US.
Graph: BREE report: Productivity in the Australian Mining Sector, March 2013
But other factors may weigh in as well such as inefficiencies of vintage capital, output-input lags, the lumpy nature of mining investment, and high commodity prices that place a priority on rates of extraction rather than costs of extraction.
When adjusted for ore quality and capital lag effects, multifactor productivity grew in each state and sector as a result of both technical efficiency improvements and the scale of operations.
High-tech down under11-03-2013 - Ferra Engineering is one example of a successful technology exporting company that developed from the humble beginnings of a small family business, a two-man operation in 1992, that now employs more than 100 people.
The Brisbane based company specialises in the design, manufacture, assembly and testing of aerospace structures and sub-systems. Its international success was recently underpinned with a $60 million deal with multinational aerospace and defence company Boeing, which the Queensland Government announced in March. Ferra will manufacture the Joint Direct Attack Munitions Systems (JDAM), a US developed guidance kit. According to information obtained from Wikipedia, the JDAM kit converts unguided bombs, or 'dumb bombs' into guided all-weather 'smart' munitions that use the Global Positioning System (GPS) and have a range of up to 15 nautical miles (28 km).
More information: http://statements.qld.gov.au
Radiating goldMarch/April 2013 - While the uranium industry is still only at the verge of a recovery after a crash in uranium spot prices and uranium market shares triggered by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in March 2011, Western Australia got its first uranium mine approved and Queensland is set to recommence development and operation of uranium mining.......read full story
Bit by bit body and mind repairEhealth technologies are expected to transform Australia's health care delivery. An example for the potential is a project launched in Victoria at the end of March.
To this end the project will leverage the high-capacity broadband currently rolled out in regional Victoria, the State's Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips said at the launch. The new technology will facilitate the exchange of information, including care plans, radiology images and video-consultation, and include an online patient portal.
More information:www.premier.vic.gov.au; * project partners include: Monash Medical Centre, Royal Children's Hospital, Alfred Health, Cystic Fibrosis Victoria, SmartHealth Solutions, Attend Anywhere and Riskman International
Hitting the groundThe Great Artesian Basin is not only Australia's largest groundwater basin, it represents the world's largest and deepest artesian acquifer - a confined acquifer that holds groundwater under positive pressure.
In addition and complementing the Assessment, a four-year Mound Springs project investigated surface and groundwater interactions and mound spring characteristics in the western area of the Great Artesian Basin. The project was funded by the National Water Commission and the South Australian Government and carried out by a number of South Australian project partners*.
Together, the studies provide details about water availability in the GAB to guide waterpolicy and water resource planning. ....read full story
Money makes the world...March 2013- Access to venture capital, or the apparent lack of it, is an Achilles heel of Australia's innovation system.
To ease this particular problem for innovative, and potentially high growth smaller firms, the Government implemented the Innovation Investment Fund (IIF) in 1998. Managed by AusIndustry, it is set up as a co-investment scheme that provides licensed private sector fund managers with capital for investments that must be matched (at an agreed ratio) with capital raised by the fund manager from the private sector.
Since inception 3 rounds of the IIF established 16 funds and co-invested in successful new companies such as Seek, Bionomics, Pharmaxis and Benthic Geotech.
However, the scarcity of venture capital remains a major obstacle for innovative SMEs, and hence the Australian Government's recent Plan for Australian Jobs package includes a new $350 million round of the IIF program.
In March, Industry and Innovation Minister Greg Combet also announced that three recently IIF licensed venture capital funds will invest at least $200 million, with $100 million contributed by the Government, into early stage Australian companies.
The support through Carnegie Venture Capital Pty Ltd ($40 million), and GBS Venture Partners Pty Ltd and Innovation Capital Associates Pty Ltd ($30 million each) will not only inject equity capital but also assist a whole range of companies with management expertise.
More information: www.environment.gov.au
Arresting protection22-02-2013 - Scientists from the University of British Columbia have led a major international study that promises to deliver a new and urgently needed class of influenza drugs.
The current common influenza drugs Relenza and the more frequently used Tamiflu target neuramidase, an enzyme of the virus that is essential for it to spread in the human body.
Flu virus particles are formed inside of body cells which they enter after binding to a component of the cell surface, the sugar sialic acid. However, newly formed virus particles can only effectively release from their host cell when this sialic acid is removed from both viral and cell surfaces through the action of the neuraminidase enzyme.
Both Relenza and Tamiflu prevent this step thus blocking the spread of the virus in the body. However, resistance against the drugs, in particular Tamiflu, are now occurring and there is urgent need for alternatives.
According to the World Health Organisation, influenza kills approximately 500,000 people each year, with up to 2500 of those deaths occurring in Australia. Costs to the Australian health care system are estimated to be more than $85 million.
The scientists confirmed a recently proposed mechanism through which neuramindase cleaves sialic acid residues and developed compounds that fix the enzyme action in an intermediate state, thus preventing a further reaction with the host cell's sialic acid.
Importantly, the drugs targeted a site that is found in all flu strains, and they were effective against strains resistant to Relenza or Tamiflu. Hence the authors believe they constitute attractive new antiviral candidates.
More information: www.csiro.au
How to make a nickel13-03-2013 - The CSIRO has commenced a $3.5 million pilot plant in Perth to test new technology developed by Sydney-based Direct Nickel through which low grade nickel resource from laterites can be converted into a higher grade resource.
Current processes rely on the use of sulphuric acid at high temperatures and pressures, resulting in expensive treatment and disposal of chemical waste. By contrast, Direct Nickel's technology uses nitric acid, of which over 95% can be recycled and reused. The set up and operating costs are estimated to be less than half those of existing processes, and the technology is more efficient in extracting the nickel from the laterite ores. It is also believed to be the first process capable of treating all laterite ores.
After positive initial results, CSIRO expects that the technology could be available to industry as early as 2016.
More information: www.csiro.au
Cooperative commitment16-02-2013 - Providing a total of $70 million, the 15th round of the Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) program will fund the establishment of 3 new centres and the expansion of the current Vision CRC research program.
Manufacturing will be led by the
University of South Australia
Responding to the announcement, the CRC Association (CRCA) expressed concern regarding the level of funding, given that $150 million were initially allocated for this round and 7 out of 9 initial applications were selected to interviews. But proposals for CRCs in Biodiversity, Resilient Regions and Prostate Cancer missed out in funding.
However, this may not indicate a cut to the overall level of funding for the program, CRCA chief executive officer Tony Peacock wrote in the association's newsletter. Thus, in the announcement of the funding, the Government reaffirmed that $619 million will be made available over 2012/13 to 2015/16 period...read full story
When the west waves move28-02-2013 - Carnegie Wave Energy Limited has formally accepted a $1.27 million grant from the Clean Technology Innovation Program for its $2.5 million trial to power desalination plants with wave energy.
Carnegie's CETO technology has frequently generated waves among renewable energy enthusiasts. Its Perth Wave Energy Project ('PWEP'), a $31.2 million power station under construction at Garden Island to become the company's first commercial-scale CETO grid-connected wave energy project.
But apart from electricity, the high pressure seawater generated as CETO's fully submerged buoys move with the wave motion, can also be used to produce desalinated water through standard reverse osmosis desalination technology.
This concept is the basis of the CETO desalination pilot which will co-located with the PWEP aims to demonstrate the technology's potential to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from desalination plants.
The show is on28-02-2013 - The $230 million Science and Technology Centre launched at the Queensland University of Technology's Gardens Point Precinct at the end of February.
image: Queensland University of Technology
It is funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments ($75 million and $35 million, respectively) and the Atlantic Philanthropies ($25 million) and includes the headquarters of QUT's newest research institute, the Institute for Future Environments (IFE). The IFE houses more than 300 scholars from the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, business, law, education, health and creative industries, whose focus will be on some of the world's most pressing problems with core research areas including:
- Smart energy use and clean technologies
- Sustainable use of natural resources
- Monitor and document the health of our planet
- Robot design and deployment
- Production of sustainable foods
- Information security and resilient infrastructure
- Application of maths and computers to global problems
But the core feature of the centre is the Cube - a two storey high public space in which the public can engage with dedicated projects such as the Virtual Reef project. One of the world's largest touch and display system, the Cube boasts 190 square metre of high-definition screens including 48 touch panels, which integrate with 14 high-definition projectors to reach a massive 115-megapixel resolution.
Marine prospectsThe Australian Government's Oceans Policy Science Advisory Group (OPSAG) has released a new review of Australia's marine wealth and research infrastructure capabilities.
The UNCLOS zones and limits that comprise
Australia's marine jurisdiction.
Image: Geoscience Australia
Non only has Australia the third largest marine jurisdiction of any nation in the world, covering a total of 13.6 million square kilometres, the environment of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is also extraordinarily complex ranging from tropical to antarctic conditions. There are three oceans that surround Australia, our coastal seas and the continental shelf waters surrounding the continent, and our Antarctica and offshore island territories. In addition, marine environments communicate with estuaries, rivers and catchments and thus interact with our freshwater systems.
Given our exposure to the seas the state of our ocean environment will affect how we fare with major national challenges facing Australia. According to Marine Nation 2025 these include: sovereignty; national security and natural hazards; energy security; food security; biodiversity and ecosystem conservation; climate change; and resource allocation.
Yet, as we have detailed in a recent dossier article (Ocean views; ARDR magazine; Sep-Dec 2011 edition), in the past marine science has not ranked high on the nation's agenda, despite the importance of the seas also for our cultural idendity.
This has somewhat changed in recent years....read full story
Feeding the world
In a broader outlook, an interdisciplinary team of researchers will target the challenge for Australia to benefit from the increased food demand in Asia, as its middle class is projected to grow to 3 billion by 2030.
As outlined in the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper, the development could provide significant opportunities for Australian businesses including those in the food technology and production industries.
In this Australia has strong common interests with China, as was reflected in the Feeding the Future, report on the Australia-China cooperation to enhance food security released at the end of December 2012.
The centre has recently entered into an agreement with the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Science which will result in a Sino-Australia Joint Laboratory for Sustainable Agro-Ecosystems established in Australia with a mirror facility established in China. In addition, the centre will collaborate with Nanjing Agricultural University in setting up a Sino-Australian Laboratory for Food Security at the centre and in Nanjing.
Of coal and gas...In March, Environment Minister Tony Burke was again in the crossfire for intending to increase federal powers in the approval process of CSG and large coal mining developments.
This followed on from the Government's controversial conditional approval of AGL's coal seam methane gas (CSG) project at Gloucester in NSW, announced in February alongside further approvals for two NSW coal mine projects at Maules Creek and at Boggabri (see below).
With the planned amendments to the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 a project would require Australian Government assessment and approval of coal seam gas and large coal mining developments if they have a significant impact on a water resource. According to Minister Burke, so far federal approval of projects includes water to the extend there has been an impact on issues such as threatened species or a RAMSAR wetland.
With the amendments, the Australian Environment Minister would have the capacity to take all potential impacts on water into account...read full story
Graphs: Elwinmedia based on data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics
Fast futureNew data on Internet use by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) shows the ever increasing appetite for downloads.
Meanwhile a new report by the CSIRO predicts a future in broadband connected homes, the ACMA shows the rapid uptake of smartphones and tablets, and Adelaide plans to become a free wireless city......read full story