Tag Archives: CSIRO

CSIRO energy

Chemistry expertise led to CSIRO legacy of lowering emissions

University science collaborations have geared CSIRO research director Dr David Harris to uncover ways to move to a sustainable global energy system.

Dr David Harris is a scientist who leads CSIRO’s Low Emissions Technologies Program, a research team exploring ways to lower carbon emissions from renewable and coal-based systems.

His research during the past 30 years has focused on improving the efficiency of systems that generate electricity and power.

As the son of a mechanic and an artist growing up in rural New South Wales, Harris credits his BSc in Industrial Chemistry, from the University of NSW, for giving him the practical foundation for understanding big processes such as steel and glass manufacturing and the use of chemistry and physics in industry. 

For his PhD, Harris worked with BHP’s Newcastle steelworks researching the processes of degradation of metallurgical coke in high-temperature blast furnaces.

“We identified some really interesting chemical and physical processes that you wouldn’t normally associate with steelmaking,” he explains. 

In collaboration with the University of Queensland, University of Newcastle and University of NSW, as well as coal industry partners, these findings led Harris to investigate combustion, mass-transformation and, ultimately, gasification in advanced power generation technologies.

“Not many of these advanced coal technologies were installed in Australia, but those processes led to the technology we are now developing for conversion of ammonia to hydrogen and then separation of hydrogen for other uses,” he says, referring to CSIRO’s ammonia-to-hydrogen fuelling technologies, which range from synthesis gas to new industries for renewable energy exports.

“Now we’re looking at hydrogen-based energy systems, with that hydrogen coming from coal, gas, renewable energy such as biomass, industrial and municipal waste streams, solar or wind,” says Harris.

He says Australia’s high solar coverage gives a real advantage when combined with clever technology to produce hydrogen from solar energy, which could be exported to remove emissions from motor vehicles and energy systems worldwide.

Brendan Fitzpatrick

PATH

>> Bachelor of Science, UNSW

>> PhD (Industrial Chemistry), UNSW

>> Technical Officer, School of Chemical Engineering, UNSW

>> Program Manager, CRC for Black Coal Utilisation

>> Interim CEO, Centre for Low Emissions Technology

>> Research Director, Low Emissions Technologies, CSIRO

This article appears in Australian University Science Issue 1.



hydrogen economy

The future Hydrogen Economy is scaffolded by universities

The world faces a huge challenge in sustainably delivering our energy needs. Hydrogen promises to become a major clean energy contributor, yet currently most of the world’s 70 million tonnes of hydrogen produced each year comes from hydrocarbon/coal processes such as coal gasification, with only around four per cent from ‘clean’ processes involving electrolysis (converting water into hydrogen and oxygen).

Australian university science provides the basis on which the hydrogen industry has evolved and continues to innovate, playing an essential role as a partner in establishing innovation and technological change. This research is coming from surprising places, including centres of biology, chemistry and geology.

Plant science key to unlimited clean fuels 

Using electrolysis to convert water into hydrogen — with a by-product of oxygen — is costly because it must use continuous grid power. At present, these energy-hungry and inefficient processes defeat the purpose of creating hydrogen as an energy source.  

At the Australian National University, chemistry professors Ron Pace and Rob Stranger have taken a leaf from nature, uncovering the process used by all photosynthetic organisms to use the sun’s energy to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen. This natural electrolysis is the most efficient method known and relies on a ‘chemical spark plug’ called the water oxidising complex.

For decades, debate has raged about how the atoms that comprise water are used in this photosynthesis process. Profs Pace and Stranger used Australia’s fastest supercomputer at the ANU’s National Computational Infrastructure facility to model the chemical structure of the manganese atoms involved in this process and to decode the reasons behind its efficiency.

Their discovery has opened up opportunities to develop ‘artificial leaf’ technology with the capacity for potential unlimited future hydrogen production.

Professor Pace now heads a $1.77 million project in partnership with Dr Gerry Swiegers and Dr Pawel Wagner at the University of Wollongong, which uses specially designed electrodes, made of Gor-Tex, to mimic natural surfaces. The materials will help the formation of hydrogen and oxygen gas bubbles to operate more efficiently and also allow them to use fluctuating power sources such as wind and solar energy. 

Hydrogen pilot plant delivers first shipment 

Potential demand for imported hydrogen in China, Japan, South Korea and Singapore could reach 3.8 million tonnes by 2030. The QUT Redlands Research Facility is already geared up to generate hydrogen gas from seawater using solar power generated by its concentrated solar array.

The project received funding from the Australian Renewable Energy Agency to develop next-generation technologies in electrolysis, energy storage and chemical sensing to produce hydrogen without any carbon dioxide emissions. 

The facility is led by Professor Ian Mackinnon, who possesses deep science expertise in geology and chemistry, and also heads QUT’s Institute for Future Environments. The first shipment of green hydrogen was exported from the facility, to Japan, in March 2019 as part of a collaboration between QUT and the University of Tokyo, which uses proprietary technology owned by JXTG, Japan’s largest petroleum conglomerate. It’s just one of the ways in which Australian science expertise, led by universities, is driving a new economy forward.

Fran Molloy

University science delivering key outcomes to hydrogen and energy futures

  • New material splits water into hydrogen cheaply: Professor Chuan Zhao and UNSW chemists invented a new nano-framework of non-precious metals, making it cheaper to create hydrogen fuel by splitting water atoms.

  • Molecular breakthrough helps solar cells tolerate humidity: Nanomaterials scientists at Griffith University, under Professor Huijun Zhao, invented a way to make cheap solar-cell technology more tolerant of moisture and humidity.

  • A spoonful of sugar generates enough hydrogen energy to power a mobile phone: Genetically engineered bacteria that turn sugar into hydrogen have been developed by a team of molecular chemists at Macquarie University who are looking to scale the technology.

  • Solar crystals are non-toxic: Under Dr Guohua Jia, molecular scientists at Curtin University have invented tiny crystals that don’t contain toxic metals but can be used as catalysts to convert solar energy into hydrogen.

  • Green chemistry breakthrough makes hydrogen generation cheaper: Electromaterials scientists at Monash University, led by Dr Alexandr Simonov, have found a solution to metal corrosion caused by water splitting to create hydrogen.

  • Gelion revolutionary battery technology: A University of Sydney chemistry team, led by Professor Thomas Maschmeyer, created low-cost, safe, scalable zinc bromide battery technology for remote and renewable energy storage.

  • Ocean mapping finds prime-tide for energy: University of Tasmania Associate Professor Irene Penesis is using hydrodynamics and mathematics to assess Bass Strait’s tidal energy resources to stimulate investment in this sector.

  • New catalyst helps turn CO2 into renewable fuel: CSIRO materials chemist Dr Danielle Kennedy, with University of Adelaide scientists, created porous crystals that help convert carbon dioxide from air into synthetic natural gas using solar energy.

This article appears in Australian University Science Issue 1.


square kilometre array

Groundwork laid for world’s largest radio telescope: the Square Kilometre Array

Main image: An artist’s impression of the future Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in Australia. Up to 132,000 low frequency antennas (resembling metal Christmas trees) will be built. (Image: CSIRO)

Designs for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) facility in Western Australia received the tick of approval this week during its critical design review, and can now move on to the final steps before construction starts in 2020.

Once completed, the multi-billion dollar SKA project will probe the corners of the universe to expand our understanding of its origins — and it will do so hundreds of times faster and in more detail than any existing facility.

Laying the groundwork

Australia’s Square Kilometre Array will be a web of more than 130,000 low-frequency antennas located in the Murchison Radio-astronomy Observatory in Western Australia (South Africa will host the other SKA facility).

The SKA’s success hinges on signals from thousands of antennas spread over many kilometres aligning with extreme precision. Infrastructure Australia Project Manager and Aurecon telecommunications infrastructure engineer Rebecca Wheadon said many of the challenges in ensuring this stem from the vastness and remote location of the site.

“We are working out in the middle of the desert, and we need to protect the radio quiet nature of the site,” Wheadon said.

“There’s a significant amount of engineering smarts that go into achieving that.”

For completion of this most recent phase, engineers were tasked with designing onsite support infrastructure, including a low central processing facility (CPF), a 1500-square-metre supercomputing centre.

“The CPF building is effectively a fully welded box within a box; all of the computing equipment goes within the inner shield of the building, with specially designed RFI [radio frequency interference] doors to ensure we do not pollute the air with RFI,” Wheadon said.

Square Kilometre Array

Artist’s impression of the supercomputing facility for the future Square Kilometre Array – the world’s largest radio telescope. (Image: Aurecon)

This includes any emissions from cooling equipment, pumps and lights. Hundreds of kilometres of access tracks and trenching for power supply and cables are also required to connect the sprawling network.

“Data flows will be on the scale of petabits, or a million billion bits, per second — more than the global internet rate today, all flowing into a single building in the Murchison,” said CSIRO’s SKA Infrastructure Consortium Director Antony Schinckel in a statement.

“To get this data from the antennas to the telescope’s custom supercomputing facilities, we need to lay 65,000 fibre optic cables.”

Coming into focus

Senior Electrical Engineer James Massoud, also from Aurecon, likened the electrical fitout to a “scaled-down version” of the east-coast transmission network, with long distances between demand centres and generation points.

“The scale of the site led to a significant electrical power distribution network, characterised as a long, low-density network,” said Massoud, who served as the power distribution lead engineer for the Infrastructure Australia consortium.

The team also had to “look back in time for mechanical or analogue ways of doing things”, he said, as digital technologies would disturb the radio quietness of the site.

The Murchison region, about 800 km north of Perth, has a legislated quiet zone of up to 260 km to limit interference. Keeping the ‘noise’ to a minimum is important, as the SKA antennas will be receiving extremely weak signals from the far reaches of the universe. Experts including CSIRO principal engineer and RFI specialist Carol Wilson advised on how to prevent the faint signals from being drowned out by the sites own equipment, like the CPF.

“One of the challenges is that the infrastructure equipment is not well characterised in terms of radio emissions, unlike radiocommunications equipment where the frequency power level and other technical qualifications are clearly identified,” she said.

Square Kilometre Array

Some of the SKA team, from left: Antony Schinckel, CSIRO; SKA Infrastructure Consortium Director, Rebecca Wheadon Aurecon; SKA Infrastructure Australia Project Manager, David Luchetti; and Australian SKA Director Shandip Abeywickrema, Aurecon Senior Project Engineer. (Image: CSIRO)

This milestone is the culmination of nearly a decade’s worth of work by an Infrastructure Australia industry partnership comprising experts from CSIRO and Aurecon.

Although the SKA project will physically reside in Australia and South Africa, in all more than 12 international engineering consortia, representing 500 engineers and scientists from 20 countries, are contributing to the telescope’s design, construction and eventual operation.

A critical design review for the entire SKA system will take place later this year or early next year, and construction is set to begin in 2020.

– Rachael Brown

This article was originally published by create digital as “Engineers lay the groundwork for the world’s largest radio telescope: the Square Kilometre Array”.

energy data

Energy data assets platform to drive decision-makers

Main image: Dr Nariman Mahdavi Mazdeh is part of the research team centralising Australia’s energy data into the NEAR Program. (Image credit: CSIRO)

Launched on 21 February, the National Energy Analytics and Research ( Program brings together energy data assets from numerous sectors in a convenient, publicly-available resource. The federally-funded platform, accessible at near.csiro.au, is a collaboration between CSIRO, the Department of the Environment and Energy and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) and brings together comprehensive information, including energy consumption patterns, demographics, building characteristics, appliance uptake, weather statistics, and more.

Currently, this type of data is held by numerous parties, formatted to different standards and access is often restricted. Research scientist Dr Nariman Mahdavi Mazdeh describes the energy data platform as “a one stop shop” for researchers and decision-makers. NEAR hosts data collected from across Australia (from sources such as AEMO, network distributors, energy retailers, smart meter data and energy consumers) and new research outputs that draw upon that data to answer some of the energy sector’s most pressing questions.

CSIRO project leader Dr Adam Berry says that the aim of NEAR is to make energy decision-making easier. “If you have a complex problem in the energy space and need data, you can discover research we’ve been conducting or data sets to conduct your own research,” says Dr Berry.

Some of the energy challenges the data will help address include:

  • Key drivers of energy consumption in Australian households.
  • How energy use has changed Australia-wide over the last decade.
  • National and regional opportunities to develop demand response programs.
  • Identifying risks in periods of system stress.
  • Planning grid upgrades and the integration of renewables.
  • The impact of retail energy tariffs on vulnerable and low-income consumers.

energy data

NEAR infographic (Image credit: CSIRO)

Effective demand response will save on network infrastructure costs, which will translate to lower electricity prices. “The research we’re trying to do contributes to how we can manage energy usage to benefit both the network and consumers,” says Dr Mazdeh.

Dr Berry is enthusiastic about the NEAR Program’s potential to help vulnerable consumers. “Low income households typically have fewer levers to pull in terms of access to distributed renewable energy and they are potentially more exposed to the pressures of cost,” he says. NEAR data is being used to investigate the impacts of retail energy tariffs, particularly in vulnerable consumer sectors. An

NEAR data has already been used in an ACCC Inquiry into retail electricity prices. One of the outcomes of that Inquiry was the development of a reference price, which assists consumers with finding the best deal across energy retailers.

“Who we are as modern Australian energy consumers is changing rapidly, and this is at the heart of the NEAR Program,” says Dr Berry. “We need to make the right decisions to contribute to an effective electricity system.”

For more on CSIRO energy research, read about the CSIRO Energise app here. Research based on surveying the app will also appear on the NEAR platform.

Larissa Fedunik

Australian research commercialisation

Australian research commercialisation on the up worldwide

Released on 25 January 2019, the 2018 Snapshot measures Australian research commercialisation and industry engagement based on surveys of universities, medical research institutes (such as QIMR Berghofer and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research) and publicly funded research agencies.

Performance data collected covers two areas: investment and commercialisation pathways. Investment can be directed into R&D, commercialisation staff and training, while Australian research commercialisation pathways are quantified in terms of metrics such as numbers of patents and licenses produced and industry-research collaborations.

Australian research commercialisation

The data reveals that a notable increase in average R&D expenditure across the surveyed organisations. The extra investment is seen to be paying off: there were more than 18,000 research contracts and collaborations in 2016, generating income of over $1.9 billion. Survey results from 2004 to 2016 show a positive trend in the average number of start-ups created per organisation, the number of provisional applications to apply for patents and the average number of patents granted.

Organisations are also investing in their human potential, with a 35% increase in researchers and students participating in industry training. The industry uptake of postgraduate students is also on the rise.

The top three organisations for producing consultancies, contracts and collaborations with end users were CSIRO, University of Queensland and Monash University. Meanwhile, the top three organisations in terms of Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, which signal intents to file patents, were CSIRO, The University of Sydney and Monash University. CSIRO came out on top again in terms of Australian research commercialisation staff, ahead of the University of Queensland and the University of Melbourne.

Dr Erin Rayment, Chair of KnowledgeCommercialisation Australasia (KCA), a non-profit which leads best practice for public research organisations committed to industry engagement, says that Australia is continuing its trajectory as a world player in the research commercialisation space. “It’s great to see a continued increase in start-up growth and licensing deals, signalling an active technology transfer environment,” she said.

“These results tell a story of our world class research organisations working alongside industry to translate great ideas into real world outcomes and create more Australian jobs,” remarked Minister for Industry, Science and Technology Karen Andrews.

The NSRC data is available via the departmental website.

space technology future science banner

CSIRO invests $35M in future of space technology and AI

The investment will include the development of space technology such as advanced imaging of Earth from satellites, in addition to cutting-edge data science to support the growth of AI technology.

The investment is part of CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms (FSP) portfolio, aimed at dedicating research to new and emerging opportunities for Australia.

They aim to help reinvent old and create new industries, as well as grow the capability of a new generation of researchers through specially-created student places in these ‘future’ fields.

Space Technology and Artificial Intelligence join eight other areas of future science, including in the fields of health and energy.

By 2022, the CSIRO Future Science Platforms program will have invested $205M since it was launched in 2016.

Space Technology will receive $16M to identify and develop the science to leapfrog traditional technologies and find new areas for Australian industry to work in.

It will initially focus on advanced technologies for Earth observation, and then address challenges such as space object tracking, resource utilisation in space, and developing manufacturing and life support systems for missions to the Moon and Mars.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning will receive $19M to target AI-driven solutions for areas including food security and quality, health and wellbeing, sustainable energy and resources, resilient and valuable environments, and Australian and regional security.

The primary research areas include platforms to improve prediction and understanding of complex data; platforms to enable trustworthy inferences and risk-based decisions; and data systems to enable ethical, robust and scalable AI.

CSIRO Chief Executive Dr Larry Marshall said the CSIRO Future Science Platforms have an important role to play in inventing and securing Australia’s path to prosperity.

“Our Future Science Platforms aim to turn Australia’s challenges into opportunities where new science can break through seemingly impossible roadblocks to give Australia an unfair advantages on the world stage,” Dr Marshall said.

“Innovation needs deep collaboration, so our FSPs bring together this nation’s world-class expertise across all fields of science, technology, engineering and maths to deliver real solutions to real world problems.”

“CSIRO is here to solve Australia’s greatest challenges through innovative science and technology – and to do that we have to invest in the big thinking and breakthrough research that will keep us ahead of the curve.”

CSIRO’s investment in Space Technology builds on the launch of CSIRO’s Space Roadmap for Australia and supports the newly formed Australian Space Agency’s goal of tripling the size of the domestic space sector to $10-12bn by 2030.

It will also grow CSIRO’s 75 years of work in space, and role as a leading technology provider to the space sector.

CSIRO is uniquely placed to progress the science and application of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning.

The FSP combines the full depth and breadth of CSIRO’s research across all major Australian industries with deep technology expertise to create cutting-edge solutions while ensuring the ethical challenges are understood and protected.

View a full list of CSIRO’s Future Science Platforms.

Originally published by CSIRO.

cyber security revenue

Australian cyber security revenue set to triple within a decade

Australian cyber security revenue will soar from A$2 billion in 2016 to A$6 billion by 2026. This comes as part of an upward trend in cyber security spending around the world. US$131 billion was spent on cyber security globally in 2017, with an 88 per cent increase expected by 2026.

With the second-highest ‘cyber maturity’ in the Indo-Pacific and strengths in core skill areas such as quantum computation, wireless technology and high-value hardware, Australia is the ideal growth environment for cyber security businesses.

The statistics have been published in the 2018 update to Australia’s Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan and the first ever Australian Cyber Security Industry Roadmap; both launched on 28 November 2018 by the Australian Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, the Hon Karen Andrews MP.

The 2018 update to Australia’s Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan was developed by AustCyber – the Australian Cyber Security Growth Network, which is part of the Australian Government’s Industry Growth Centres Initiative. The Plan indicates strong growth against the data outlined in the first iteration, released in April 2017, reflecting the rapid evolution of this dynamic sector.

The 2018 update draws on extensive industry consultation and research to provide a fresh picture of the global outlook, the challenges, and the opportunities and priority actions needed to grow a vibrant and globally competitive cyber security sector that enhances Australia’s future economic growth. It also provides a deep dive into the skills and workforce gap, which is one of the key issues impacting the sector’s growth.

The Australian Cyber Security Industry Roadmap brings together the expertise and networks of CSIRO Futures and AustCyber to identify a common vision and map out the road to success in the cyber security sector. World-class scientific and technological expertise is applied to steer business, government and society through the challenges we must navigate over the medium to long term, to seize opportunities across all Australian industries.

CEO of AustCyber, Michelle Price said, “As organisations increasingly rely on digital technologies and the cross sectoral flows of data, the need to protect people and assets from malicious cyber activity is growing. This strong demand for cyber security is creating substantial economic opportunities for Australia and is set to increase cyber security revenue.

“Cyber security is one of the most rapidly expanding sectors worldwide. The aim of the Sector Competitiveness Plan is to invigorate the cyber security industry across business, research and consumer segments to drive growth in the ecosystem, increase exports of Australian solutions, and support Australia to become the leading global centre for cyber security education.”

CSIRO’s Dr Shane Seabrook said, “Cyber security has never been more important, both as an enabler for Australian industry and as a source of economic growth itself. As we integrate data and digital technologies into everything we do, security will be key to our future economic success. International cyber security practices are yet to reach a uniform level – the time to position Australia as a best practice nation for cyber security is now.

“The Cyber Security Roadmap will guide immediate actions that can set the stage for long term success – simultaneously protecting Australia and enabling us to be agile, innovative and competitive on the global stage. We can build our cyber security industry with skills from our world-class education system, testbeds supported by our small but sophisticated market, and alignment with cultures and time zones in our geographic region.”

To help Australia’s cyber security sector pursue growth opportunities and increase cyber security revenue, the Cyber Security Roadmap focuses on digital opportunities likely to be adopted across Australia’s priority growth sectors: Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals; Mining Equipment, Technology and Services; Advanced Manufacturing; Oil and Gas; and Food and Agribusiness.

The Cyber Security Sector Competitiveness Plan and Cyber Security Roadmap are available online.

This article was originally published by AustCyber.

Read more about about the Australian cyber security workforce and career opportunities in the Careers with STEM: Code + Cybersecurity Flip Special.

Antarctica atmosphere

Antarctic expedition to seek natural atmosphere cleanser in the ice sheet

The elusive molecule would help to cleanse the atmosphere of greenhouse gases and ozone depleting chemicals.

This molecule is the hydroxyl radical and it is often called ‘the detergent of the atmosphere’.

The expedition has departed from Australia’s Casey research station and travelled 125 km to Law Dome which rises to an elevation of 1400 m on the Antarctic coast.

The expeditioners will be in this remote site, living in tents, for nearly three months as they drill 250 m into the ice. Ice cores from this depth contain air, trapped in bubbles, that dates from around 1850 AD.

The hydroxyl radical is a naturally occurring, highly reactive molecule that plays an important role in the atmosphere as a natural air purifier by destroying greenhouse gases and ozone depleting chemicals.

However, we have no knowledge of hydroxyl levels beyond the last five decades, leaving a huge gap in our understanding.

ANSTO’s Dr Andrew Smith is part of the ten member expedition team and said the aim of the expedition is to determine the earlier atmospheric history of the hydroxyl radical, back to around 1850 AD.

“This is an exciting collaboration, which has been four years in the planning and will provide important knowledge to better understand our warming planet,” Dr Smith said.

“In order to study the hydroxyl radical beyond the instrumental record we must use naturally occurring radiocarbon.

“ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science is one of the few laboratories in the world that can make these very challenging measurements.”

The scientists are travelling to Law Dome because it provides the special conditions needed for their research. The very high snowfall traps air quickly and preserves it as bubbles in the ice for millennia.

After the ice cores are collected and melted, the liberated air will be shipped to the University of Rochester to separate the trace gases carbon monoxide and methane.

Once separated, the gases are converted to carbon dioxide which is sealed in glass tubes and delivered to ANSTO. Here it is converted into graphite and measured for radiocarbon in ANSTO’s Centre for Accelerator Science.

The expedition is a US-Australian collaborative project titled ‘Reconstructing Carbon-14 of Carbon Monoxide to Constrain Long-Term Atmospheric Hydroxyl Variability’, led by CSIRO atmospheric scientist Dr David Etheridge and University of Rochester scientist, Dr Vas Petrenko.

Originally published by ANSTO.

Highlights from the Spark Festival’s Spin on Spinouts

This week, the Spark Festival’s ‘The Spin on Spin-Outs’ event showcased five spinout founders who have commercialised research from CSIRO’s Data61.

As founders of new technology-based spin-outs, they discussed what it took to transition from researchers to entrepreneurs, and offered advice on accessing the funding and support required to commercialise research.

We’ve brought you the top tips on launching a successful spinout, from both spinout founders and investors at the event.

 

Meet the spinout founders;
  • Dr Silvia Pfeiffer is CEO and cofounder of Coviu, a platform that provides universal access to healthcare.
  • Dr Stefan Hrabar is CEO and cofounder of Emesent, a company formed to commercialise cutting edge drone technology developed by CSIRO’s Data61 Robotics Group, providing access to critical data in challenging underground environments.
  • Dr Anna Liu is Head of Public Sector Partnerships at Amazon Web Services. She founded and was CEO of Yuruware, the world’s first Disaster Recovery platform designed to simplify the migration, replication and disaster recovery process.
  • Pete Field is founder of Ayvri, a company using 3D virtual world technology to enable participants in major sporting and adventure events like RedBull’s Wings For Life to preview their adventure and to visualise their race in 3D through live tracking.
  • Matt Barbuto founded Ynomia, a platform that digitises realworld construction projects enabling builders to have visibility over what is moving in and out of the construction site.

 

Advice from the Founders: How to make the leap into a spinout.

 

  • Join accelerator programs;

CSIRO’s On Accelerator, and Data 61’s many platforms exist to prepare researchers and their research projects for commercialisation. The programs offer mentors, advisors, and the opportunity to gain entrepreneurial skills. Accelerators “focus you on on your business model,” says Pfeiffer, and “help sort out who are the people that are ready and willing to go out and start a business.”

Accelerators can also be the place to make the right connections. “We got to know some amazing investors and advisors through the ON program,” says Hrabar. “They had seen the journey we’d gone through and understood where we had come from and lined up well from the investment point of view.”

 

  • Choose the right people to build business relationships.

Get support from others. “You don’t need to be an expert in everything,” says Barbuto. “Knowing your strengths and knowing where you need other people to come in and help – that’s your job as a CEO,” Field agrees.

Seek mentorship from your Board members, and choose investors for what they can bring to benefit you, says Liu. “I wasn’t interested in taking just money because I was looking for business growth advice.”  

 

  • Get comfortable giving a sales pitch.

Speaking sales can be quite a shift in mindset for a researcher. Be prepared to transition from ‘precise’ researcher, to ‘predictive’ sales person.

“Researchers are taught to be very thorough in everything you do. Creating a start-up is more about predicting the future and there is no hard data. You are making things up,” says Pfeiffer. Be assured that investors understand that it is always a guess when you are talking about markets. You need to be comfortable selling your best guess.

 

Advice from the Investors: How to impress with your pitch.

In the second half of the event, the panel was joined by investment managers Martin Duursma from Main Sequence Ventures, and Natasha Rawlings from Uniseed.

Here are their best tips for researchers wanting to impress an investor;

 

  • Know your customers;

Investors want to see that you understand your customer, says Duursma. “Please go out and network in the industry, and ask about their big problems. Go to trade shows, walk the floor, cold call, join associations. Figure out if you’re solving a problem the customer actually has, and if they want your solution.”

 

 

  • Speak about your business model;

Talk to investors about the business side of your start-up, not just the tech. “What we really like hearing about is money,” says Rawlings. “Who is your customer? What is your product? How much are you selling it for? What is the margin on that? How many of these things do you think you can sell?” These are the ‘boxes to tick’ to secure a second meeting with an investor.

 

 

  • Follow up and follow through;

Investors are looking for signals about you, so be sure to follow through on any promises you make. “If the researcher says ‘yes I’ll get this thing to you by the end of the week, if that thing doesn’t happen, that’s a bad signal,” said Duursma.

“You’ve got to be easy to work with,” said Rawlings. “If you are not easy to work with we probably can’t invest in you no matter how good your tech is.”    

– Carmen Spears

 

This event was hosted by Inspiring Australia as part of the 2018 Spark Festival.

To see more events from the Spark Festival program click here

To learn more about Inspiring Australia’s activities and achievements click here.

pest monitoring

New pest monitoring start-up takes aim at fruit flies

Main Image: The team of scientists behind the RapidAIM pest monitoring system: Dr Nancy Schellhorn, Laura Jones, and Darren Moore.

RapidAIM is a real-time pest monitoring system which detects the presence and location of insect pests, cutting down the need for manual monitoring. The data service start-up was founded by agro-ecologist and entomologist Dr Nancy Schellhorn, electronics engineer Darren Moore and research technician Laura Jones within CSIRO. The research scientists have brought together their diverse skill sets across pest management, environmental monitoring and prototype development to develop a next-generation pest monitoring system.

Monitoring for fruit flies and other insect pests is presently done manually. Globally, millions of traps are monitored in crop production every 7-14 days. Manual monitoring is expensive and time-consuming, but essential for managing pest outbreaks. Fruit flies are a particularly costly biosecurity hazard, and are responsible for the yearly loss of US$30 billion of fruit and vegetable production.

Dr Schellhorn and the RapidAIM co-founders spoke to government biosecurity officers, growers and crop advisors to pinpoint the exact information the sector needed to improve pest monitoring strategies. “These insects are small, reproduce quickly and are highly mobile between habitats, so understanding their location and when they show up is pretty critical to delivering sustainable pest control,” explains Dr Schellhorn.

RapidAIM have developed the hardware and software for a grid of smart insect traps which detect the presence of insects and send the data to the cloud for analytics. An alert is then generated for end users through the mobile-linked app. “We use a novel, low-power sensor that provides a behavioural fingerprint of the insects, with real-time information about pest locations,” says Dr Schellhorn. The result is a map of thousands of traps providing accurate surveillance of insects. This helps crop growers respond rapidly in the occurrence of pest outbreaks.

The company has since received a $1.25 million investment from Main Sequence Ventures through the Coalition Government’s CSIRO Innovation Fund, and has also received support from CSIRO’s ON program.

RapidAIM is currently trialling a Beta version of the smart traps in five locations across Australia, working with some of the biggest fruit growers and state agencies, commercial partners and horticultural providers. The trials will compare the automated traps to the currently used manual traps in locations in SA, WA, NSW, VIC and Tasmania.

“We want to work closely with our potential customers so that we deliver a product of value’, says Dr Schellhorn.

The co-founding scientists are enjoying the challenge of bringing their vision to market. “We’re committed to making an impact with our science,” says Dr Schellhorn. “We believe that being involved in the full value chain of understanding the problem and the technology development is critical.”

Dr Schellhorn believes that “talking to potential customers was key in our current technology. The process has been a challenge, but it’s been great learning.”

– Larissa Fedunik

Blockchain insights with Data61 researcher Dr Mark Staples

Dr Mark Staples is a blockchain researcher at Data61, which is part of Australia’s federal science organisation, CSIRO. Being both a scientist and a blockchain expert, he has rare insights into how blockchain can propel research.

On my last trip to Brisbane I caught up with Mark for a drink at the Plough Inn and asked him to answer some of science’s most burning blockchain questions.

In this interview, we take a look at the challenges scientists face in managing their data, how blockchain can help, and where we’re at when it comes to issues of confidentiality, scalability, cybersecurity and policy.


First of all Mark, could you tell us a bit about your background?

My background is in computer science, cognitive science, and then eventually I got into formal methods and software engineering. But these days, I’m mostly looking at a lot of work around blockchain. I do blockchain research at Data61 — mainly around software architectures for blockchain-based applications.

And can you tell us what’s happening in Australia on the blockchain front?

Australia is doing quite a lot of work around blockchain. The Commonwealth Bank has had some world firsts around the use of blockchain for the trade and also for bond issuance. Companies like AgriDigital have also had some world firsts for use of blockchain to track the agricultural supply chain. Australia’s leading the standardisation process — the international standardisation work on blockchain and distributed ledger technology. So Australia is quite present in blockchain internationally and leading in some areas.

What areas of blockchain research are Data61 focused on?

The area where we’ve been leading in research has been using blockchain as a way of executing business processes. So, taking business process models and turning them into smart contracts to execute multi-party business processes on blockchain.

We’ve also been thinking about ways to take legal logics to represent contracts or regulation, and turning those into smart contracts. We do some work in the Internet of Things for blockchain as well. And supply chain integrity.

So, there’s a variety of different pieces of research, and then we work with companies; we develop technology, and we participate in the international standardisation of blockchain.

Being a scientist yourself, how do you see blockchain propelling science?

The key thing that blockchain supports is data sharing and data integrity. Both of those are critical for science.

Normal blockchains are not so good for confidentiality, but they’re great for publishing stuff; they’re great for publicity. One of the barriers for the adoption of blockchain in enterprises includes challenges around managing commercial confidentiality. But for a lot of science publications — both low-risk data and papers — they want to be public and blockchain is good for that.

Not only will it be public, but you also get this trail of what’s happened to the data. You get some sort of evidence about the integrity or authenticity of the records that are being created as well, by relying on the cryptographic techniques inherent in blockchain.

So I think that’s the key potential for blockchain for science — better publishing of scientific datasets and publications with better support for integrity.

Is data management a big issue?

Yes, we’re not very good yet at managing data integrity or sharing datasets or getting recognition or citation for datasets that we’ve collected or used. Not only from a professional point of view — scientific impact analysis and the like — but also in understanding data integrity from a scientific validity standpoint.

We need to be able to answer questions like: What operations have been done to your dataset before you start doing your own operations on it? How was the data that you’re working with collected? Has it been cleaned or not? All those questions are important when you’re doing an analysis of the data.

What issues have you observed in your time as a scientist in terms of how the scientific data is managed and applied?

There are a lot of data description challenges. Have you described what are all the important characteristics of a dataset? How do you describe those? There’s a variety of standards for metadata for datasets.

How do you describe the history of the provenance for data? What steps were taken in the collection or the analysis of a dataset and derived datasets? All of those are not really completely solved problems. We don’t have standard solutions for a lot of them, so that’s one challenge.

Do you think blockchain’s support for data integrity might actually help reinstate or build better trust in scientific evidence?

Yes, potentially, it could create more evidence for the trustworthiness of data and more evidence that data has been analysed if we used it in the right way.

And what particular difficulties are there in actually getting these systems adopted by universities or research institutes?

Blockchain is good if you want to make datasets public. But there are certainly a lot of datasets in science that are not public for various reasons — especially in the medical research area. So, they present much more of a challenge; you can’t necessarily just publish those datasets through a blockchain.

You might still be able to use a blockchain and other kinds of digital fingerprinting techniques to provide evidence about the integrity of data that you’re using without compromising official privacy, but it gets complicated to manage that kind of thing. So that would be one of the main challenges.

Could you put metadata or de-identified data on the blockchain as a solution to the confidentiality problem?

If you just have high-level metadata on the blockchain that can be be okay. If you have aggregate statistics in there, then you need to start worrying about the version you’re releasing as well. But a very high-level purely descriptive dataset is less likely to be a problem.

De-identified datasets are difficult. It’s a real challenge to effectively de-identify data. We’ve seen so-called de-identified data sets that have been susceptible to re-identification attacks, so that’s a difficult problem. We have a couple of teams in Data61 looking at private data release and private data analytics.

Are there any particular challenges for scientists on an individual level, when it comes using blockchain-based systems?

One practical challenge is that all the public blockchains and most of the private blockchains rely on public-private cryptography, which means public-private key management. In order to create a transaction to report some data on a public blockchain, you need to be managing a private key to be able to digitally sign the data that you’re transacting with.

There are various bits of software that can help to manage that. There’s wallet software, for example. But still, it’s a new thing scientists will need to do to manage keys and to have good cybersecurity in key management. Because these blockchains allow people to enact things themselves on the blockchain — to directly interact with the blockchain.

Blockchain creates a responsibility for people to be able to manage their cryptographic identities with integrity as well. The integrity of your data can come down to how good you are at cybersecurity and how you protect yourself against cyber-attacks. It requires effective cryptographic key management by people who are not used to doing it. So, that becomes another barrier to using blockchain.

Is scalability still a problem?

That’s an inherent problem with blockchain. Blockchain is meant to be a distributed database where you might have thousands of copies of data all around the world. Big data in terms of big volume is just inherently hard to move over the network. So it’s inherently hard to replicate around the blockchain nodes all around the world.

But I think we already know the solution from a big data point of view. The blockchain-based system is never implemented just with blockchain alone. It’s always implemented with a variety of other auxiliary systems — whether that’s just key management or maybe also user interfaces or off-chain databases for private data or big data. So, I think that’s the solution; just kick the big data off-chain.

Apart from big data, there are other scalability challenges for blockchain in terms of transaction latency. These things are being worked on, so I don’t see them being a huge problem in the medium term.

Are there other ways that blockchain will need to develop before it can support large-scale research?

Another big challenge is governance of blockchain-based systems. So, normal IT governance assumes there’s a single source of authority that’s in control of an IT system, and so the adoption of that control and the evolution of that system can be controlled from the top through that source of authority.

But with many blockchain-based systems there’s no single source of authority. It might be a collective that’s operating it, or the collective might be random groups in the public.

So, how to control the evolution and management of the blockchain-based system can be a difficult problem. Some blockchains are implementing governance features directly on the blockchain, but it’s not clear yet what the best way to go is, and it’s still an active area of innovation.

Is there scope for greater funnelling of clinical data and consumer data back into research?

I think the biggest challenges there are policy challenges, not so much technical challenges.

What does a good security policy model involve for clinical information sharing? Who should be allowed to see what data, for what purpose and when, under what consent model? Even that is not very clear at a policy level at the moment.

So in terms of research ethics applications, there’s a huge variety of different consent models that are supported by specific ethics approvals. You can implement technical controls for any of those, but knowing what you should be implementing is, I think, the hardest part of the challenge. There’s a lot of variability, especially for clinical information.

Have you seen movement towards giving the individual control over their data over the long term?

There are some interesting things happening in that space. Are you familiar with the Consumer Data Right that the government recently announced? The first incarnation of it is something called open banking, where the government creates a right for consumers to direct their bank to share information about their personal accounts with a third-party. The individual has to give consent to the third-party to use their data for a particular purpose, but then they give an authorisation and direction to the bank to authorise the third-party to access their data.

That’s an interesting model for giving consumers more right to direct where their data goes on a case by case basis. It’s quite different to most of the other models I’ve seen for giving consent to share data. Normally, an organisation holds data about a consumer, and the consumer is trying to keep up with all the various consents to access it—derived and delegated consent, emergency accesses and whatever other accesses are made to their information.

But when it comes to clinical information, I think policy is complicated by a lot of different interests. I don’t know if we have a good answer to that.

It’ll be interesting to see how it all unfolds Mark. Stellar insights. Thanks for your time!


To find out more about blockchain research at Data61 and to read their reports on how can be applied to government and industry, click here.

– Elise Roberts

This article was originally published on Frankl Open Science via Medium. Frankl works on solving issues around data sharing and data integrity in science, using blockchain and other technologies.

CSIRO innovation fund

CSIRO Innovation Fund kicks off

Companies developing new ways to diagnose cancer, platforms to connect work and learning, next generation WiFi chips and quantum computing firmware are among the first to receive investment from Main Sequence Ventures, manager of the $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund.

Acting Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science, Senator the Hon Michaelia Cash, says the launch of Main Sequence Ventures is an important step to ensure we can further harness Australian innovation to create new enterprises and the jobs of tomorrow.

“As part of the Turnbull Government’s National Innovation and Science Agenda, the CSIRO Innovation Fund is designed to ensure our world-class research can be turned into the jobs and economic growth of the future,” says Minister Cash.

Main Sequence Ventures will support new spin-out and start-up companies, and SMEs engaged in the translation of research generated in the Australian publicly funded research sector.

Main Sequence Ventures’ first investments in Q-Ctrl, Intersective, Morse Micro and Maxwell MRI are expected to create more than 60 new jobs.

CSIRO Chief Executive Larry Marshall says Australia has never been short of great ideas, but the value is rarely captured domestically. Australia’s scientists are world leaders, but investing in science driven innovation is hard – it needs the horsepower of Australia’s national science agency behind it.

“Science can drive change across the economy despite global disruption, improve our nation’s health and sustainability and make business globally competitive.

“This is a team Australia effort, with the Fund investing in the best ideas across the research community. This will help Australia better capture the value of science, deliver impact and drive the jobs and industries of the future,” says Dr Marshall.

Main Sequence Ventures is led by veteran venture capitalist Bill Bartee along with a team of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs with extensive experience in science and technology.

“Our first investments are giving us a great start in backing ambitious entrepreneurs to build important and growing companies,” says Mr Bartee.

“Q-Ctrl has the potential to provide the firmware framework for quantum computers, Morse Micro is building the next generation of WiFi chip, Intersective is using data science to better equip our workers for the future and Maxwell MRI is changing the way we detect and diagnose prostate cancer. 

“This is some of the best and most exciting research from the Australian innovation sector, and we look forward to working with them to realise their potential in the commercial market.

“We at Main Sequence Ventures know that this is only the beginning, and many more high-potential companies will be able to grow from our investments. We look forward to working with Australia’s deep tech founders to build epic companies.”

This information on the CSIRO Innovation Fund was first shared by CSIRO on 30 October 2017. 

Recommended for you: Australian research funding infographic

Industry placements pave the way to success

Industry placements for CRC students have been an integral part of the CRC Programme since it began in 1991. While students contribute to solving real-world problems of industry, industry partners mentor students on the commercial side of their field and help produce industry-ready graduates who can hit the ground running.

Rebecca Athorn did a PhD, supported by the Pork CRC, investigating increased feeding and progesterone in young pigs during their first pregnancy and the effects on embryo survival. Part of her project was conducted in a commercial piggery owned by Australian pork producer Rivalea.

Athorn’s work showed that feeding the first-time mothers more didn’t affect the size of their litters, but did make the mothers healthier and live longer.

As well as delivering a practical improvement to commercial piggery practices, the study put Athorn in the spotlight for potential employers.

“I was approached by Rivalea as to my interest in working for them after I finished my PhD,” says Athorn. Several of her colleagues also partnered with Rivalea for their Honours projects before joining the company as employees.

“Having been known to the company and having positive references from those they worked with definitely helped,” says Athorn.

Even students with previous work experience in the field can benefit from an industry placement, says Tracy Muller. She worked with the CSIRO and the Prairie Swine Centre in Canada on pig welfare before entering the Pork CRC’s Industry Placement Program (IPP) at SunPork Farms and starting a PhD to identify and reduce lameness in pigs.

“The IPP has positively impacted on my ‘entry’ into the industry,” says Muller. “Together with the support of SunPork Farms, it has certainly progressed my career in the past four years, since graduating from university 14 years ago.”

– K J Lee

Read more about Australia’s CRCs in KnowHow 2017

Nimble funding for CRC-Ps

Featured image above: CSIRO, Norwood Industries and Solafast staff inspect a length of printed solar film. Credit: CSIRO

The new, nimble, business-led funding rounds that led to the Cooperative Research Centre Projects (CRC-Ps) are winning praise across industry, government and academia for their fast turnaround time, focus, and appeal to small-to-medium enterprise.

With the second round of successful grants announced in early February 2017, there are now a total of 28 projects granted funds ranging from $425,000 to $3 million through the CRC-P initiative.

CRC Association CEO Tony Peacock says the initiative came out of a recommendation made by the Miles Review for “smaller collaborations operating on short project timelines with simpler governance and administration arrangements and less funding”.

“I think CRC-Ps will probably become more important to the start-up sector because it is a significant amount of money early in a company’s development,” says Peacock.

One such start-up benefiting from CRC-P funding is Solafast who, in partnership with CSIRO and Norwood Industries, received $1.6 million to help develop building materials that integrate flexible, printed solar films.

“The product we’re creating will look much better than standard solar panels on a roof, be quicker and easier to install, and allows for more flexible building design,” says Leesa Blazley, Solafast’s Director of Business Development.

The project brings together CSIRO’s expertise in printed solar films, Norwood’s experience in commercial printing, and Solafast’s roll-formed cladding. It is a partnership that is aiming to deliver a proof-of-concept product within two years.

“By the end of the project we’ll have a working prototype and be close to scaling up for commercial release,” says Blazley.  “Without the funding it would have been very difficult to develop a product that was market ready.”

CSIRO’s Dr Fiona Scholes, who is also working on the Solafast project, says the CRC-P funds are well geared towards the needs of CSIRO’s small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) industry partners.

“What we have found through our interactions with the Australian manufacturing industry is that they’re not short of ideas – they’ve got a real thirst for innovation – but the stumbling block is almost always lacking the funds to make something meaningful happen,” says Scholes, Group Leader in Industrial Innovation at CSIRO Manufacturing.

“Having that requirement to have an SME on these projects is accommodating the Australian manufacturing innovation ecosystem in a relevant way.”

Another CRC-P is using the funding opportunity to significantly advance an important diagnostic test that could help pick up metastatic cancer a lot earlier than is currently possible.

Dr John Deadman, CEO of Chemocopeia, which is leading this CRC-P, says the funding has been essential to moving the diagnostic test from theoretical to practical.

“Chemocopeia and the CSIRO had developed an understanding of the biological side of the project, but we didn’t have the expertise around setting up an assay system to clinical standard in an accredited format that would be able to be used rigorously and robustly,” Deadman says. 

With $582,500 from the CRC-P initiative, they have joined forces with Innoviron and 360biolabs, and are well on their way to developing the diagnostic assay.

“At the end of the year we hope to have a reproducible and robust system that we can start to test clinical samples with,” explains Deadman.

He also says that the set-up of the CRC-P funding is unique in fostering a greater focus among participants. “What’s good is it’s trying to tackle a specific problem rather than just make a particular stage in a bigger project.”

In the pipeline

The first round of CRC-P funding, which was announced in June 2016, funded 11 projects in total:

  • Integrated driver monitoring solution for heavy vehicles
  • Hydrocarbon fuel technology for hypersonic air breathing vehicles
  • Printed solar films for value-added building products for Australia
  • R&D to accelerate sustainable omega-3 production
  • Innovative prefabricated building systems
  • An antibody-based in-vitro diagnostic for metastatic cancer
  • High-performance optical telemetry system for ocean monitoring
  • Combined carbon capture from flue gas streams and mineral carbonation
  • Improving Australia’s radiopharmaceutical
    development capabilities
  • Innovation in advanced multi-storey housing manufacture
  • Future oysters

The second round, announced in February 2017, funded the following projects:

  • Large area perovskite photovoltaic material coating on glass substrate
  • High-power density motors incorporating advanced manufacturing methods
  • New super high oleic bio-based oil
  • Manufacturing of high performance building envelope systems
  • Lightweight automotive carbon
    fibre seats
  • Targeting tropomyosin as anti-cancer therapy
  • Glass technologies and photovoltaics in protected cropping
  • Modelling navigational aids in tidal inlets
  • Field deployable unit for the detection of perfluorinated contaminants
  • Universal solar module inspection and data storage system
  • Targeted therapy for sleep apnoea
  • Enhanced market agility for tea tree industry
  • Tech-enabled care for head trauma
  • Industrialisation of a diagnostic biosensor for bladder cancer
  • Wear life extension via surface engineered laser cladding for mining
  • Graphene supply chain certification
  • Power efficient wastewater treatment

– Bianca Nogrady

Find out more about the CRC Programme 

Read more CRC discovery in KnowHow 2017

disruptors

The Disruptors

Disruption can mean a lot of things. Dictionary definitions include “a forcible separation” or division into parts. More recently it has come to mean a radical change in industry or business. This brings to mind huge technological innovations. But what if it’s as simple as realising that a handheld device for detecting nitrogen could also be used to gauge how much feed there is in a paddock; that drones can be adapted to measure pest infestations; that communities can proactively track the movement of feral animals.

These are just some of the projects that Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) are working on that have the capacity to change crop and livestock outcomes in Australia, improve our environment and advance our financial systems.

Data and environment

Mapping pest threats

Invasive animals have long been an issue in Australia. But a program developed by the Invasive Animals CRC called FeralScan is taking advantage of the widespread use of smartphones to combat this problem.

The program involves an app that enables landholders to share information about pest animals and the impacts they cause to improve local management programs.

Peter West, FeralScan project coordinator at the NSW Department of Primary Industries, says the team wouldn’t have thought of a photo-sharing app without genuine community consultation.

The project has been running for six years and can record sightings, impacts and control activities for a wide range of pest species in Australia, including rabbits, foxes, feral cats, cane toads and myna birds. West says that it now has 70,000 records and photographs, and more than 14,000 registered users across the country.

Disruptors

“For regional management of high-impacting pest species, such as wild dogs, what we’re providing is a tool that can help farmers and biosecurity stakeholders detect and respond quickly to pest animal threats,” says West.

“It enables them to either reprioritise where they are going to do control work or to sit down and work with other regional partners: catchment groups, local biosecurity authorities and the broader community.”

The app won the Environment and Energy Minister’s award for a Cleaner Environment in the field of Research and Science excellence at the Banksia Foundation 2016 Awards in December. Recent improvements to the app include the ability to monitor rabbit bio-control agents.Plans for the future include upgrading the technology to alert farmers to nearby pest threats, says West.

Find out more at feralscan.org.au

Revising disaster warnings

Also in the information space, the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC (BNHCRC) is investigating reasons we don’t pay attention to or ignore messages that notify us of an impending fire or floods. Researchers are using theories of marketing, crisis communications and advertising to create messaging most likely to assist people to get out of harm’s way.

“The way we personally assess risk has a big impact on how we interpret messages. If I have a higher risk tolerance I will probably underestimate risk,” says Vivienne Tippett, BNHCRC project lead researcher and professor at Queensland University of Technology. “We’ve worked with many emergency services agencies to assist them to reconstruct their messages.”

Instead of an emergency message with a brief heading, followed by the agency name and then a quite technical paragraph about weather conditions and geography, Tippett’s team has worked on moving the key message up to the top and translating it into layperson terms. For example, a message might now say something like: “This is a fast-moving, unpredictable fire in the face of strong winds.”

Tippett’s team is constantly working with emergency services to make sure their findings are made use of as quickly as possible. “The feedback from the community is that yes, they understand it better and they would be more likely to comply” she says.

Find out more at bnhcrc.com.au

AgTech

Measuring plant mass and pests in crops

The Plant Biosecurity CRC is using unmanned aerial systems (UAS or drones) to improve ways to detect pest infestations in vast crops. Project leader Brian McCornack is based at the Kansas State University in the US.

“The driver for using unmanned aerial systems has been in response to a need to improve efficiency [reduce costs and increase time] for surveillance activities over large areas, given limited resources,” says McCornack. “The major game-changer is the affordability of existing UAS technology and sophisticated sensors.”

Disruptors
Unmanned aerial vehicle Credit: Kansas State University

The project is now in its third year and adds an extra layer of data to the current, more traditional system, which relies on a crop consultant making a visual assessment based on a small sample area of land, often from a reduced vantage point.

The international collaboration between the US and the Australian partners at QUT, Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and the NSW Department of Primary Industries means the project has access to a wide range of data on species of biosecurity importance.

disruptors
Unmanned aerial system (drone) pilots, Trevor Witt (left) and Dr Jon Kok (right) from the Plant Biosecurity CRC project, discuss data collected from a hyperspectral camera. Credit: Brian McCornack, Kansas State University

The CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) has also been working on repurposing an existing gadget, in this case to improve the accuracy of estimating pasture biomass. Currently, graziers use techniques such as taking height measurements or eyeballing to determine how much feed is available to livestock in a paddock. However, such techniques can result in huge variability in estimates of pasture biomass, and often underestimate the feed-on-offer.

Professor David Lamb, leader of the Biomass Business project, says graziers underestimate green pasture biomass by around 50%. There could be a huge potential to improve farm productivity by getting these measures right.

Through case studies conducted on commercial farms in Victoria, Meat and Livestock Australia found that improving feed allocation could increase productivity by 11.1%, or up to $96 per hectare on average, for sheep enterprises, and 9.6% ($52 per hectare) for cattle enterprises.

The CRCSI and Meat and Livestock Australia looked at a number of devices that measure NDVI (the normalised difference vegetation index), like the Trimble Green Seeker® and the Holland Crop Circle®. The data collected by these devices can then be entered into the CRCSI app to provide calibrated estimates of green pasture biomass.

Graziers can also create their own calibrations as they come to understand how accurate, or inaccurate, their own estimates have been. These crowd-sourced calibrations can be shared with other graziers to increase the regional coverage of calibrations for a range of pasture types throughout the year.

Find out more at pbcrc.com.au and crcsi.com.au

Using big data on the farm

In July 2016, the federal government announced funding for a partner project “Accelerating precision agriculture to decision agriculture”. The Data to Decisions Cooperative Research Centre (D2D CRC) has partnered with all 15 rural research and development corporations (RDCs) on the project. 

“The goal of the project is to help producers use big data to make informed on-farm decisions to drive profitability,” says D2D CRC lead Andrew Skinner.

He says that while the project may not provide concrete answers to specific data-related questions, it will provide discussion projects for many issues and concerns that cross different rural industries, such as yield optimisation and input efficiencies. 

Collaboration between the 15 RDCs is a first in Australia and has the potential to reveal information that could shape a gamut of agricultural industries. “Having all the RDCs come together in this way is unique,” says Skinner. 

Global markets

The Capital Markets CRC, in conjunction with industry, has developed a system that allows it to issue and circulate many digital currencies, securely and with very fast processing times – and because it is a first mover in this space, has the potential to be a global disruptor.

Digi.cash is a spinoff of the Capital Markets CRC and is specifically designed for centrally issued money, like national currencies. 

“Essentially we have built the printing press for electronic coins and banknotes, directly suited to issuing national currencies in digital form, as individual electronic coins and banknotes that can be held and passed on to others,” says digi.cash founder Andreas Furche.

A currency in digi.cash’s system is more than a balance entry in an accounts database, it is an actual encrypted note or coin. The act of transfer of an electronic note itself becomes the settlement. This is in contrast to legacy systems, where transaction ledgers are created that require settlement in accounts. So there is no settlement or clearing period.

“We have a advantage globally because we were on the topic relatively early and we have a group of people who have built a lot of banking and stock exchange technologies in the past, so we were able to develop a product which held up to the IT securities standards used in banking right away,” says Furche.

Digi.cash is currently operating with a limit of total funds on issue of $10 million. It is looking to partner with industry players and be in a leading position in the development of the next generation financial system, which CMCRC says will be based on digitised assets.

Find out more at digi.cash

Defence

Passive radar, as developed by the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST), has been around for some time, but is being refined and re-engineered in an environment where radiofrequency energy is much more common.  

As recognition of the disruptive capabilities of this technology, the Passive Radar team at DST was recently accepted into the CSIRO’s innovation accelerator program, ON Accelerate.

Active radar works by sending out a very large blast of energy and listening for reflections of that energy, but at the same time it quickly notifies anyone nearby of the transmitter’s whereabouts.

“Passive radar is the same thing, but we don’t transmit any energy – we take advantage of the energy that is already there,” explains passive radar team member James Palmer.

The technology is being positioned as a complement for active radar. It can be used where there are more stringent regulations around radar spectrum – such as the centre of a city as opposed to an isolated rural area. Radio spectrum is also a finite resource and there is now so much commercial demand that the allocation for Defence is diminishing.

Although the idea of passive radar is not a new one – one of the first radar presentations in the 1930s was a passive radar demonstration – the increase in radiofrequency energy from a variety of sources these days means it is more efficient. For example, signals from digital TV are much more suited to passive radar than analogue TV.

“We are at the point where we are seeing some really positive results and we’ve been developing commercial potential for this technology,” Palmer says. “For a potentially risky job like a radar operator the ability to see what’s around you [without revealing your position], that’s very game changing.”

There is also no need to apply for an expensive spectrum licence. The Australian team is also the first in the world to demonstrate that it can use Pay TV satellites as a viable form of background radiofrequency energy. The company name Silentium Defence Pty Ltd has been registered for the commercial use of the technology.

Find out more at silentiumdefence.com.au

– Penny Pryor

For more CRC discovery, read KnowHow 2017.

You might also enjoy Beat the News with digital footprints.

seaweed snack

Building healthy bones

Developed in South Australia by researchers at Flinders University in collaboration with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), the lobster shell and seaweed snack aims to be a highly nutritious alternative to dairy products.

Known as SeaNu, it is being created to address the increasing number of children who shun milk products because of cultural or personal reasons. The jelly is aimed for commercial release in Australia in early 2018 with an Asian launch to follow soon after.

Director of the Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development at Flinders University Professor Wei Zhang says SeaNu will target global health markets but is best suited for Asia because of the high regard for Australian marine products.

“In Australia, one in six people avoid diary and that applies to children also,” he says.

“In general, calcium deficiency is a global issue and there is a need for products that have no dairy.

“Many Asian countries also do not typically eat large amounts of dairy products and we are hoping to definitely target there soon after we commercialise the product in Australia.”

SeaNu  is a product of Flinders University technology that reconstitutes biological material to make it suitable for human consumption.

The biorefinery technology takes the seaweed and lobster shell, formulating it into a small jelly for children to take to school in their lunchboxes.

Professor Zhang, who is president of the Australia-NZ Marine Biotechnology Society, says farmed and wild seaweed are widely used in Asian countries and some parts of Europe as vitamin and mineral supplements.

Seaweed is not only rich in trace minerals, calcium and vitamins but is a low-calorie source of protein and fibre, responsible for up to 20 per cent of the Asian diet. The seaweed food ingredients business is worth an estimated US$1 billion dollars. Lobster shell is also high in calcium and protein.

Professor Zhang says while seaweed has a major nutritional benefit in food, the research team is working on developing a range of different products including cosmetics and biofuel.

SeaNu was presented in Melbourne at the end of the CSIRO’s 12-week ON Accelerate Program, which pairs researchers with mentors to help them move their ideas from the lab, out to investors, and then to consumers.

The ON Demo Night in April gave teams the opportunity to pitch their innovations to an audience of industry experts, investors and potential partners for further funding and support for commercialisation.

Seaweed researcher Peng Su and nutritionist Dr Rebecca Perry from Flinders Partners, along with Dr Michael Conlon and Dr Damien Belobrajdic from CSIRO were also part of the SeaNu team.

The seaweed snack is still in its prototype phase but is being refined for taste and texture so it can meet its projected launch date of January 2018.

– Caleb Radford

This article was first published by The Lead. Read the original article here.

Graphene

Graphene innovation lowers cost of production

Graphene is a carbon material that is one atom thick.

Its thin composition and high conductivity means it is used in applications ranging from miniaturised electronics to biomedical devices.

These properties also enable thinner wire connections; providing extensive benefits for computers, solar panels, batteries, sensors and other devices.

Until now, the high cost of graphene production has been the major roadblock in its commercialisation.

Previously, graphene was grown in a highly-controlled environment with explosive compressed gases, requiring long hours of operation at high temperatures and extensive vacuum processing.

CSIRO scientists have developed a novel “GraphAir” technology which eliminates the need for such a highly-controlled environment.

The technology grows graphene film in ambient air with a natural precursor, making its production faster and simpler.

“This ambient-air process for graphene fabrication is fast, simple, safe, potentially scalable, and integration-friendly,” says CSIRO scientist Dr Zhao Jun Han, co-author of the paper published in Nature Communications.

“Our unique technology is expected to reduce the cost of graphene production and improve the uptake in new applications.”

GraphAir transforms soybean oil – a renewable, natural material – into graphene films in a single step.

“Our GraphAir technology results in good and transformable graphene properties, comparable to graphene made by conventional methods,” says CSIRO scientist and co-author of the study Dr Dong Han Seo.

With heat, soybean oil breaks down into a range of carbon building units that are essential for the synthesis of graphene.

The team also transformed other types of renewable and even waste oil, such as those leftover from barbecues or cooking, into graphene films.

“We can now recycle waste oils that would have otherwise been discarded and transform them into something useful,” Seo says.

The potential applications of graphene include water filtration and purification, renewable energy, sensors, personalised healthcare and medicine, to name a few.

Graphene has excellent electronic, mechanical, thermal and optical properties as well.

Its uses range from improving battery performance in energy devices, to cheaper solar panels.

CSIRO are looking to partner with industry to find new uses for graphene.

Researchers from The University of Sydney, University of Technology Sydney and The Queensland University of Technology also contributed to this work.

This article was first published by CSIRO on 31 Jan 2017. Read the original article here.

5 ways to get to Mars

Find the best 5 ways to get to Mars

Featured image above: Could this be your new home? We take a look at the best 5 ways to get to Mars if living on another world is an idea that entices you.

Looking for an escape from planet Earth? We look at the quickest and most likely 5 ways to get to Mars and start your new adventure.

1. Ask a genius

Serial entrepreneur extraordinaire Elon Musk announced earlier this year that Space X has a Mars mission in its sights. In an hour long video, the billionaire founder announced his aim to begin missions to Mars by 2018, and manned flights by 2024. The planned massive vehicles would be capable of carrying 100 passengers and cargo with a ambitious cost of US$200,000 per passenger. He’s joined by other ambitious privately funded projects including Amazon founder Jeff Bezo’s Blue Origin, which describes a reusable rocket booster and separable capsule that parachutes to landing. Meanwhile American inventor and chemical engineer, Guido Fetta has pionered a concept long discussed by the scientific community, electromagnetic propulsion, or EM drive, which creates thrust by bouncing microwave photons back and forth inside a cone-shaped closed metal cavity. Rumours this week from José Rodal from MIT that NASA was ready to release a paper on the process, which would be game-changing for space travel as the concept doesn’t rely on a propellant fuel.

2. Hitch a ride

In November 2016, NASA and CSIRO’s Parkes telescope opened the second of two 34-m dishes that will send and receive data from planned Mars missions, while also listening out for possible alien communications as part of UC-Berkeley-led project called Breakthrough Listen, the largest global project to seek out evidence of alien life. The Southern Hemisphere dish joins others in the US in using signal-processing hardware to sift through radio noise from Proxima b, the closest planet to us outside of the solar system. Whether an alien race would be willing or able to offer humanity a ride off its home planet is another question.

3. Aim high

While they are focused on getting out of the solar system, a team led by Dr. Philip Lubin, Physics Professor at the University of California, Santa Barbara think they could get the travel time to Mars down to just three days (as opposed to six to eight months). Their project, Directed Energy for Relativistic Interstellar Missions, or DEEP-IN, aims initially send “wafer sats”, wafer-scale systems weighing no more than a gram and embedded with optical communications, optical systems and sensors. It’s received funding of US$600,000 to date from NASA Innovative Advanced Concepts, and theoretically could send wafer sats at one-quarter the speed of light – 160 million km an hour – using photonic propulsion. This relies on a laser beam to ‘push’ a incredibly small, thin-sail-like object through space. While it may seem a long shot for passenger travel, the system also has other applications in defence of the Earth from asteroids, comets and other near-earth objects, as well as the exploration of the nearby universe.

deep-laser-sail
Image: An artist’s conception of the laser-led space propulsion. Credit Q. Zhang

4. Volunteer

The Mars One project already has 100 hopeful astronauts selected for its planned one-way trip – out of 202,586 applicants. The project is still at ‘Phase A’ – early concept stage – in terms of actually getting there, but makes the list of the top 5 ways to get to Mars due to the large amount of interest: it has raised US$ 1 million towards developing a practical way to safely land some of these select few on the red Planet.

5. Ask the experts

In 2020, Australia will host the COSPAR scientific assembly, a gathering of 3000 of the world’s top space scientists. The massive conference will no doubt include some of the top minds focussed on this very problem, offering new hope in our long-term quest for planetary travel.

“We come to the table with a bold vision for our nation’s place in science – and through science, our place in space, said Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel.

wheat

IP at the root of Australia’s wheat industry

Intellectual property has had a large role to play in moving wheat breeding from being almost entirely publicly funded in the 1990s to being completely funded by the private sector today.

Wheat accounts for more than a quarter of the total value of all crops produced in Australia. In terms of all agricultural commodities produced nationwide, wheat is second only to cattle. In the 2015/16 season, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences forecasted the gross value of wheat to be $7.45 billion, with exports worth $5.8 billion.

Western Australia leads the way in wheat exports, generating half of Australia’s total annual wheat production and sending more than 95 per cent offshore. A major export avenue for Western Australian growers is the wheat used for the production of noodles. One million tonnes of Udon noodle grain is exported to Japan and Korea every year at a value of $350 million.

The Australian wheat industry has gone through significant transformation in the last 20 years and the Australian IP Report 2015 shows innovation in wheat breeding is quite healthy. Over the past decade, Triticum (the scientific genus for wheat) has had the third highest number of plant breeder’s rights (PBR) applications submitted in Australia, behind only Rosa (roses) and Prunus (trees and shrubs).

The Plant Breeder’s Rights Act 1994 (PBR Act) allows an owner of a plant variety the ability to not only sell their variety, but also to collect royalties at any point in its use. This provision led to the introduction of end point royalties (EPR) in the years following the PBR Act’s ratification. For wheat growing, this is a royalty paid on the total grain harvested by the growers of a PBR protected variety.

Kerrie Gleeson of Australian Grains Technologies explains how EPR have invigorated the wheat industry saying, “Prior to the year 2000, 95 per cent of wheat breeding programs were in the public sector, either funded by universities, Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) levies, or state governments.”

Moving ahead to the present day, Australian wheat breeding is now completely funded by the private sector due to the income generated by EPR.

Before EPR, royalties were paid to breeders when they sold their seed to farmers. Tress Walmsley, CEO of InterGrain, estimates that while a new variety of grain costs around $3 million to breed, under the old seed-based royalty system breeders only received around $50 000 per variety. This was a commercially unsustainable system and saw a decline in public investment for developing new varieties.

The EPR system radically changed the commercial value of developing new grain varieties in Australia. By deferring collection of royalties to the time of harvest, the initial cost of purchasing seed is lower.

An example of the EPR system in action is ‘Drysdale’, a wheat variety developed by CSIRO to cope with Australia’s low rainfall. Currently a royalty of $1 is charged to famers for every tonne produced. While this may not seem like much, considering the production of wheat averages around 25 million tonnes per year, the return from EPR really adds up.

Income received from EPR helps support the continuing research into developing new varieties and reduces the reliance on public funding.

The advantage of the EPR system is that plant breeders share the risk with farmers. If a harvest is low, for example during a drought, the farmers will be affected, and as a result the returns to the breeders through the EPR will be down. This gives breeders an incentive to develop varieties that are resilient and high yielding; the more successful the crop is, the bigger the return for both breeders and growers.

THE AUSTRALIAN WHEAT INDUSTRY HAS GONE THROUGH SIGNIFICANT TRANSFORMATION IN THE LAST 20 YEARS.

Wheat breeding in Australia is now a highly competitive industry. The major wheat breeding companies now have access to new technologies and resources through foreign investment and partnerships.

The EPR system in Australia has been dominated by wheat. The first EPR variety was released in 1996. Over 260 EPR varieties are listed for the 2015/16 harvesting season. Of these varieties, over 130 are wheat.

However, implementing the EPR system has seen its share of challenges. “When we first launched back in 1996…we actually had almost two competing systems”, Tress says. “We had one system commence in Western Australia which I was responsible for, and then we also had a company start an end point royalty system on the east coast.”

“Initially each plant breeding company, each state government and each seed company worked independently. We really made the big gains when we came together and worked it out collectively”, she says.

The development of an EPR industry collection system began in 2007 when a number of Australia’s major plant breeding organisations formed the EPR Steering Committee.

“The key component is working with the grain growers and listening to their feedback and making changes to how we collect the EPR so it is actually an easier system for them to utilise”, says Tress. “The industry standard license was one of our first achievements.”

The EPR is ultimately reliant on the honesty of farmers declaring the varieties they are growing. “Our system works in finding ways where the PBR Act gives you the level of protection you need, and you dovetail in contract law where you need some extra assistance”, adds Tress.

The integrity of EPR collection is maintained in various ways, including harvest declaration forms and reports from grain traders and bulk handlers. An industry standard contract has also been developed to simplify the collection process. The competitive nature of the EPR system means farmers are given a choice when deciding on which grain to grow. If they are paying a royalty on seed they are growing, they want to be confident the crop is high yielding, disease resistant and suitable for their region.

Even though research and development into wheat has been growing in recent years, the industry faces ongoing challenges. While Australia has so far avoided the notoriously devastating Ug99, a fungal wheat stem rust which can cause entire crops to be lost, farmers do tackle other varieties of stripe, stem and leaf rusts across the country. Nationwide, 72 per cent of Australia’s wheat growing area is susceptible to at least one rust pathogen.

This highlights the importance of continued investment into the development of new wheat breeds.

“We need the research to create high-yielding, disease and pest resistant agricultural crops,” Professor Philip Pardey says, who was a keynote speaker at the 2015 International Wheat Conference held in Sydney.

The International Year of Pulses aims to raise awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production. The celebration is an opportunity to encourage connections throughout the food chain – and one Australian team of researchers is ahead of the game.

Murdoch University professor John Howieson is now working on a new licence structure for the upcoming release of lebeckia. This grain, originally from South Africa, is considered the ‘holy grail’ breakthrough to rectify the shortage of summertime feed for livestock.

The new National Innovation and Science Agenda will support further agricultural research both with research funds and through programs that bring together universities, researchers and producers. You can find out more at innovation.gov.au.

This article was originally published by IP Australia in IP – Your Business Edge Issue 1 2016. Read the original article here.

pollination

Honeybee health: a #dataimpact story

Featured image above: Environmental stressors which alter bee pollination, like extreme weather and pesticides, are assessed using large data sets generated by bees from all over the world via fitted micro-sensor ‘backpacks’. Credit: Giorgio Venturieri

Bee colonies are dying out worldwide and nobody is exactly sure why. The most obvious culprit is the Varroa mite which feeds on bees and bee larvae, while also spreading disease. The only country without the Varroa mite is Australia. However, experts believe that there are many factors affecting bee health.

To unravel this, CSIRO is leading the Global Initiative of Honeybee Health (GIHH) in gathering large sets of data on bee hives from all over the world. High-tech micro-sensor ’backpacks’ are fitted to bees to log their movements, similar to an e-tag. The data from individual bees is sent back to a small computer at the hive.

Researchers are able to analyse this data to assess which stressors – such as extreme weather, pesticides or water contamination – affect the movements and pollination of bees.

Maintaining honey bee populations is essential for food security as well securing economic returns from crops. Bee crop pollination is estimated to be worth up to $6 billion to Australian agriculture alone.

Currently 50,000 bees have been tagged and there may be close to one million by the end of 2017. Researchers aim to not only improve the health of honey bees but to increase crop sustainability and productivity through pollination management.

This article was first published by the Australian National Data Service on 10 October 2016. Read the original article here.

You might also enjoy:

Birth defects: a data discovery

 

portrait

Degas masterpiece uncovered

Featured image above: (left) False colour reconstruction of Degas’ hidden portrait, created from the X-ray fluorescence microscopy elemental maps produced at the Australian Synchrotron (right) Portrait of a Woman by Edgar Degas (c). 1876–80 . Credit: Australian Synchrotron/National Gallery of Victoria.

An alliance of Australian scientists and conservators have made a quantum leap forward in the analysis of priceless artworks, revealing an earlier painting of a different woman beneath a French Impressionist masterpiece in unprecedented detail, using a technology combination unavailable anywhere else in the world.

Shedding light on a decades-old riddle through a unique technology pipeline, researchers from Australian SynchrotronNational Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and CSIRO published stunning images of what lies beneath Edgar Degas’ Portrait of a Woman (c. 1876-1880) in the journal Scientific Reports overnight, midway through the artwork’s display at NGV International as part of Melbourne Winter Masterpieces exhibition, Degas: A new vision.

Dr Daryl Howard, scientist on the X-ray Fluorescence Microscopy (XFM) beamline at the Australian Synchrotron – the newest addition to the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO)’s world-class line-up of landmark research infrastructure – says the re-creation of the underpainting was achieved by first producing complex metal maps to highlight minerals in the many paint types.

“‘Paint from Degas’ period was primarily composed of ground-up rocks and early synthetic pigments  – with copper creating green and mercury creating red, for example – and he swirled and mixed different paints from different tubes on his palette at different times, as did the restorers who touched up this painting into the early twentieth century.

“Placing the artwork in the path of the Australian Synchrotron beam, which is a million times brighter than the sun, we measured the exact location of different pigment mixtures in every one millimetre square pixel, and fed the vast volumes of data into a computer to reconstruct both the surface and underlying layers.”

Howard says the technique is an ‘order of magnitude’ improvement for non-intrusive art analysis, crucial when handling priceless artworks.

“Eight years ago, a low resolution three-element image, which revealed a face beneath Vincent Van Gogh’s Patch of Grass 1887, inspired us to refine and advance non-destructive imaging using some of the world’s most advanced scientific technology.

“This analysis takes this “hands-off” approach to the next level, producing enormous 31.6 megapixel images – beyond the resolution of most of today’s best digital cameras – while subjecting each part of the artwork to radiation for only a fraction of a second to ensure it is not damaged.”

CSIRO engineer Robin Kirkham says the powerful light of the Australian Synchrotron combined with a highly sensitive detector devised at CSIRO are behind the revolutionary new technique.

“Developed by CSIRO with US project partner Brookhaven National Laboratory over the past few years, the Maia detector can complete complex elemental imaging a hundred times faster than conventional systems.”

“Coupled with the brilliant synchrotron beam, in 33 hours the detector produced images with around 250 times more pixel definition than the far smaller 2008 Van Gogh images that took about two days to produce.”

It’s not the first time the NGV, Australian Synchrotron and CSIRO have joined forces to solve an art mystery. In 2010 similar techniques were used to find a hidden Arthur Streeton self-portrait buried under layers of lead paint and, in 2015, a major project helped uncover hidden secrets in Frederick McCubbin’s The North wind.

Degas: a new vision is exhibiting at NGV until Sunday 18 September.

This article was first published by Australian Synchrotron on 4 August 2016. Read the original article here.

ICT

On the cusp of mass cultural change

The Australian Computer Society has estimated that an additional 100,000 new information and communications technology (ICT) professionals will be needed in Australia over the next five years alone. While this industry continues to grow and impact upon the Australian economy, only 2.8% of females choose ICT as their field.

In my role as head of the School of Computer Science at the University of Adelaide, I hear every year from young women who have been told by someone important in their lives – perhaps a teacher, a family member or a careers counsellor – that computer science is not a job that women do. However, we know that companies with strong gender diversity are more likely to be successful and have higher financial returns. We need to broaden participation in creating and driving technology innovation in our country so that it is reflective of the diverse perspectives and voices that represent our community.

How can we address this gender imbalance within ICT? I believe that the answer lies in our new Australian curriculum and in increasing support for our education system.

Australia is on the verge of a significant change – all Australian students will soon be learning the fundamental concepts of computer science, and will move from being users of technology to creators of their own technology. This is an incredible opportunity for us as a nation to change our culture for women in technology, and more broadly, women in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM).

Changing stereotypes in STEM on screen

Children start forming their views on what careers are, and whether they are for a man or a woman, from an early age. These views are reinforced by messages from all directions. Very few family films show women in positions of power, or with active careers; only 45% of females in family films are shown to have careers, while STEM male roles outnumber STEM female roles by five to one.

These unconscious biases impact how we, and our children, develop our understanding of who we are, and who we can be. We urgently need to address this if we are to see the diverse technology community that we need.

Connecting STEM professionals with schools

Australian teachers need ongoing support from our industry and university sectors. We need to collectively engage with our schools to help teachers understand and guide technology creation.

Programs such as CSIRO’s Scientists and Mathematicians in Schools program, FIRST Australia and Code Club Australia, among others, provide valuable opportunities to volunteer and support your local communities in understanding STEM. These programs help explore the amazing ability of technology to solve community problems, and work to engage our students. All of our students.

Associate Professor Katrina Falkner

Head of School of Computer Science, University of Adelaide

Read next: The University of Newcastle’s Dr Nikola Bowden addresses misconceptions about the biggest issues for women in STEM.

People and careers: Meet women who’ve paved brilliant careers in STEM here, find further success stories here and explore your own career options at postgradfutures.com.

Spread the word: Help Australian women achieve successful careers in STEM! Share this piece on women in ICT using the social media buttons below.

More Thought Leaders: Click here to go back to the Thought Leadership Series homepage, or start reading the Graduate Futures Thought Leadership Series here.

eureka prize 2016

Eureka Prize Winners of 2016

Featured image above: Winners of the 2016 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research, Melissa Little and Minoru Takasato from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute. Credit: Australian Museum

Regenerating kidneys, smart plastics, artificial memory cells and a citizen science network that tracks falling meteors. These and many other pioneering scientific endeavours have been recognised in the 2016 annual Australian Museum Eureka Prizes, awarded at a gala dinner in Sydney.

Having trouble with a kidney? It may not be long before you can simply grow a new one. This is the ultimate ambition behind the research of the 2016 UNSW Eureka Prize for Scientific Research winners, which was awarded to Melissa Little and Minoru Takasato from the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute.

They have developed a method of growing kidney tissue from stem cells, and their kidney “organoids” develop all the different types of cells that are needed for kidney function. The kidney tissue is currently used in the lab to model kidney disease and to test new drugs, but one day the technique could be developed to regrow replacement kidneys for transplant.

For his work using the latest in 3D printing and materials technology develop a world centre for electromaterials science, Gordon Wallace, from the University of Wollongong, received the 2016 CSIRO Eureka Prize for Leadership in Innovation and Science.

Some of the materials he and his team are developing include structures that are biocompatible, meaning they can be used inside the body without causing an adverse reaction. These structures can be used to promote muscle and nerve cell growth. Other cells include artificial muscles using carbon nanotubes.

The CSIRO’s Lisa Harvey-Smith has been one of the most vocal and energetic proponents of science in the media and the general public, especially amongst Indigenous communities. It is for her work as the face of the Australian Square Kilometre Array Pathfinder (ASKAP) and communicating astronomy to the public that Harvey-Smith was awarded the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Promoting Understanding of Australian Science.

Have you ever seen a meteor streak across the sky and wondered where it landed? Phil Bland, from Curtin University, certainly hopes you have. He and his team set up the Desert Fireball Network, which allows members of the public to track meteors as they fall, helping them to identify where they land, and where they came from.

For this, Bland and his team were awarded the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Innovation in Citizen Science.

But not all the awards went to seasoned researchers. Some were reserved for the next generation of scientific pioneers.

Hayden Ingle, a Grade 6 student from Banksmeadow Primary School in Botany, received the 2016 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Primary Schools for his video production, The Bluebottle and the Glaucus. It tells the remarkable tale of a little known sea predator, the tiny sea lizard, or glacus atlantica, and its fascinating relationship with the bluebottle.

Speaking of predators, a video by Claire Galvin and Anna Hardy, Year 10 students at St Monica’s College, Cairns, won the 2016 Sleek Geeks Science Eureka Prize for Secondary Schools for exploring the eating habits of the Barn Owl.

They examined “owl pellets”, which contain the indigestible components of the owl’s last meal, and used them to identify its prey.

Other winners of the 2016 Eureka Prize

Ewa Goldys from Macquarie University and the ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale BioPhotonics and Martin Gosnell from Quantitative Pty Ltd have been awarded the ANSTO Eureka Prize for Innovative Use of Technology for their development of hyperspectral imaging technology, which enables the colour of cells and tissues to be used as a non-invasive medical diagnostic tool.

For his discovery and development of novel treatments for serious brain disorders, Michael Bowen, from the University of Sydney, is the winner of the Macquarie University Eureka prize for Outstanding Early Career Researcher. His research has established oxytocin and novel molecules that target the brain’s oxytocin system as prime candidates to fill the void left by the lack of effective treatments for alcohol-use disorders and social disorders.

For developing a new generation of armoured vehicles to keep Australian soldiers safe in war zones, Thales Australia and Mark Brennan have won the 2016 Defence Science and Technology Eureka Prize for Outstanding Science in Safeguarding Australia.

Davidson Patricia Davidson is Dean of the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in Maryland, and has mentored more than 35 doctoral and postdoctoral researchers, working tirelessly and with passion to build the capacity of early career researchers, an achievement that has won her the 2016 University of Technology Sydney Eureka Prize for Outstanding Mentor of Young Researchers.

For taking basic Australian research discoveries and developing them into a new cancer therapy that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in April this year, David Huang and his team from the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research has win the 2016 Johnson & Johnson Eureka Prize for Innovation in Medical Research. The drug, venetoclax, was approved for a high-risk sub-group of patients with Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia and is now marketed in the US.

For creating a three part documentary that portrayed both the good and the evil of uranium in a series seen around the world, Twisting the Dragon’s Tail, Sonya Pemberton, Wain Fimeri and Derek Muller, won the 2016 Department of Industry, Innovation and Science Eureka Prize for Science Journalism.

Sharath Sriram, Deputy Director of the A$30 million Micro Nano Research Facility at RMIT University, has won the 2016 3M Eureka Prize for Emerging Leader in Science for his extraordinary career – during which he and his team have developed the world’s first artificial memory cell that mimics the way the brain stores long term memory.

For bringing together a team with skills ranging from mathematical modelling to cell biology and biochemistry, Leann Tilley and her team from the University of Melbourne have won the 2016 Australian Infectious Diseases Research Centre Eureka Prize for Infectious Disease Research. They have uncovered an important life saving mechanism by which the malaria parasite has developed resistance to what has been previously a widely used and successful malarial treatment.

For recruiting an international team of scientists to measure trace elements in the oceans from 3.5 billion years ago to the present day to understand the events that led to the evolution of life and extinction of life in the oceans, Ross Large from the University of Tasmania and researchers from as far as Russia and the US have won the 2016 Eureka Prize for Excellence in Interdisciplinary Research.

For conducting the world’s first survey of plastic pollutants which has given us a confronting snapshot of the impacts on marine wildlife of the 8.4 million tones of plastic that enters the oceans each year, Denise Hardesty, Chris Wilcox, Tonya Van Der Velde, TJ Lawson, Matt Landell and David Milton from CSIRO in Tasmania and Queensland have won the 2016 NSW Office of Environment and Heritage Eureka Prize for Environmental Research.

The Functional Annotation of the Mammalian Genome (FANTOM5) project produced a map that is being used to interpret genetic diseases and to engineer new cells for therapeutic use. The team led by Alistair Forrest from the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research has won the 2016 Scopus Eureka Excellence in International Scientific Collaboration Prize.

– Tim Dean

This article on the Eureka Prize 2016 winners was first published by The Conversation on 31 August 2016. Read the original article here.

tourism research

Tasmania boosts tourism research

Featured image above: A bright future for Tasmania through tourism research

Visitors to Tasmania are being asked to carry tracking devices to help researchers learn more about where they go and what they do when visiting the island.

The Sense-T Sensing Tourist Travel Project, based at the University  of Tasmania (UTAS), uses real-time data to follow the movements of holidaymakers and answer key questions about their travel behaviour. Using a bespoke app pre-loaded onto a smartphone, researchers can find out exactly how long different cohorts spend walking the coast, looking at art or shopping –  gold-plated data for the state’s booming tourism industry.

The project’s primary focus is on two types of visitors: Australian interstate travellers and tourists from China. Volunteer participants are recruited at the island’s three main entry points – Launceston and Hobart airports and the Spirit of Tasmania – and tracked for up to  10 days.

With tourism accounting for over 8% of the state’s economy, an intelligent and robust understanding of visitor behaviour is crucial to the continued growth of the sector in Tasmania.

The project is being jointly led by two researchers from UTAS, Dr Anne Hardy and Professor Richard Eccleston.

“The project will provide a proof of concept that app-based tracking can replace more traditional surveys of visitor experiences,” says Hardy. “It was designed in conjunction with the Tourism Industry Council of Tasmania, Federal Hotels and Tourism Tasmania, and a wide range of  industry stakeholders have been consulted as part of the project’s design.”

The Sense-T partnership is a collaboration between UTAS, CSIRO and the Tasmanian Government, with funding also contributed by the Federal Government. In addition to the tourism project, it runs sensor-based research on health, agriculture, finance and other key drivers of the Tasmanian economy, with  the aim of “creating a digital view of Tasmania”.

Over 330 tourists took part in the Sensing Tourist Travel Project. The tourism research data collection ended in May 2016 and results are expected by September.

This article was first published by the Australian National Data Service in May 2016. Read the original article here.