CSIRO's is strengthening its investment in 'blue sky' research with the announcement of new Future Science Platforms (FSP), while continuing a new focus on commercialising research through its ON program.
Celebrating 100 years since it was established as the Advisory Council of Science and Industry in 1916, the CSIRO has developed six Future Science Platforms (FSPs), through which the agency is taking aim at challenging and riskier science.
The FSPs were chosen by CSIRO researchers and staff to boost innovation in health and biology, resources, agriculture and manufacturing. Initially launched with $17 million, CSIRO will increase the funding for frontier science delivered through FSPs to $52 million per year by 2020.
CSIRO's six new Future Science Platforms are:
Environomics - targets Australia's biodiversity to improve management of economically useful species; to detect biosecurity threats; and to create new products based on previously unknown biological data.
Synthetic Biology - includes the design, fabrication, and construction of new biological parts, devices, systems, and machines, as well as the re-design of existing biological systems for useful purposes.
Deep Earth Imaging - aims at discovering the previously undiscovered minerals, energy and water resources that lie deep under the earth or sea.
Digiscape - aims to develop decision support tools to make agricultural industries more productive and provide better information to environmental policy makers. The tools will include the use of sensors, data visualisation, artificial intelligence and assisted decision making.
Probing Biosystems - aims at obtaining real-time information from living organisms about their health and well-being, including to develop health and medical interventions that are timely, customised and highly specific.
Active Integrated Matter - will combine advanced materials, robotics, sensing technologies, data processing and autonomous capabilities to reinvent fields as diverse as manufacturing, agriculture, emergency services, infrastructure and mining.
However, CSIRO's overall focus has shifted towards supporting commercialisation of research outcomes, notably through its ON program that aims to create connections between research, science and business.
The program consistes of two accelerator elements, the ON Accelerator and the ON-Prime scheme.
The ON Accelerator, which opened in July 2015, offers a three month intensive program for researchers and collaborators to develop and validate high potential innovative ventures. The scheme is open for applications on 4 October 2016, with 10 positions available for research teams across the country.
ON's second element, the ON Prime scheme, is the agency's entry level pre-accelerator program, designed to help research teams discover potential commercial applications of their research.
Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Greg Hunt has recently announced that 39 teams from CSIRO and Australian universities will have their projects fast-tracked through the scheme, with funding provided under the National Innovation and Science Agenda. The teams will undergo an eight-week program in one of five ON Prime 'hubs' from 20 September.
Among the successful 'ready to break out' projects are:
an acoustic-belt that listens to, records and analyses gut noises to aid more accurate diagnosis and treatment of patients suffering from irritable bowel syndrome or other gastrointestinal conditions;
a new tool for winemakers that captures and interprets historical, real-time and forecast data to help improve decision making and increase wine quality and crop outputs across the $300bn wine industry;
new contrast imaging technology that improves X-ray image sensitivity and quality and allows doctors to ‘see the invisible’ in tumours and soft-tissue while reducing the radiation dose for patients;
an empathy simulator that allows high-quality, cost-effective virtual training of health and aged care workers to improve communication skills and empathy;
new processes for apple juice producers to reduce or reuse the by-products of juice manufacture to create new food-products and markets while reducing landfill and greenhouse gas-emissions.