products sector is transitioning from its traditional, resource driven, low-technology business model to an industry that applies modern technologies and business approaches.
A new ARC Training Centre for Forest Value at the University of Tasmania, set up with $3.6 million from the agency's Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, will support this process...read full story
December 2015 - The Australian
and Queensland Government's
have announced $15 million worth of projects to combat the impacts of pests and weeds on the state's farming industry.
Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce said in a statement that major pests are estimated to cost the Australian agricultural industries $740 million each year in livestock losses, and weed management has been estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $3 billion each year...read full story
the closure of car manufacturing plants in Victoria and South Australia, federal and state governments implemented assistance programs designed to milden the economic and social impact on the states and to set their manufacturing businesses onto a more sustainable path (see also our story 'Eternal transition').
Recent investments include government assistance for Victorian businesses under the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund (GRIIF) and the Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Program (NGMIP).
Announced in November, the new rounds of grants together worth $39 million are expected to leverage around $120 million in total investment...read full story
Internet of Everything (IoE) Innovation Centre has now been launched at Curtin University, after the company announced in March it would invest US$15 million over five years into the project (see insert)...read full story
June 2015 - The New South Wales
and South Australian Governments have brought down their budgets under two very different economic circumstances...read the full story here
the Queensland Government, which is committed to introduce a biofuel mandate by July 2016. Queensland would then be the second state in Australia to have implemented such a target...read full story
It's back (a bit)
4 June 2015 - The potential decline
of one of the world's largest cuttlefish species, the Giant Australian Cuttlefish, in South Australian waters has been a major concern - not just in the southern state.
An article published on the Australian Geographic website last year highlighted the massive drop in fish numbers at South Australia's Point Lowly, the only known site where the fish forms larger spawning aggregations: from 180,000 counted in 1990 they were down to just 13,500 in 2013.
However, it is unknown what caused the apparent demise of the three-hearted cuttlefish, of which some have the size of small dogs.
In June, the South Australian Governmentreleased a report by the state's Primary Industries and Regions SA showing that neither habitat loss, metal contaminants or by-catches have adversely affected the fish. And while the government extended a temporary closure to all fishing for cuttlefish in the northern Spencer Gulf area for until Feburary 2016, for the first time in six years numbers of the fish are again increasing at Point Lowly: up from 13,492 in 2013 to 57,317 in 2014.
June 2015 - Constraint by difficult economic conditions, the recent state budgets of
Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia brought few noteworthy announcements targeting the Australian innovation system...read full story
May 2015 - The transformation of
Adelaide's former Mitsubishi automotive plant at Tonsley into a precinct for education and a high-value industry is to take place over a 20 period.
But its future shape is already beginning to take form, with the establishment of a new Flinders University campus and the move of business accelerator Innovyz to the site among the latest developments...read full story
21 May - The Victorian Government has
welcomed a decision by US-based global payments technology company Square to establish its Australian headquarters in Melbourne.
Square has developed a credit card payment reader and a free point-of-sales app through which small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs) can accept sales and process transactions. The company now processes tens of billions in payments for small business merchants every year.
Australia will be Square s fourth international location, following its establishment in the USA, Canada and Japan.
April 2015 - Federal Environment Minister Greg
Hunt has given conditional approval for the Kintyre uranium mine in the east Pilabara.
The project's operator Cameco Australia, a subsidiary of Canadian firm Cameco, has also received conditional approval from the Western Australian Government, in spite of strong opposition from environmental groups, such as the Conservation Council, which object that the mine is located at the edge of Karlamilyi National Park and the Rudall River catchment area...read full story
Thrilling drilling in SA
April 2015 - Mineral Resources and Energy
Minister Tom Koutsantonis, announced that the latest round of the PACE Discovery Drilling 2015 will co-fund 27 resource exploration projects.
The total of 2$ million provided will add to $4.9 million invested by the exploration industry.
South Australia has not given up on the dream the state could one day match WA's mining success - despite major setbacks, such as in 2012 the disappointment with BHP's decision not to risk an Olympic Dam expansion...read full story
Wave Energy Project (PWEP) at Western Australia's Garden Island in February, Carnegie Wave Energy could celebrate the world's first grid-connected project operating multiple wave units.
The PWEP is also on train to become the first project that not only produces power but also freshwater, with both products supplied to the Australian Defence Force naval base, HMAS Stirling.
The power plant with a capacity of 700 kilowatt took around ten years to build at a cost of close to $100 million. Both the Western Australian and Australian Government contributed significantly, with $13 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA) and $10 million from the state's Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) program)...read full story
27 March 2015 - The largest solar
photovoltaic (PV) research facility in the southern hemisphere was officially launched at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland (UQ).
With 37,000 thin-film photovoltaic panels from American company First Solar and a capacity of around 3.3 megawatt (MW), it indeed boasts the state's largest solar array, and adds to the univsersity's 1.22 MW solar roof top system at St Lucia, also the largest of its kind in Australia.
The Gatton facility features another superlative: for the first time in Australia multiple PV mounting technologies including fixed-tilt, single-axis and dual-axis tracker technologies can be operated side-by-side in the same field and inform electrical and economic performance...read full story
four grants awarded under the 2014/15 NSW Genomics Collaborative Grants Program.
Worth in total $2.75 million, the grants will support whole genome sequencing projects and provide access to a new high tech genome seuqncing facility at the Garvan Institute.
The Illumina HiSeq X Ten system at the facility was acquired in 2014 and can potentially sequence more than 300 whole human genomes per week. (see also our story 'Cheap Read').
The selected projects will target major human diseases including metastatic melanoma, mitochondrial disease, congenital heart disease and schizophrenia.
23 January 2015 - The concept of turning
waste to energy is not new, with facilities already operating in many countries, but in Western Australia the first large-scale waste-to-energy project in an Australian capital city is only about to become reality.
The Western Australian Government has given environmental approval to a project by New Energy Corporation to establish the Waste-to-Energy and Material Recovery Facility in East Rockingham. At completion in 2017, the facility could generate enough electricity from household waste to power around 23,000 homes.
The project will use only residual waste, which is material for which there is no preferred recycling option. Up to 225,000 tonnes of this waste could be processed each year, equivalent to around 9% of all metropolitan waste sent to landfill in 2012-13. This will produce 18.5 megawatts of electricity, of which 16 megawatts would be fed into the grid.
clinicans planning to get involved in research will receive fellowships worth $1.08 million..
The money is provided through the State's Clinician Research Fellowships program, an initiative established by the WA Department of Health and the Raine Medical Research Foundation to encourage research by WA Health employed clinicians.
The fellowships add to the previous ten fellowships awarded by the scheme, each providing up to $150,000 per year for a maximum of three years.
struggling right now, but the WA State Government is determined to keep them alive.
The Government announced that refunds to miners from previously tied up environmental bonds have hit the billion dollar mark.
It is the result of the State's world-first Mining Rehabilitation Fund (MRF), which is compulsory for WA miners since July 2014. Pior to the MRF, the Department of Mines and Petroleum was holding about $1.2 billion in unconditional performance bonds as security to ensure operators met their rehabilitation requirements following mine closure.
According to the Government, the new fund provides a more affordable annual levy, with cash previously required for bonds now immediately available for exploration
Mining lobby groups, such as the Association of Mining and Exploration Companies, are heavily pushing for the scheme to be replicated in other States, as it allows junior miners to fund the levy out of operating cashflows, rather having to lodge significant cash backed bonds with the government.
Australian Government has announced the outcome of the latest round of its Exploration Incentive Scheme (EIS), the State's co-funded exploration drilling program.
WA's first digital bedrock map (left) was launched in December
The EIS was implemented in 2009, and complements the Geological Survey of Western Australia's geophysics and geochemistry information, and university and CSIRO collaborative research projects.
In December, the WA Government also launched the bedrock mapping project, which is to assist the targeting of new mineral and petroleum discoveries. Much of the map is based on information garnered from projects funded by the EIS.
It receives its funds through the Royalties For Regions program, with a total of $130.27 million committed to the EIS until June 2017.
Round 10 of the program offers $4.69 million to 41 drilling and prospecting projects, which will be provided as a refund of up to 50 per cent of direct drilling costs with caps of $150,000 for a multi-hole project, $200,000 for a single deep hole, and $30,000 for a prospector's project .
More information: www.premier.wa.gov.au; a full list of funded projects can be accessed
here; the bedrock map, including 1:500 000 scale layers and associated data tables is available for download here
Tiny light in the dark
21 November 2014 - A new $38 million
Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics has been launched at the University of Adelaide.
Click to view video
The collaboration with Macquarie University and RMIT will create ways of looking at biological processes down to the level of single cells, without the need to remove these cells from the body.
Initially, the researchers will focus their attention on three major questions of biology and medical research, for which nanoscale biophotonics could provide a major step up ...read fullstory
November 2014 - South Australia is the nation's
leader in wind energy. And while some still debate whether this form of renewable energy could have negative health impacts, the State has again significantly increased its wind energy capacity.
Explore interactive infographic
In November, the Snowtown Windfarm north of Adelaide came officially online, after a $450 million investment boosted the project's capacity from 99 megawatts (MW) to 369MW. In total, the State can now generate 1,473MW from wind energy, which accounts for 43% of the nation's total installed wind energy capacity.
Around $3 billion in capital investment have gone into SA's wind energy projects, which pushed the contribution of renewable energies to total electricity generation to a remarkable 39% in 2013-14.
adopted all recommendations made by the NSW chief scientist and engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane in her Final Report of the Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW, which was released in September 2014...read full story
16 October 2014 - As part of the $155
million Growth Fund, the Australian Government is investing $60 million through its Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Programme to promote the transition of South Australia's and Victoria's manufacturing industry from its traditional base to a high-value manufacturing sector.
Under the scheme, eligible manufacturers operating or planning to operate in the southern states will have access to grants of up to $5 million.
All good things must end - Holden SA
The potential value of an advanced manufacturing sector for the states was recently pointed out in a review of the states' comparative advantages. And also prior to the announced closures of Holden, Ford and Toyota, state-based initiatives have focussed on the need to push the growth of a high-value added manufacturing industry.
For South Australia this was previously als highlighted by Adelaide's former Thinker in Residence Professor Goran Roos, who conducted a strategic review on advanced manufacturing in 2011. In response, advanced manufacturing was included as one of seven strategic priorities pursued by the Australian Government.
which totalled $65.4 billion in 2013-14, provided a positive backdrop to the NSW Government's 2014-15 budget. And the growth in income, much of which resulted from the booming housing market in the State, is expected to continue in 2014-15 and across the forward estimates, although on a more modest pace ...read full story
3 December 2014 - With the change
of the Victorian Government, new Ministers are now responsible for the State's R&D sector.
Also, the former Department of State Development, Business and Innovation was incorporated into a new Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources.
..read full story>
August and September saw three major
oil and gas finds in Western Australia, of which two may be considered once in a generation discoveries.
In August, Apache Corp and Carnarvon Petroleumannounced a find of oil off the north-west coast of the State, which could potentially yield 300 million barrels. The discovery at Phoenix South in the Canning Basin may represent a new oil province of Australia, it said in a statement by Apache.
Adding to the excitement was Santosannouncing a few days later a significant find of gas-condensate off the WA's north-west coast. The Lasseter-1 exploration well in the Browse Basin is owned by a venture of Santos (operator, 30%), Chevron (50%) and INPEX (20%). Santos described the find as a "material discovery" that would add to their Crown discovery in 2012.
Then, in September, a major onshore gas find in Western Australia's Mid-West hit the media wave. According to the WA Governmment, the finding by AWE Limited, a Sydney-based company, could be a game-changer revitalising a declining gas field in the region.
The company's Senecio-3 appraisal well near Dongara registered gas at the target depth of 2,600 metres, and established a potential yield of 140 biillion cubic feet of gas. While the well is located on private farmland, it already contains gas wells. But it did prompt the WA Government to assure it was committed to the protection of water supplies and environment, while supporting the development of gas resources.
QLD priority digs
14 August 2014 - Round two of the
Queensland Government's Industry Priorities Initiative
is investing $2.1 million in five priority exploration projects.
According to Mines Minister Andrew Cripps, the projects were identified by the resources industry and the Geological Survey of Queensland as having the highest potential for success...read full story
10 June 2014 - The Western Australian
Government has appointed medical research scientist Professor Peter Klinken as the State's new Chief Scientist.
Professor Klinken is renown for his role in advancing the understanding of genes involved in leukaemia, cancer and anaemia, including the discovery of a gene that supresses the growth of tumours.
He also played a key role in establishing the State's premier adult medical research institute, the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research (previously the Western Australian Institute for Medical Research) in 1998.
outcome for Western Australia in the NHMRC's 2013 funding round, the State Government announced $3 million for new health projects with the aim to boost the State's federal funding competitiveness...read full story
13 March 2014 - The UK Government will
invest more than ?100 million (around $184 million) in the construction phase of the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).
Making the announcement, the UK Science Minister David Willetts underscored the enormous amount of data that is expected to flow from the billion dollar global initiative to establish the world's largest and most sensitive radio telescopes.
Australia is one of ten SKA member countries, with Western Australia and South Africa co-hosting the project. The Australian state will be home of two SKA Phase 1 telescopes which will be located in the Murchison region and comprise a low-frequency aperture array of 50 array stations, each equipped with 10,000 individual antennas, and a 96-dish survey telescope. Their construction is expected to commence in 2018, with a major precursor project, the Australian SKA Pathfinder, currently being in the commissioning phase.
estimates by IBM, SKA will produce a few Exabytes of data per day, and will require storage of between 300 and 1500 Petabytes of data each year. By comparison, the large Hadron collider at CERN produces around 15 Petabytes each year, which is 10-100 times less than is expected of SKA.
ASKAP is one of three SKA precursor projects and its array of 36 antennas will be included in the 96-dish SKA survey telescope.
The CSIRO, which constructs ASKAP, recently reported the first continuum image produced with six of the antennas. This was made possible by processing data using the ASKAP Central Processor, also known as Galaxy - a real time computer at the iVEC Pawsey Centre, which officially
went live in February 2014.
The progress provides an engineering testbed in preparation of using all 36 antennas together.
March 2014 - The good news story of Western Australia's resources boom has still some meat in it.
The continued strong demand for iron ore from China together with a weaker Australian dollar has seen the value of Western Australia's mineral and petroleum sector increase by 15% between 2012 and 2013, setting a new record of $113.8 billion.
The WA Government's Mineral and Petroleum Industry 2013 Reviewreports that iron ore accounted for $68 billion or 76% of all WA mineral sales in 2013, on the back of a record export volume of 556 tonnes iron ore, up 16% over the previous year.
Gold, the State's second most valuable mineral commodity, added another $8.7 billion or around 10% of total sales value. However, the value of gold exports decreased by around 7% from the previous year, as the 3% increase in production only partially offset a fall in the price of gold. In US dollar terms, gold was on average 16% cheaper than in the previous year.
The review confirms that new capital expenditure has peaked as major projects transition from the construction into the operational phase. Nevertheless, the "dominance of the resources sector in the nation's economy is expected to continue given the number of projects which have been expanded or developed, in particular iron ore and LNG".
Meanwhile, Australia's reputation as a prime destination for resource investments has strengthened in 2013, despite the political controversy over the Mining Tax or the price on carbon policy.
According to the Fraser Institute Survey of Mining Companies 2013, Western Australia's resource sector is now the world's most attractive investment destination.
The Fraser Institute's 2013 edition of its annual survey of mining companies considered geologic and economic factors relevant to mineral exploration but also the overall policy attractiveness of 112 global jurisdictions.
The combined scores achieved in the composite 'Best Practices Mineral Potential Index' and the 'Policy Perception Index' (PPI) resulted in an overall score of the investment attractiveness of a region.
For the assessment of the PPI, policy factors were considered that include the administration of current regulations, environmental regulations, regulatory duplication, the legal system and taxation regime, uncertainty
concerning protected areas and disputed land claims, infrastructure and others.
The Canadian Fraser Institute found that in the Policy Perception Index (PPI) category Australia improved its reputation in every State and Territory in 2013, with WA ranked 6th of 112 surveyed regions, followed by South Australia ranked 11th.
Click image to enlarge
Victoria was the only jurisdiction that dropped in its PPI ranking to 33rd of 112 regions, down from 24th of 96 regions in 2012.
In the overall investment attractiveness, WA outclassed every other surveyed region, with the Northern Territory (17), South Australia (20) and Queensland (21) the next best placed Australian jurisdictions.
February/March 2014 - Santos Ltd has released a Preliminary Environmental Assessment (PEA) for its Narrabri Gas Project which, if going ahead, could be the State's largest CSG project.
It follows a Memorandum of Understanding the company signed with the NSW Government in February, and which designates the project as a 'strategic energy project' and details the broader conditions for the project's approval process.
Click image to enlarge.
The Santos Narrabri Gas Project includes:
up to 850 production wells;
an estimated $1.6 billion in royalty payments over the estimated 25 years of life of the project;
$160 million for a Regional Community Benefit Fund (if matched by the NSW Government); and
a pipeline to be constructed for the transport of gas to the NSW market.
The $2 billion project targets coal seam gas reserves in the Narrabri area north west of the State. According to Santos, it could potentially supply half of the State's natural gas needs and this would coincide with an expected increase in domestic demand for gas when Queensland is commencing the export of liquefied natural gas (LNG). At present, NSW receives more than 95% of its natural gas from interstate.
The project includes up to 850 production wells across 98,000 hectares southwest of Narrabri within in the Gunnedah Basin, which is prospective for both coal seam methane and conventional hydrocarbons. Around 70% of the development would be in the forests of the Pilliga, and the remainder on agricultural land. .
The company's PEA, which precedes a more detailed investigation of issues in an Environmental Impact Statement, lists a series of potential hazards. These include that relate to the Pilliga Forest being prone to bushfire.
And while there are not plans to use hydraulic fracture for the stimulation of gas production, the PEA does address potential hazards for the region's water reservoirs and the NSW Great Artesian Basin.
According to the PEA, the coal seam dewatering process is unlikely to pose a risk for the Basin and upper Quaternary aquifers, but there are still potential risks for the Namol catchment, which since over 100 years has supplied water for agricultural use.
Groundwater in the Namol catchment supports an irrigation industry worth in excess of $380 million, apart from supplying water to towns and industries in the area.
Activities such as drilling and installation of wells, the management of produced water, permeate and brine, as well as the dewatering of aquifers during operations could all impact on groundwater, including through leakage from poorly constructed gas wells, cross-contamination and subsidence.
The project could also have potential impacts on surface water, including through contamination due to chemical spill or fuel release as a result of accidents and leakages.
The Australian Grains Genebank, a $6 million project for the storage of around 300 million plant seeds from around the world, has opened its doors in Horsham, Victoria.
The Victorian Government and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) each contributed around $3 million towards the centre's establishment and have pledged to support its operations with annually $600,000.
The AGG is led by Dr Sally Norton and amalgamates the Tamworth Australian Winter Cereals Collection, the Tropical Grains Germplasm Centre in Biloela and the Temperate Field Crops Centre in Horsham.
From Horsham to Norway: Ten thousand seeds from the AGG were recently delivered to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway by former Deputy Prime Minister Tim Fisher.
Image: Screenshot from AGG youtube video, and insert provided by the Crawford Fund
This provides a single nationally focused program through which Australian and international researchers can access grains genetic resources, including for the creation of new plant varieties.
With 2.7 kilometre of shelf space at -20 degrees Celsius the AGG has capacity to hold 200,000 packets of seed and more than 2,000 different crop species.
And the project also supports global initiatives that are aimed at preserving crop seeds for the future. Recently, ten thousand seed samples made their way from the AGG to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, where around 800,000 seed samples from around the world are stored as a kind of global insurance policy.
27 February 2014 - In Round 3 of the $7.5 million Manufacturing Productivity Networks program the Victorian Government will co-invest $838,000 in nine business networks.
The grants are provided on a dollar for dollar basis and will support collaborative manufacturing projects involving a total of 175 businesses.
The program is part of the A More Competitive Manufacturing Industry
strategy and includes two separate streams, which invest up to $50,000 over one year in the planning and up to $600,000 over three years in the implementation of significant projects.
12 March 2014 - The Small Technologies Cluster's (STC) MedTech Boardroom Stimulator program is a new initiative through which the Victorian Government provides free mentoring from leading entrepreneurs to local businesses across the medical technologies (medtech) sector.
The assistance employs a virtual boardroom scenario, allowing participating companies to identify collaborative opportunities, refine strategy and brainstorm specific challenges.
19 February 2014 - NSW has a new public-private research fund targeting infectious diseases that are transmitted from animals to humans.
Hendra virus and the Australian bat lyssavirus are examples for the around 50 diseases that are known to be transmitted from animals to humans in Australia, and which are a funding focus of a new public-private fund.
The initiative is a partnership between the NSW Department of Primary Industries and the National Foundation of Medical Research and Innovation (NFMRI), formerly known as the Sydney Hospital Foundation for Research.
Through the new joint initiative, $400,000 of joint funding will be available for research into new vaccines, medicines and new diagnosis tools. Successful projects will also have access to biosecurity expertise at the NSW DPI and the department's extensive networks of medical practitioners, scientists and industry leaders.
12 March 2014 - The Victorian Government has released a Draft Recommendations Paper for its 10 year Agriculture Industry Action Plan, which is to be the first whole of government and industry strategy undertaken for the NSW sector.
A sector with tradition...
According to beef producer Lucinda Corrigan, head of an industry task force preparing the strategy, there is a growing urgency to adopt such an approach. It will need to address opportunities and challenges ahead of the sector, the community concerns around agricultural production systems as well as issues around food safety and security, resource use, climate change and animal welfare.
The Draft Recommendations is the next stage of public consultation, after an Issues Paper released in July 2013 received 44 submissions.
The NSW Agriculture sector is with more than $15 billion (2012) a significant contributor to the State economy and vital for its regional areas - around 30% of employment in rural communities involve primary industries services and activities.
Wheat is the most important crop commodity in the State, contributing $2.2 billion to gross agricultural product, followed by cattle and calves ($1.6 billion) and cotton ($1.3 billion).
With its 41 recommendations the taskforce broadly addresses issues including:
maintaining the sector's profitability, productivity and innovation in the face of declining terms of trade;
maximising the efficient use of human capital through a focus on workforce and skills;
reviewing the business and regulatory operating environment in NSW;
investigating new models for investment and ownership within the industry;
developing partnerships, supply chains and operating environment that can capitalise on potential market and export opportunities; and
improving long term market development by effectively connecting with community.
During the Victorian Government's latest Super Trade Mission to India, Technology Minister Gordon Rich-Phillips announced a new agreement under which India's technology distribution company Tesscorn will supply aerosol monitoring equipment by Ecotech Australia to Indian research bodies.
This extends the range of Ecotech products already offered by Tesscorn, which includes the Polar Nephelometers for the study of climate change.
At the end of last year, Ecotech's success in exporting environmental solutions was recognised at the 51st Australian Export Awards.
February 2014 - An onboard 'Detect and Avoid' (DAA) system for unmanned aircrafts, developed by Queensland researchers and industry partners, has delivered real time warnings that allowed a ground control station to manually avoid collisions.
Click on image for a youtube video of the RESQU trial
Demonstrated in trials at an airfield north-west of Brisbane, it is believed to be a world-first in a competitive race for technology that could lead to the routine use of unmanned aircraft in controlled civilian airspace.
Current regulations do not allow such operations because of concerns about possible collisions with other aircrafts and safe landing operations. But with these technology advances, the tremendous potential of UA may soon become available for a wide range of civilian tasks, such as in disaster management the continuous mapping of floodwaters and fire-fronts, the assessment of damage to infrastructure and the location of disaster survivors.
The DAA research is part of the $7 million RESQU (RESilient QUensland) project by the Australian Research Centre for Aerospace Automation (ARCAA), a specialist research centre of the Queensland University of Technology, and its industry partners Boeing Research and Technology Australia and Insitu Pacific*.
RESQU follows on from the previous very successful $10 million Smart Skies Project, which explored new technologies for the efficient utilisation of both manned and unmanned aircraft.
With the RESQU undertaking, the collaborative research tackles a range of issues that currently limit the more widespread use of UAs. Thus, in addition to the DAA Systems, two other streams of research explore the critical barrier of appropriate safety regulations and an automated emergency landing system for UAs.
And in a fourth stream of research, the project will develop a sensing and platform automation for Miconia weed surveys.
More information: www.arcaa.net; *The RESQU project is supported by the Queensland Government, QUT, industry partners BR&T-A, Boeing subsidiary Insitu Pacific and the CSIRO
The willingness and capacity of businesses to spend resources on R&D will be a major test for the Australian Government's ambition to boost industry innovation and competitiveness.
Up to the global financial crisis (GFC), the rise in Australia's business expenditure on R&D (BERD) drove Australia's catch up with the average that countries in the OECD spend on R&D relative to their GDP.
However, since 2008-09 the ratio of BERD to GDP has been in steady decline, and according to recent data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this negative trend continues despite absolute increases in spending.
During 2013-14, expenditure on R&D by Australian businesses increased by around 3% to $18.85 billion, while BERD as percentage of GDP fell from 1.23% in 2011-12 to 1.19% in 2013-14.
And this has become a drag on Australia's overall spending on R&D by businesses, government, private non-profit and higher eductation sectors. Thus Australia's R&D intensity, measured as gross expenditure on R&D (GERD) as a proportion of GDP, also fell slightly, from 2.13% in 2011-12 to 2.12% in 2013-14.
There are some interesting positives in the business landscape, though. While overall growth in spending on R&D has not yet recovered to pre-GFC levels, businesses are ramping up the amount of human resources they devote in this area. In 2013-14 businesses had almost 79 thousand person years of effort (PYE) devoted to R&D, an increase of 21% from 2011-12
Importantly, there was a 23% increase in the PYE by researchers, suggesting that business is investing more in this, by OECD standards, notoriously underrepresented species of workers in Australia's private sector.
But it may be the structural changes the Australian economy is going through in the moment that mainly account for this. With the end of the mining boom, BERD in the mining sector is falling (down 31% in 2013-14), while the traditionally R&D strong sectors, Manufacturing (up 8%) and Professional, scientific and technical services (up 32%) are ramping up their effort.
As a result, Manufacturing has shaken off the challenge by Mining and is again the top spending sector, now followed by the professional, scientific and technical services sector.
It reflects the current structural shift in Australia's economy, which until quite recently was heavily dominated by its resources sector.
This is also apparent in that by far the largest relative increase in BERD occurred in activities categorised as pure basic research (up 43%), although this type of activities are still making up less than 1% of total BERD.
But businesses also spent more on strategic basic research (up 4.6%) and applied research (5.3%), which now together account for 38% of total BERD.
By contrast, BERD targeting experimental development, which is typical for Mining, rose only slightly by 1%, although it still makes up around 60% of total BERD.
While these figures are in line with what we know about the current changes in Australia's economy. However, they also demonstrate that much of Australia's decade long catch-up with BERD of other innovation leaders in the OECD was on the back of a very volatile sector that now comes off the boil.
The fall in GERD was still relatively mild, and this can be attributed to our higher education sector. Here spending on R&D rose by $1 billion to $9.9 billion, an increase in spending of 11% from 2011-12 levels. But as the public purse tightens, these increase are unlikely to be sustained, which leaves the question who is going to fill the gap left by tottering miners.
Worryingly, Australia is again losing ground against competitor nations as across the OECD the trend is turning again into positive terrain.
In its latest (2015) update of main science and technology indicators, the OECD estimates that in 2013 R&D spending rose by 2.7% in real terms from 2012 levels, with growth driven by strong increases in BERD (up 3.5%). As a percentage of GDP, average GERD remained at 2.4%, which compares to Australia's 2.1%.
The Western Australian hub of Cisco's Australian Internet of Everything (IoE) Innovation Centre has now been launched at Curtin University, after the company announced in March it would invest US$15 million over five years into the project (see insert).
According to Cisco's estimates, the value resulting from IoE activities in Australia could be more than US$74 billion over the next 10 years through cost savings, productivity gains, new revenues and improved citizen experiences.
One for everything
In March, Global IT firm CISCO announced it will invest US$15 million over five years in an Australian Internet of Everything (IoE) Innovation Centre.
One of eight globally, the centre will include locations in Perth at Curtin University and in Sydney at Sirca, a not-for-profit firm supporting data-intensive financial research in universities...more
Curtin and its foundation partner Woodside Energy have committed $30 million to the new industry and research collaboration hub, with the aim to create a state-of-the-art 'connected community' that shares solutions between astronomy and radio physics, oil and gas, finance, transport and government.
The centre will be home to over 80 researchers, and provide links to advanced facilities and a global industry network.
Speaking at the centre's launch, the state's premier Colin Barnettpointed out that at present only two per cent of all things that could be connected were connected.
"With all these devices producing information, finding innovative solutions to create meaning from and extracting value from them will be a competitive advantage."
The Internet of Everything...
... aims for the intelligent connection of people, process, data and things.
As Cisco describes it, the IoE is bringing together people, process, data, and things to make networked connections more relevant and valuable than ever before-turning information into actions that create new capabilities, richer experiences, and unprecedented economic opportunity for businesses, individuals, and countries .
The concept builds on the 'Internet of Things' by adding network intelligence and security.
Click image to enlarge
The implementation of the Square Kilometre Array will be a major driver of the state's data intensive science capabilities. But Mr Barnett highlighted that improved connectivity, support and service delivery will also benefit other major economic activities occurring in very remote areas, from resources projects through to the delivery of Government services.
The IoE centre will have an important role to play in engaging the state's small and medium enterprises with large company problems, Mr Barnett said.
Later in the year, a second hub will be established in Sydney at Sirca, a not for profit company established by collaborating Australian and New Zealand universities to develop relevant global data and advanced tools supporting financial research and innovation.
June 2015 - The New South Wales and South Australian Governments have brought down their budgets under two very different economic circumstances.
Hey big spender
June 2015 - The state NSW is booming, with continued growth in payroll tax, stamp duty on property sales and land tax filling the state's coffers. In addition, there are billions going to be freed up through the partial privatisation of electricity assets.
However, according to the first budget by NSW treasurer Gladys Berejiklian, debt levels will still increase from $6.7 billion or 1.3% of Gross State Product (GSP) to $15.8 billion or 2.6% of GSP over the forward estimates. This is because the government plans to reinvest proceeds of previous asset sales into capital expenditure.
With plenty of money coming in, unemployment low and the economy growing at above trend, the government can look forward to surplusses for years to come, with $713 million estimated for 2015-16.
Growth of both expenses and revenues are forecast to average 2.8% over the four years to 2018-19, while the treasurer still made new savings totalling $1.1 billion. The governmet's still relatively conservative approach reflects the fragility of its fortunate fiscal position: stamp duty is a very volatile source of income.
Still, conservative does not mean frugal, with record expenditure in areas such as health ($19.6 billion in 2015-16) and schools ($12.4 billion in 2015-16). Notably, the government will invest a total of $68 billion over four years in infrastructure projects, including $38 billion over four years for roads and transport.
The NSW Government has also set aside $591 million in 2015-16 to both fund planning and start construction of projects under the $20 billion Rebuilding NSW initiative, a signature policy the government took to the March 2015 election.
The money for the project will be raised through the lease of 49% of the NSW electricity network, for which legislation was introduced in May 2015 (the Electricity Network Assets (Authorised Transactions) Bill 2015 and the Electricity Retained Interest Corporations Bill 2015). Both bills passed the NSW upper house in June.
The Rebuilding NSW initiative is set out over 20 years and lists among its key targets Urban Public Transport ($8.9 billion), Regional Roads ($2.4 billion) and Regional Transport ($4.1 billion)
There are also $1.3 billion for initiatives supporting primary industries, much of which will target water reform.
But there are only few new investments targeting areas of R&D and innovation. They include:
Health and Medical Resarch:
An additional $159 million over four years will be invested in medical research in NSW:
$10 million over four years to support 66 PhD and post-doctorate fellowships,
$40 million over four years of a new Health Services Research Support Program;
$25 million over four years for paediatric research facilities;
$20 million over four years for research into medical cannabis;
$10 million for Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) to complete
refurbishment of the Margarete Ainsworth building at Randwick and enhance the work of NeuRA and the Schizophrenia Research Institute;and
$10 million to the University of Sydney Westmead precinct redevelopment to create an innovation hub connecting research, education and health services.
In total over $1 billion over four years will be spent on medical resarch in NSW.
$18 million in 2015-16 for the Research Attraction and Acceleration Program;
ongoing support for the Innovate NSW program which supports small and
medium enterprises to collaborate with industry and end-users; and
ongoing support for five industry-led Knowledge Hubs to drive collaboration and innovation in key industry sectors.
The economic settings in South Australia are markedly different from those in NSW, requiring the government to stimulate a sluggish economy plaqued by high unemployment.
The economy barely grew in 2014-15, according to budget estimates by 1.3%, and significant challenges are ahead such as the closure of Holden's car manufacturing plant and falling commodity prices. Nevertheless, gross state product (GSP) is projected to grow by 2% in 2015-16, although this is still well below the national average of near 3%.
After years of deficit following the GFC, the government expects a surplus of $43 million in 2015-16, with $961 million forecast across the forward estimates.
Net government debt will peak at $6.5 billion in 2016-17 and then fall to $5.8 billion in 2018-19. This equates to 30% of total government revenue [This comparison provided in the budget is considered more meaningful than the often used debt/GST ratio. According to the Centre for Independent Studies, net debt averaged around 21% of government revenue accross Australian states in 2012-13.]
A series of measures, including tax deductions totalling almost $670 million over the forward estimates, are to reduce the costs for businesses in the state. The changes, the "most comprehensive tax reforms in South Australia's history", mostly concern changes to aspects of stamp duty, which are ongoing and could return almost $2.5 billion to businesses and the community over the next decade.
As part of the package, the government also aims to boost the state's mineral resources and energy sector by extending the current concessional stamp duty for exploration tenements to retention tenements, before abolishing it altogether by July 2018. According to treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, this will remove another impediment to exploration and investment.
The government will also create an Industry Attraction Fund, for which it has allocated $15 million, and a number of other initiatives designed to make the state more business friendly. In total, these measures are going to cost an estimated $985 million over four years, including targeted investments of $165 million over four years in road infrastructure.
A budget highlight also the $8 million provided for the Goyder Institute of Water Research. The money will be matched with in-kind contributions from research partners for research on irrigation efficiencies, water quality and environmental watering requirements in preparation for the impacts of climate change. The government estimates that the research will result in current and future benefits worth around $500 million.
4 June - Biofuels receive renewed attention from the Queensland Government, which is committed to introduce a biofuel mandate by July 2016. Queensland would then be the second state in Australia to have implemented such a target.
In New South Wales, current legislation requires that 6% of the total volume of petrol sold in the state is made up of ethanol. But experience with this mandate has been mixed, because there remains a substantial gap between ambition and reality - a graph displayed on the NSW Government's Trade & Investment webiste shows that ethanol accounted for less than 4% in every quarter of the year's 2008 to 2014. And since 2013, the share of ethanol is actually in decline.
Use of ethanol-blended fuel in NSW: Click image to enlarge
In Queensland, ethanol-blended fuel has been available at petrol stations for more than a decade, but the 10% ethanol mix with unleaded petrol sold as E10 has also not been popular with the sunshine state's motorists. In 2013-14, ethanol accounted for only around 1.2% of the combined volume of sold regular unleaded petrol and E10, and there is even a downwards trend in the use of ethanol-blended petrol.
The new Queensland Government is determined to turn this around.
In a discussion paper released in June, it details plans for a phased-in approach, with intially a 2% ethanol-blended petrol option. The government also considers to include an ethanol-blended biodiesel option.
At present, the Queensland biofuel industry is based on sugarcane (molasses) and grain (sorghum, with two operating ethanol plants having a combined capacity of 140 megalitres per year. Three ethanol plants are proposed which could lift production capacity by a further 230-290 megalitres of fuel grade ethanol. There is also one biodiesel factory, which uses tallow and used cooking oil to produce around 30 megalitres of biodiesel per year.
The potential value of the industry for Queensland is significant. A joint study by Deloitte Access Economics and the Queensland University of Technology projected that bio-refining in all its forms could contribute more than $1.8 billion in gross state product to the state.
April 2015 - Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt has given conditional approval for the Kintyre uranium mine in the east Pilbara, which is proposed as an open cut uranium mine with associated infrastructure, and could have an operational life time of around 13.5 years.
The project's operator Cameco Australia, a subsidiary of Canadian firm Cameco, has also received conditional approval from the Western Australian Government, in spite of strong opposition from environmental groups, such as the Conservation Council. Their main concern is the mine's location at the edge of the Karlamilyi National Park and the Rudall River catchment area.
The area containing the Kintyre deposit was in fact excised from the National Park in 1994, while compensatory land was added to the park. The former state government's decision was based on the Kintyre deposit being entirely outside of the Rudall River watershed, and that ecosystems involved are well represented elsewhere in the national park.
But even with the substantial conditions attached to the environmental approvals, opponents remain unconvinced. Their concerns include the long-term radiation of the ore, but also the risks associated with the mine's activities for ground water, permanent water holes, ephemeral rivers and salt lakes in the region. They also point to the risks associated with the transport of the mine's products to South Australia's port in Port Augusta.
However, industry stakeholders, backed by the Western Australian government, are determined to capitalise on the continued growth of nuclear power generation worldwide (see insert). Through its firm support for the industry, the state government also hopes to gain a competitive edge over other states led by government's less committed to exploiting their uranium potential. Just a year ago the former Queensland Government lifted the state's 32-year ban on uranium mining. According to recent media reports, the new Labor government has plans to go full circle by reversing the decision.
However, this is not yet assured, and it would be in stark contrast to the current pro-uranium stance of the Labor Government in South Australia. There a Royal Commission is about to investigate whether broadening the scope of the nuclear industry could deliver benefits for the state (and according to the Australian Government's 2015 Energy White Paper, the conclusions of the Royal Commission will also feed into the development of a federal nuclear industry policy).
The WA Government lifted the ban on uranium mining in 2008, and has since invested more than $300 million in uranium exploration, with an eye on potentially lucrative growth of demand for uranium in Asia, including India (see insert).
India, together with the nuclear weapon states South Sudan, Israel and Pakistan, has still not signed the 1970 Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. As explained in a brief by the international Arms Control Association, joining the treaty would require that these countries dismantle their nuclear weapons and place their nuclear materials under international safeguards.
But because India remained outside the treaty it was so far excluded from Australia's uranium exports.
This may change now.
In October 2014, the Australian and Indian governments signed a proposal for a nuclear cooperation agreement under which Australian uranium resources could be supplied to India.
And while the International Energy Agency's 2014 World Energy Outlook still notes an uncertain future for nuclear power (see also insert), WA's uranium mining is gaining momentum with four projects now in the advanced stages of development. They include:
Kintyre Uranium Project: located in the East Pilbara and owned by a joint venture of Cameco (operator, 70%) and Mitsubishi (30%);
Yeelirrie Uranium Project: proposed for one of Australia's largest undeveloped uranium deposits in the Northern Goldfields region, the project is owned by Cameco - is yet to obtain environmental approval;
Wiluna Uranium Project: the most advanced WA uranium project, with owner Toro Energy Limited having received state and federal environmental approval for the mining of two deposits, Centipede and Lake Way, around 30 kilometres south of the mining town of Wiluna; and
Mulga Rock Uranium Project: located 240 kilometres north-east of Kalgoorlie in the Great Victoria Desert, the project is owned by Vimy Resources and yet to receive environmental approval.
According to the International Energy Agency (May 2015), there are 437 nuclear power stations operating in 31 countries. In 2014, their combined capacity was 380 gigawatts (GW) and they provided around 11% of the world's electricity.
While this is well down from the peak in 1996, when nuclear power accounted for almost 18% of the world's electricity, there are over 60 reactors currently being constructed. Of these, most are located in non-OECD countries in the Asian region, while many countries within the OECD increase capacity by upgrading existing facilities. In all, over 160 power reactors with a total net capacity of around 186GW are planned and more than 300 are proposed.
However, in its World Energy Outlook 2014 report, the IEA also foreshadows a wave of retirements of ageing nuclear reactors with almost 200 to be decommissioned in the period to 2040, the vast majority of which are in the European Union, the US, Russia and Japan. This could come at a considerable cost, estimated to amount to more than $100 billion. The IEA further highlights the limited experience of the world's nuclear industry with dismantling and decontaminating reactors and restoring sites.
According to the World Nuclear Association, the US leads the world in the estimated consumption of uranium oxide, with 18.6 thousand tonnes estimated for 2015, while France is second requiring around 9.2 thousand tonnes and China third requiring around 8.2 thousand tonnes.
India is set to grow its nuclear power industry but it still uses comparably low amounts of uranium, 1579 tonnes estimated for 2015, with around 2000 tonnes forecast for 2020.
With the official 'switch-on' of the Perth Wave Energy Project (PWEP) at Western Australia's Garden Island in February, Carnegie Wave Energy could celebrate the world's first grid-connected project operating multiple wave units.
The PWEP is also on train to become the first project that not only produces power but also freshwater, with both products supplied to the Australian Defence Force naval base, HMAS Stirling.
The power plant with a capacity of 700 kilowatt took around ten years to build at a cost close to $100 million. Both the Western Australian and Australian Government contributed significantly, with $10 million from the state's Low Emissions Energy Development (LEED) program and $13 million from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA).
image to enlarge)- CETO Power
and Freshwater technology
So far the news continue to be good. Thus, according to recent company updates, the three installed CETO 5 units have now accumulated more than 7,500 continuous operating hours, during which they had to sustain up to 4 metre high waves. The company was also able to retrieve a unit validating its 'hot swap' maintenance strategy.
Given their strong support of the project, both state and federal government's will be pleased with the progress.
And while Prime Minister Tony Abbott is ostensibly hostile towards renewable energies, his Energy Minister Ian Macfarlane sent a message of praise at the wave project's launch, describing it as "great evidence of a commercial success in renewable energy".
However, with less than 1 megawatt (MW) capacity, the PWEP is not a commercial project. Instead its primary objective is to demonstrate the principle viability of the technology and the gained experience will now feed into a four times bigger plant. While also located off Garden Island, it will employ three next-generation CETO 6 units, which each have a targeted capacity of 1MW.
A major difference to PWEP is that the units will be further out in deeper water, with a power generation system offshore inside a buoy, rather than onshore as with the CETO 5 technology. According to the company, the ability to move into deeper, more distant to shore wave resources increases the size of the commercial market for CETO.
Expected to go on-grid in 2017, this project will put the commercial viability of the technology to the test. The company says, with 3 MW capacity at a capital cost of $25 million it will be three-times cheaper on a dollar per MW basis than the PWEP project.
Again, the Australian Government is heavily involved with a $11 million from ARENA and a five year $20 million loan facility from the Australian Clean Energy Finance Corporation. And the Australian Department of Defence is again sole customer for the produced energy.
The support may be well placed. Thus, Carnegie was recently selected from over 1,500 different sustainable projects for the shortlist 100 of the 2016 Sustainia Award.
And the international reach is growing. The company has established subsidiaries in the UK, Ireland and Chile, and it recently announced a collaboration agreement with Chile's private/public innovation centre Fundacion Chile for potential wave energy projects in Chile and Peru.
April 2015 - Mineral Resources and Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis, announced that the latest round of the PACE Discovery Drilling 2015 will co-fund 27 resource exploration projects. The total of 2$ million provided will add to $4.9 million invested by the exploration industry.
South Australia has not given up on the dream the state could one day match WA's mining success - despite major setbacks, such as in 2012 the disappointment with BHP's decision not to risk an Olympic Dam expansion.
Click image to enlarge a map with funded project locations
In pursuit of kick-starting a mining boom in the state, the SA government set up a Plan for Acclerating Exploration (PACE) in 2004, which successfully spurred investment and was built upon in 2010, with the launch of a broadened scheme, PACE2020.
Since 2013, it includes the PACE Frontiers initiative, which aims to reduce the high investment risk associated with new exploration projects in South Australia.
Funded with a total of $8 million until 2018, PACE Frontiers also provides direct financial support for frontier exploration projects, such as through the PACE Discovery Drilling 2015 program.
While this program targets new exploration projects across South Australia, a complementary PACE Mineral Systems Drilling program focusses on projects in the Gawler Craton, a region covering almost half a million square kilometres of the state's centre. It includes the highly prospective Eastern Gawler Craton Olympic Domain, a region of high investment risk because of the deep cover (overburden) that overlays potential resource - and the Western Gawler Craton-Eucla Basin, one of Australia's greatest yet largely unexplored geological frontiers.
June 2015 - Constraint by difficult economic conditions, the recent state budgets of Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia brought few noteworthy announcements targeting the Australian innovation system.
The Tasmanian government expects a return to surplus by 2016-17, with a cumulative surplus of $310 million forecast over the forward estimates. But with unemployment still high across the state, much of the budget's narrative concentrates on job creation and new infrastructure - $720 million are earmarked for roads and bridges, and $120 million for rail infrastructure.
The Tasmanian budget also allocates $370,000 for a Precision Agriculture Project, which will use technology such as satellite positioning systems, automated machine guidance, computers and devices to improve and guide farming practices and performance. Further $160,000 will be contributed by industry stakeholders.
The project is part of the government's $600,000 Farm Productivity Program.
A $24 million over four years investment into exploration and mining development underpins the government's declared "unflinching" support for the mining sector. It includes improvements in geoscience information services, such as a comprehensive three dimensional geological model of the state, and a renewed commitment to the relocation of Mineral Resources Tasmania (MRT) from Hobart to Burnie, Tasmania's port city on the state's north west-coast.
Burnie's economic health is tied to the state of its forestry industry and to mining. Most of Tasmania's mining activity takes place in the state's west coast, with mining products then shipped out from Burnie. With the region's forestry industry in a downturn and unemployment rates among the highest in the state, the government hopes to stimulate mining through the closer proximity of the MRT and its around 40 staff members to the industrial activity - a belief that is not shared by the state's opposition.
While giving this message of support for the region's struggling economy, the government confirmed that there will be no further funding for Forestry Tasmania. The state-owned enterprise, which relies on the exploits from around 800,000 hectares of public production forest, has been running at a loss for years and after it reported an after tax loss of $43.1 million for the year 2013-14, Forestry Tasmania's survival is now under serious threat.
It has been questioned, though, why the enterprise is in so much trouble, having repeatedly been bailed out by the Tasmanian taxpayer in the past. Thus, the Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, recently called for a Royal Commission into the financial dealings of the business.
The state government has indicated that for Forestry Tasmania to enter a path of long-term sustainability its operations will need to be downsized, and this was followed by the ABC reporting in May that staff at Forestry Tasmania's Camdale and Smithton operations in the state's north-west have already been invited to apply for voluntary redundancies.
The Western Australian Government is struggling with a significant decline in general government revenue, which in 2014-15 reduced by an estimated 3.3%, and according to budget forecasts will again contract by 2.7% in 2015-16.
The budget papers highlight how much of the state's wellbeing depends not only on mining royalty income generally, but in fact on one commodity: iron ore, which contributed 57% of Western Australia's total mineral sales value in 2014-15.
Mining royalty income accounts for around 14% of total government revenue, but is expected to decline by 17.3% as lower iron ore prices on world markets outweigh the state's increases in ore production.
Even the depreciation of the Australian dollar against the US dollar won't save the day for WA, while lower prices for liquid natural gas and oil add to the government's finanical pain.
It is unsurprising that the government continues to lament the low share it receives from the national GST revenue. Based on recommendations by the Commonwealth Grants Commission the state will get just 30% of its population share of the national GST grant pool in 2015-16.
Despite the financial constraints the WA Government is now under, there are some noteworthy initiatives in the 2015-16 budget. They include:
$21.6 million over five years in new funding for the Pawsey Supercomputing Centre will support a variety of scientific research disciplines requiring high-level computational, visual and data management resources, such as Australia's participation in the Square Kilometre Project (SKA).
$44 million in 2015-16 for Australia's first full scale groundwater replenishment scheme, the construction of which started in October 2014. The new scheme is to replenish an aquifer with wastewater treated to drinking water quality. In total the project is estimated to cost around $124.6 million and will supply up to 20% of Perth's drinking water needs.
Specific funding initiatives also include the $20 million Boosting Grains and Research Development and the $15 million Northern Beef Futures project. These projects are part of a larger $300 million Seizing the Opportunity Agriculture program, which is supported by the State Government's Royalties for Regions program and comprises 15 individual projects.
The key figures in the first budget of Victoria's new government include a projected operating surplus of $1.2 billion (a cumulative surplus of $5.8 billion is estimated for the forward estimates period), which is forcast to reduce government debt to 4.4% of gross state product in 2015-16.
Victoria's economic growth is expected to improve to 2.5% in 2015-16.
While this implies favourable conditions, the state is still challenged by relatively high unemployment of 6.25% forecast for 2015-16. Hence, the government's declared focus is on job creation.
Premier's Jobs and Investment Fund
The $508 million Premier's Jobs and Investment Fund is a centrepiece of this effort, although there is little detail on it to be found in the budget papers - other than that a panel including senior economic and business leaders will advise how the money should be best spent for the creation of 'high-skills, high-wage jobs'.
As part of the initiative and as promised in the election, the government has earmarked $60 million for the establishment of a 'start-up' initiative. It will assist entrepreneurs with their business cases, intellectual property and financial management, and their dealings with governments, with the broader objective to take the state's best ideas "from conception to completion, from mind to market" (Premier Andrews).
Future Industries Fund
The budget has allocated a further $200 million for a Future Industries Fund, which will offer grants of up to $1 million to companies working in six priority. These include:
Medical technology and pharmaceuticals;
New energy technology;
Food and fibre processing;
Transport, defence and construction technology;
International education; and
The assistance will cover expenditures that are not 'business as usual' and can deliver benefits to the company/companies or the state/region. The money provided will be on a co-contribution basis, with up to $500,000 for projects by single companies and up to $1 million for collaborative projects.
To support businesses targeting overseas markets the budget is providing $6 million for the establishment of Victorian Government Business Offices in South America, Singapore and Turkey. There also $12 million set aside for an inbound trade mission program aimed at attracting international investors to the state.
At present, the Victorian Government is developing the state's first creative industries strategy and in April, the Victorian Government announced it would set up a new Taskforce to guide the estimated $22.7 billion sector in the state. Then in June, Minister for Creative Industries Martin Foley launched a discussion paper, in which the government emphasises the strength of the state across the sector, which includes the visual arts, screen literature, performance, music, design, digital games and other emerging cultural fields. This has raised expectations that the government will provide special support to the state's creative potential.
In our dossier 'Creative Nation' published in 2012 we acknowledged the increasing contribution creative industries make to our innovation system. This was also highlighted with the Creative Industries, a Strategy for 21st Century Australia released by the previous Australian Government in 2012.
But while the budget supports the sector with a total of $202 million over the forward estimates, most of the money is set aside for existing art infrastructure and state-owned cultural assets, such as $55 million towards the redevelopment of the State Library.
There are also $26.5 million allocated for small to medium arts and cultural organisations, education, youth and multicultural arts programs, and there will be $20 million for regional arts and creativity funds.
Notably absent, though, are initiatives targeting areas with a high capacity for driving innovation, such as design, including industry design, and IT, software and computer services.
27 March 2015 - The largest solar photovoltaic (PV) research facility in the southern hemisphere was officially launched at the Gatton campus of the University of Queensland (UQ).
Arial view of the Gatton research facility
Image source: University of Queensland
With 37,000 thin-film photovoltaic panels from American company First Solar and a capacity of around 3.3 megawatt (MW), it indeed boasts the state's largest solar array, and for the univsersity it is adding to its 1.22 MW solar roof top system at St Lucia, also the largest of its kind in Australia.
The Gatton facility features another superlative: for the first time in Australia multiple PV mounting technologies including fixed-tilt, single-axis and dual-axis tracker technologies can be operated side-by-side in the same field and inform electrical and economic performance.
Researchers will be able to investigate the efficient integration of solar energy generated from large scale solar systems into the electricity grid. With a 600 kilowatt, 760 kilowatt-hour Kookam lithium phosphate ion battery storage array soon to be installed by Mpower they will also be able to study the potential value of short- and medium-term energy storage with batteries.
The Gatton solar research facility is a key component of a $40.7 million grant UQ and its partner, the University of New South Wales, received from the Australian Government's Education Investment Fund (EIF) in 2012.
Location of solar projects in relation to mean annual solar radiation levels
image: solar map of annual radiation levels by CRES, ANU
The grant was primarily meant to establish a pilot plant for two large scale photovoltaic power plants AGL Energy Limited is constructing in New South Wales, at sites in Nyngan and Broken Hill.
With a combined capacity of 159MW, it is to date Australia's largest solar project, and estimated to cost well over $450 million. The project was selected for funding under the previous Solar Flagships program and is supported to the tune of $166.7 million through the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA). A further $64.9 million contributed by the New South Wales Government.
According to a company statement in May, the 102MW Nyngan Solar Plant is on track to be fully operational by July this year, while at its 53MW Broken Hill plant the first solar PV modules from project partner First Solar are now installed.
May 2015 - The transformation of Adelaide's former Mitsubishi automotive plant at Tonsley into a precinct for education and high-value manufacturing enterprises is to take place over a 20 period.
But its future shape is already beginning to take form, with the establishment of a new Flinders University campus and the move of business accelerator Innovyz to the site among the latest developments.
April 2015 - As part of its push for a growing advanced manufacturing industry, the state government announced grants worth a total of $2 million for two South Australian Research Fellowships.
The University of Adelaide will receive $1 million to recruit a researcher in the field of nanoscale biophotonics. The researcher, funded with $1 million over four years, will take up a leadership role in the new Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics.
The second grant of $1 million over four years was awarded to Flinders University for the employment of an expert in digital health technologies. This is expected to drive the development of new medical devices and tools used in the diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.
South Australia's manufacturing industry has fallen on hard times, but the state government hopes for a phoenix like rise from the ashes in the form of a high-value goods exporting industry. Its defiant 'yes, we can - even in SA' attitude towards the idea of an advanced manufacturing industry in the state was also encouraged by Adelaide's former Thinker in Residence Professor Göran Roos, who canvassed a future of opportunity for exporters of high value-added products in the state.
The vision draws from the success of others, including countries in the European manufacturing belt - Germany, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland, Austria, Denmark and the Netherlands. Indeed, these countries recovered much better from the Global Financial Crisis than other advanced economies without a strong high-value manufacturing base.
Image of the Tonsley construction site (top) and an artists impression of the site at completion.
The state's Manufacturing and Innovation Minister Susan Close recently remarked that Germany's Industrie 4.0 initiative, "a major driving force behind a transformation of Germany's manufacturing sector", could be a model for transforming the industry in South Australia.
Of course, this largely ignores the significant historical differences between the two economies, with Germany having a long tradition of producing high-value technological products going back a century and more.
Still, the determination for a remake of the SA's manufacturing sector is conjuring possible paths to make utopia become reality.
An example for this is the transformation of an abandoned vehicle manufacturing plant to a collaborative education, university research and industry precinct just a short bike ride away form Adelaide's CBD.
Adelaide's Flinders University has been a major driver in the Tonsley Park development, also because of its proximity with its main campus being just a few kilometres further out of the city - for once, it seems, the young university at the southern outskirts of the capital finds itself right in the epicentre of development.
Flinders has invested $120 million in establishing its new Tonsley campus, where it will co-locate the School of Computer Science, Engineering and Mathematics with its Medical Device Research Institute and the Centre for Nanoscale Science and Technology. It will also have there its commercialisation agent, Flinders Partners and its New Venture Institute, which connects the university to business and entrepreneurs.
The initiative was welcomed by the federal Industry and Science Minister Ian MacFarlane, who said at the opening that the new facility was an illustration of both the changing nature of global manufacturing, as well as the opportunities for growth in Australian jobs and industries.
There is also the aura of a global player, which was brought in with the Australian arm of German firm Siemens. The company is currently constructing a Turbomachinery Services Workshop at Tonsley.
Other players found on site are still more local, including medical technology firm Hills Industries, medical device company Signostics, innovative data service provider Tier5, and smart energy company ZEN Energy Systems.
In May, Innovyz, which is mentoring upcoming entrepreneurs, opened its new offices at Tonsley. The company has so far assisted more than 40 companies in raising committed funds of close to $20 million. Alongside Innovyz, the nations peak body for the simulation community, Simulation Australasia, relocated to the new precinct further broadening the spectrum of represented technologies now including mining and resources, clean technology and renewable energy, medical devices, and software and simulation.
6 June 2014 - After a disappointing outcome for Western Australia in the NHMRC's 2013 funding round, the State Government announced $3 million for new health projects with the aim to boost the State's federal funding competitiveness
$1.1 million of the funding will support emerging researchers who applied but missed out in getting funded by the NHMRC in 2013, with up to $75,000 offered to projects the agency had classified as 'fundable but not funded'.
A further $350,000 is for seven fellowships supporting researchers who missed out on Early Carreer and Early Career Development Fellowships.
The funding also includes $500,000 in support for University Research Mentoring programs, which are designed to improve the quality and competitiveness of grant applications to national and international funding bodies.
The remainder of $900,000 is allocated to a range of health database project including:
Busselton Population Medical Research Institute: $300,000;
A new $38 million Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics has been launched at the University of Adelaide. The collaboration with Macquarie University and RMIT will create ways of looking at biological processes down to the level of single cells, without the need to remove these cells from the body.
Click to view video
Initially, the researchers will focus their attention on three major questions of biology, for which nanoscale biophotonics could provide a major step up:
The Spark of Life, exploring approaches to sensing in and around embryos;
Origins of Sensation, probing immune signals linked to touch and pain in the central nervous system; and
Inside Blood Vessels, exploring the role of the endothelium within blood vessels and the damaging effects of plaque.
Biophotonics is an emerging field that uses light and optical fibres to image, detect and also manipulate biological systems. The centre will take this to another level by developing the technology at the nanoscale, bringing together expertise in nanofrabication and nanophotonics.
The centre has defined four broad research themes (Illuminate, Recognise, Measure, Discover), which will develop:
novel light sources for interrogating biomolecules;
smart surfaces for photonic structures and nanoparticles;
nanophotonic architectures customized to enhance light-matter interactions at the nanoscale for biological measurement; and
ways to identify specific molecular changes for measurement using adanced molecular sensors
November 2014 - The New South Wales Government has adopted all recommendations detailed by the NSW chief scientist and engineer, Professor Mary O'Kane in her Final Report of the Independent Review of Coal Seam Gas Activities in NSW, which was released in September 2014.
As layed out in its NSW Government's Gas Plan, the State Government agrees with Professor O'Kane that gas development risks can be effectively managed with the right regulation, engineering solutions and ongoing management in place
Key points of the plan include:
The Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs) will be reset, with the government deciding which areas will be released for exploration and to whom.
A freeze on assessing new PEL applications will remain until the new system is set, and legislation will extinguish 16 previous applications.
Landholders and communities will share the financial benefits during exploration and production and a Community Benefits Fund will deliver infrastructure for communities upfront.
The government will commission an independent review of royalties to ensure it has the right settings to develop a competitive gas industry to meet the State's supply needs.
The government will continue to push for greater transparency of the East Coast gas market.
Gas companies will disclose their gas supply arrangements to demonstrate the development of NSW gas reserves will benefit the State's gas consumers.
17 June 2014 - A strong increase of revenues, which totalled $65.4 billion in 2013-14, provided a positive backdrop to the NSW Government's 2014-15 budget. And the growth in income is expected to continue in 2014-15 and across the forward estimates, although on a more modest pace.
For 2014-15, the budget is nevertheless forecast to be slightly in the red, with $283 million, with a modest surplus then expected in the following year. Total net debt is at around $12.4 billion.
Expenditure announcements of interest include $13.5 million for the State's Research Attraction and Acceleration Program (RAAP). The program combines the previous Science Leveraging Fund and the State's contribution to National ICT Australia.
$6 million for the Sydney Genomic Collaborative Program as part of an $24 million, four-year investment in using genetic technologies to improve patient outcomes;
$1 million for the Pathogen Genomics Partnerships Program, to facilitate research into sequencing dangerous pathogens;
$1.5 million over three years for NSW Health Pathology to establish a state-wide approach to research bio-banks;
$34 million continued investment for Cancer Institute NSW to support and manage cancer research programs, including translational research, clinical trials and career support for cancer researchers across the state;
$7.7 million for the Medical Devices Fund to support the development of medical devices that will lead to better treatment options and patient outcomes. This is on top of the $10.3 million awarded in the inaugural round of funding; and
$44 million towards the Medical Research Support Program to support independent research institutes.
$50 million will be invested in the State's mining and gas industries, of which $30 million will support the Government's Strategic Regional Land Use Policy. The policy was announced in September 2012 to better manage the competing interests between agriculture, mining and petroleum projects. Its key components include the Strategic Agricultural Land initiative, which is to map the most valuable agricultural land in the State. Certain projects falling on areas thus identified then require an independent scientific assessment under a Mining and Petroleum Gateway Process. Other coponents of the policy include:
a Coal Seam Gas Exclusion Zone;
the appointment of a Land and Water Commissioner (Jock Laurie);
the Aquifer Interference Policy to assess potential impacts of mining and petroleum projects on water resources;
the requirement of an Agricultural Impact Statement as part of the assessment of mineral and petroleum exploration and production proposals; and
the implementation of a Codes of Practice for the coals seams gas industry.
Geoscience activities, including the New Frontiers exploration programme, will receive $15 million, and a further $4 million will be directed towards the rehabilitation of derelict mines.
Of the $1.3 billion that is allocated to the Department of Primary Industries for research and development programs, which includes around $100 million for research and development, Local Land Services will receive $61 million.
The reform of regional service delivery is to bring together agricultural production advice, biosecurity, natural resource management and emergency management into a single organisation.
The Department will also support Biosecurity with $4.8 million.
November 2015 - Following the closure of car manufacturing plants in Victoria and South Australia, federal and state governments implemented assistance programs designed to milden the economic and social impact on the states and to set their manufacturing businesses onto a more sustainable path (see also our story 'Eternal transition').
Recent investments include government assistance for Victorian businesses under the Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund (GRIIF) and the Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Program (NGMIP).
Announced in November, the new rounds of grants together worth $39 million are expected to leverage around $120 million in total investment.
The first round of the NGMIP also delivered for South Australia, with 15 companies in the State receiving grants together worth $28.8 million, potentially resulting in $73 million in total investment in high value manufacturing projects.
Geelong Region Innovation and Investment Fund (GRIIF):
The GRIIF was set up in 2013 with
$29.5 million following Ford's decision to close local production in the Geelong region.
A further $5 million was then contributed by Alcoa in 2014, following its decision to close the Port Henry aluminium smelter.
In its third round the GRIIF delivered grants totalling $11.2 million, with three of the seven successful projects accounting for almost all of the available funding ($9.8 million):
Air Radiators - $3.3 million for the establishment of a purpose build facility to manufacture large, industrial aluminium heat exchangers;
Associated Kiln Driers Pty Ltd t/a AKD Softwoods - $3.5 million for the installation of the latest sawmilling technology and an upgrade of the company's dry mill; and
M.C. Herd Proprietary Limited - $3.0 million for the construction and commissioning of a semi-automated stock cutting room for meat products.
Previous rounds of the scheme have provided $17 million, with major recipients including Australian Lamb Pty Ltd; Cotton On Clothing Pty Ltd and carbon fibre wheel producer Carbon Revolution Pty Ltd.
Next Generation Manufacturing Investment Program (NGMIP):
Also announced in November were eleven
receiving $27.4 million worth of grants in the first round of the NGMIP,
which is jointly funded by the Australian, Victorian and South Australian Governments as part of the $155 million Growth Fund .
The provided assistance for Victoria's high value manufacturing industry is estimated to leverage $75 million in total investment, with successful project including:
HeiQ Australia Pty Ltd - $1.26 million for establishing an industrial scale manufacturing facility for short polymer fibre (SPF) materials;
Marand Precision Engineering Pty Ltd - $5.0 million to expand its capacity to manufacture and assemble vertical tails for the Joint Strike Fighter F35;
Bombardier Transportation Australia Pty Ltd - $3.2 million to expand its rail vehicle manufacturing capacity and capability at its site in Dandenong;
Reinforced Concrete Pipes Australia (Vic) Pty Ltd - $2.61 million for the first Australian deployment of innovative new generation dry cast technology; and
Turrisi Enterprises Pty Ltd - $1.58 million for an advanced caravan chassis and suspension manufacturing facility at Campbellfield Victoria.
Successful applications from South Australian companies include:
Ahrens Group Pty Ltd (SA) - $3.00 million for the establishment a flat bottom silo manufacturing operation in South Australia;
Levett Engineering Pty Ltd - $1.6 million including for expanding high value manufacturing capacity to meet existing contracts for components of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter;
SA Structural Pty Ltd - $1.26 million for the installation and commissioning of a copying machine to cut steel using the dual thermal processes of high definition plasma, where extreme precision & quality finish is required;
Seeley International Pty Ltd $4.95 million for the establishment of the high volume Climate Wizard heat exchanger and cooler production facility.
Mexican Express Pty Ltd - $1.65 million for commissioning the first aseptic horizontally formed, filled and sealed facility in Australia;
Mayne Pharma International Pty Ltd - $4.0 million to increase the existing capacity of its spray coating facility with the purchase of a new fluid bed spray coater, which will be used to apply coatings to medicine; and
BAE Systems Australia Limited - $2,48 million to establish a complex mill turn capability in hard metals and expand high-value manufacturing activities to encompass engine components for the Joint Strike Fighter.
January 2015 - The Australian forest and wood products sector is transitioning from its traditional, resource driven, low-technology business model to an industry that applies modern technologies and business approaches.
A new ARC Training Centre for Forest Value at the University of Tasmania, set up with $3.6 million from the agency's Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, will support this process.
Australia's forest and wood products industry recognises that it needs to shift its focus away from traditional markets towards new emerging opportunities, including a growing bio-economy.
The use of timber is again in fashion as a sustainable construction material. For example, Australia has recently followed international trends with a change in its National Construction Code, which will now allow timber to be used in the construction of buildings up to eight storeys high - the previous limit was up to three storeys.
New materials are also finding a way into the supply chain, such as cross laminated timber and Glulam, which is manufactured by bonding together smaller pieces of timber using durable durable, moisture-resistant structural adhesives.
But while this presents new opportunities, businesses in the sector face the challenge of integrating and managing a supply chain that is becoming more complex.
There is also a need for greater sophistication in how the industry specifies wood for architectural and engineering purposes.
Officially opened in January, the new ARC centre will support this transition, with its main focus being directed on training a highly qualified workforce, including industry-ready higher degree by research graduates and postdoctoral fellows.
It will also establish innovative processes the industry can use to assess the characteristics of forest resources and to then pass these along the supply chain to their final application, for example in a commercial building.
December 2015 - The Australian and Queensland Government's have announced $15 million worth of projects to combat the impacts of pests and weeds on the state's farming industry.
Agricultural Minister Barnaby Joyce said in a statement that major pests are estimated to cost the Australian agricultural industries $740 million each year in livestock losses, and weed management has been estimated to cost Australian farmers more than $3 billion each year.
The funded projects will take a multi-pronged approach, undertaking a range of activities such as cluster fencing, baiting and trapping, and weed management of the key pest plant prickly acacia.
The successful applicants are:
Southern Downs Regional Council;
South West NRM Ltd;
Goondiwindi Regional Council;
Maranoa Regional Council;
Quilpie Shire Council;
Central Western Queensland Remote Area Planning and Development Board; and
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Cisco's concept of the Internet of Everything evolved from the Internet of Things by "adding network intelligence and security that allows convergence, orchestration and visibilty across previously disparate systems" (Cisco,2013).
The graph obtained from the NSW Government Trade & Investment website shows the overall ethanol percentage of total petrol quarterly sales in NSW between 2007 and 2014.
CETO Power (top) and Freshwater (bottom) technology; CETO units are fully
submerged and permanently anchored to the sea floor meaning that there is no
visual impact as the units are out of sight. This also assists in making them
safe from the extreme forces that can be present during storms.
Sepia apama, or giant cuttlefish, is native to Australian southern coastal waters (shown in the left image provided by Mark Norman & Amanda Reid). During its short live of two to three years, it appears to be especially attracted to the rocky reefs at Point Lowly, SA, the only known larger spawning aggregation of the fish.
CETO Power (top) and Freshwater (bottom) technology; CETO units are fully
submerged and permanently anchored to the sea floor meaning that there is no
visual impact as the units are out of sight. This also assists in making them
safe from the extreme forces that can be present during storms.