Tag Archives: innovation

Inexpensive materials for high-performance batteries of the future

A new study has shown for the first time how inexpensive materials can be used in high-performance batteries of the future.

The study, published last week in ACS Energy Letters, is a collaboration between Monash University, the India Institute of Technology Bombay-Monash Research Academy, and Deakin University.

Scientists and engineers have been focused on finding a more sustainable way of using lithium batteries which rely on scarce resources and is challenging to produce on a large scale at affordable prices.

But now scientists have shown that using a ‘carbon cloth collector’ can improve the sulfur utilisation of batteries, which would make them more efficient.

“Batteries of the future are necessary because in various significant market areas they form a vital part of the transition away from fossil fuels,” said study author Professor Douglas MacFarlane, from the Monash University School of Chemistry.

“Integration of renewables into the grid is hampered by the variability of the supply, and battery storage either in the home or at the wind/solar farm is seen as a necessary, but currently very expensive, component of the system” he said.

The research was conducted through a highly innovative PhD program in the IITB-Monash Research Academy – a partnership between the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IITB), India and Monash University.

Deakin University, with expertise  in the  prototyping and scale up of the batteries, also played a key role in the study. The research is part of a longer term collaboration between Monash, Deakin and the ITTB funded through an Australia India Strategic Research Fund (AISRF) project aimed at developing affordable high-performance batteries.

“The most immediate application of these batteries in India could be in local transportation applications, for example in the Auto-Rickshaws that are extensively used in Asia as well as smaller electric vehicles (EVs),” said study author, Professor Maria Forsyth, from Deakin University.

“In Australia we could see such batteries powering EVs, and they could also be used for home battery storage,” she said.

The study describes outstanding performance for a high-energy density room-temperature sodium-sulfur (RT Na-S) battery, with the discovery that a simple chemical activation of a carbon cloth current collector (which researchers fill with a sulfur-based liquid electrolyte ) could allow  a Na-S battery to operate at near its theoretical voltage and deliver an energy density of just under 1kWh/kg of Sulfur.

The appeal of the Na-S battery is that the raw materials, sodium salts and sulfur are very commonplace and inexpensive.

The battery operates at room temperature and can be charged and discharged at reasonable rates, for example 1/2 an hour charging and discharging.

The carbon cloth is the key to the development. By activating it in a simple process it becomes a catalytic agent in the discharge process of the sulfur electrode, leading to a higher overall voltage and extended cycle life.

Towards diverse boards: Pathways to directorship

The most common undergraduate degree for ASX 50 CEOs is science. However, when it comes to the boardroom, Australia lacks technical literacy, according to a recent member survey by the Australian Institute of Company Directors

Although three-quarters of members said their organisation had an innovation vision, more than half said innovation rarely, if ever, featured on their board’s agenda. Also, worryingly, only around one-third of members felt their board possessed the right skills and expertise to properly consider modern technology, and only 3 per cent of directors had personal expertise in science and technology. 

While having scientists on boards is certainly a step in the right direction, technical expertise is not the only form of diversity a board would benefit from. Australia also has a problem when it comes to gender diversity on boards, with less than one-third of people on ASX 200 boards being women.

The CRC Association commissioned Women on Boards to conduct a survey on CRC board diversity. Among other things, it showed women’s representation had only slightly improved throughout the decade.  

The session at Collaborate Innovate 2019, where the results were presented, prompted a question from a talented CRC program manager, to the effect of, “How does a young researcher ever get onto a board?”

I found the answer from the stage — which was essentially to go and do a $10,000 course — unsatisfying. So did the individual who asked the question, noting that their employer was unlikely to send anyone who was not already a senior manager on a course at that level.  

This year, the CRC Association has responded with its new board diversity initiative, ‘Towards Diverse Boards: Pathways to Directorship’. We have partnered with the Governance Institute of Australia to offer 20 people from groups currently under-represented on boards to undertake the Institute’s Certificate in Governance Practice or Certificate in Governance for Not-for-Profits. The Certificates will be completed online and are heavily subsidised to reduce the barrier to entry.

But we know access to formal education is not enough to facilitate change. While the participants are studying, we’ve organised some incredible coaches on various aspects of best practice: the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, The Hon Karen Andrews MP; head of the Australian Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark; former president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, Dr Marlene Kanga; CEO of the Governance Institute of Australia, Megan Motto; former chief scientist of South Australia, Dr Leanna Read; and the chair of the CRC Association, Belinda Robinson. 

We’re also partnering with Dr Ruby Campbell, managing partner and founder of ProVeritas Group and author of Scientists in Every Boardroom: Harnessing the Power of STEMM Leaders in an Irrational World.

In order to spread the message further, every Towards Diverse Boards participant will receive a complimentary copy of Scientists in Every Boardroom, as will every Collaborate Innovate 2021 conference attendee. I hope they will find it useful and that it serves to remind them of their role in encouraging more scientists and other kinds of diversity on boards. After all, research shows us that diversity pays off.

Tony PeacockTony Peacock is the CEO of the Cooperative Research Centres Association.

Towards smarter transport

Transport affects every one of us every day, even if we stay at home. Better (more convenient, faster/more efficient, more reliable, more comfortable…) transport systems improve lives, communities and industries, but there are many challenges to overcome to make it happen.

On one hand we have disruption and constant evolution in passenger transport. With the stream of new entrants into this space comes a raft of questions for traditional transport service providers, particularly state and local governments. 

On the other hand we have the fragmented, low-margin world of freight, which desperately needs to collaborate to improve, but is subject to significant commercial sensitivities that impede willingness to go down that path. 

Ten years is a necessary amount of time to conduct significant R&D, but also a challenging timeframe in a fast-changing transport environment.

We are pleased to be delivering some things years before we anticipated — in particular, the momentum that has built around Mobility as a Service (MaaS) — but we can also reference the growth in number and capability of journey-planning apps for mobile phones. Our research into MaaS has already expanded from an initial investigation into consumer attitudes, to a real-world trial happening in Sydney delivering valuable insights.

It is research that pushes us closer to fully integrated transport services in our increasingly crowded cities, enabling people to reduce their dependence on single-occupant vehicles. 

Some research areas remain worthy of ongoing investigation and trial, but are proving to be further off than previously anticipated, such as automated vehicles. They were once a frenzy of media commentary and speculation, yet the complexities of getting a computer to mimic a human driver and the challenge of winning community acceptance of this technology are now much clearer. 

Queensland is particularly active in Australia’s research into the benefits and challenges of vehicle connectivity and the safety and efficacy of highly automated vehicles. 

There is also some movement in collaboration to improve freight, albeit of a much less disruptive nature. Last year, we completed the well-received Freight Data Requirements Study on behalf of the Federal Department of Infrastructure to assist them with their development of the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. The department is now drawing on that study to inform their development of the National Freight Data Hub. We believe supply chains will greatly benefit from improved visibility, and this is supported by a suite of projects — currently information — that will devise practical and realistic ways to achieve this.

Another way our partners are looking to deliver better transport is by being more holistic. Integration of our transport and land planning is not a new concept, but it is one that deserves renewed attention for its potential to achieve simultaneously favourable social, environmental and economic outcomes.

There is already much diversity in the 39 projects in the iMOVE portfolio, and every day brings new opportunities.

Trends are emerging in what we have learnt and how we can build on this for future activities. 

Transport needs to continue widening its collaborations and embrace national coordination to ensure the benefits are shared as we all progress towards a better transport future — whether we choose to leave the house or not!

 imoveaustralia.com

Professor Chiaro Neto

Australian University Science Issue 2: Water Futures

As an increasingly dry continent, Australia faces immense water challenges. Australian universities play a critical role in undertaking research and development to assist in the identification of water management problems, the achievement of water security, and the creation of innovative solutions.

Universities engage at each stage of the innovation cycle to help water managers deliver water security to communities, industries, agriculture and the environment.

The stories within this issue highlight university science contribution to enterprise, education and agriculture in Australia.

In the Foreword to the latest edition of Australian University Science, Professor Rob Vertessy, Enterprise Professor (Water Resources), University of Melbourne looks at the big picture issues in water management.

End-to-end solutions

From catalysing new science to ‘pull’ water out of the air using smart, fundamental chemistry to testing research and development (R&D) directly with end users, universities engage at each stage of the innovation cycle to deliver water security to communities, industries, agriculture and the environment.

Australia’s comparative success in addressing our water challenges has much to do with the fact we have had a strong water research and teaching community that functions as an early warning system for emerging problems, and as a training ground for the advanced technical capability that is entrained in the water sector. This knowledge transfer is needed today more than ever before to contribute expertise to the ‘wicked’ problem of equitable sharing of water as a highly contested resource. Achieving water security is one of the great global challenges of our times.

Related: Water sensitivity can be achieved in Australia

Through ideas and people working within and with Australian university science, we create world-leading expertise in water management problem identification and remediation. We still have many serious water security issues to surmount, as evidenced by the recent crisis in the Murray-Darling Basin. Advances will require a national architecture for identifying and funding research priorities. It will also require the ingenuity, tools and people that can bring together research knowledge with fast, effective delivery of solutions.

Consulting with the university science community, the Australian Academy of Technology and Engineering (ATSE) and the Australian Academy of Science (AAS) are working to prepare a strategic vision for Australian water research in 2020. That vision will require collaboration between university science, national agencies, industry, researchers, education and end users. Australian universities have a vital role to play in shaping this strategy and promoting it to government.

University science has the facilities, space and expertise to test R&D in the environment in which it will be used, and the remit to train people to address these challenges. Our resilience to a changing climate and water system will rely on this inbuilt capacity and ingenuity.

Professor Rob Vertessy

Enterprise Professor (Water Resources), University of Melbourne

This article appears in Australian University Science issue 2.

Drops from thin air

The University of Sydney Nano Institute team

University science is behind some of the most profound innovations and breakthroughs in water research, from the development of cutting-edge techniques to maximise irrigation, to the creation of innovative new materials that can literally capture water from the air.

At the University of Sydney, the Advanced Capture of Water from the Atmosphere (ACWA) project applies nanoscale materials science to mimic the remarkable adaptation of desert beetles in Namibia, a region where just 1.4cm of rain falls each year. The beetle collects water vapour from the atmosphere, turning it into liquid via the intricate shapes of tiny bumps on its exoskeleton.

Biomimicry — learning from, and mimicking, clever strategies found in nature to solve human design challenges — is an important component of the work of the University of Sydney Nano Institute, co-led by chemist Professor Chiara Neto and physicist Professor Martijn de Sterke. Innovations from the research include a nanotextured surface which can repel bacteria, algae and other marine life from ships’ hulls, inspired by a lotus leaf; a nanoscale slippery surface, inspired by the pitcher plant, that can be used for microfluidic channels in bioengineering; and a stain-resistant paint base.

The Institute has attracted top-level researchers from chemistry, physics, materials science and bioengineering from across the university.

“We began with the idea of capturing water from the atmosphere by optimising the surface chemistry of a material so it would enable the formation of droplets out of humid air,” says Neto.

“We are now developing new devices that capture water from the atmosphere through condensation, using no external source of energy, by designing surfaces that spontaneously cool when exposed to the air,” she says.

Related: Software saves rainwater

The team has made two key breakthroughs. First, they have perfected the surface science of nanoscale ‘bumps’ shaped in a way to harvest a very thin film of water vapour, similar to the Namibian desert beetle.

Their second breakthrough is the development of an entirely new surface that is naturally chilled and causes water to condense into droplets. Wherever the atmosphere is above 30% humidity, this surface will automatically collect water vapour from the air.

The ACWA project is well on the way towards its ambitious goal to create materials that capture sufficient water from the atmosphere to alleviate the effect of drought by providing water for humans, animals and plants.

Patents are underway for exciting applications for the technology, including watering devices to use within greenhouses; a portable self-filling water bottle for bushwalkers and emergency crews; and small water stations to sustain wildlife in remote areas

Fran Molloy

This article appears in Australian University Science issue 2.

Researchers from ANU make a surprising breakthrough for water innovation

University Science Delivering Water Innovation

Peter Mabbitt (left) and Kai Xun Chan (right) from the Australian National University Research School of Biology.

Unexpected outcomes

Scientists from the ANU Research School of Biology made a major breakthrough for world food security while investigating photosynthesis. They discovered that chloroplasts — which convert sunlight into sugars through photosynthesis — can also activate a chemical signal to close stomata on leaves to protect individual plants from losing vital water in drought. By boosting this chloroplast signal in barley plants, the team improved drought survival time by around 50%. The team is exploring ways to boost this chloroplast signal in different crops, through breeding, genetic or agronomic strategies.

Related: The future hydrogen economy is scaffolded by universities

Connecting with industry

More than five million hectares of agricultural land in Australia is hydrophobic, meaning the soil repels water. Global chemical company BASF co-funded research by scientists at Swinburne University, led by chemistry Professor David Mainwaring, with the CRC for Polymers, to develop solutions to help soil accept water. These new soil-wetting agents have increased crop yields. The multidisciplinary team has now patented two polymer surfactants and a soil diagnostic test.

Diverse Teamwork

Murdoch University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems is tackling clean-energy and fresh-water challenges with a cross-disciplinary approach. Researchers in aquatic biology and ecology, marine mammal ecology, fisheries, aquaculture, algal biotechnology, oceanography, human-use and habitat assessments, bioinformatics, economics and spatial sciences are all working together. One recent project tackled challenges around the release of aquaculture-bred fish into the wild environment.  

Students help scientists from Murdoch University’s Centre for Sustainable Aquatic Ecosystems release bream into the river

Creating real value

Inspired by plant experiments on the International Space Station, University of Queensland researchers are advancing the technology of ordinary glasshouses with a revolutionary “speed breeding” technique that can cut plant breeding time in half. Dr Lee Hickey and his team developed a ‘desktop breeding cabinet’ that will allow researchers to develop wheat, barley, canola and other crops adapted to drought, changed local soil and climate conditions.

Dr Lee Hickey from the University of Queensland developed a way to allow crops to adapt to drought in new water innovation
Dr Lee Hickey from the University of Queensland
GPS

Why can’t my Uber find me?

It’s dizzying to contemplate: in the past decade, everything on our maps has moved by more than 1m, as Australia’s continental tectonic plate slides inexorably north at a rate of 7 cm a year.

“Geoscience Australia defines latitude and longitude for the country through the national Geocentric Datum, and last year we adjusted that by 1.5 m based on projections to 2020,” says Dr John Dawson, a geodetics expert who is the program manager of the CRC for Spatial Information (CRCSI) Positioning Program.

If you use the Uber ride-sharing app, you may have noticed its location accuracy is improving. Over the next few years, there will be a significant increase in this kind of precision.

Updating our latitude and longitude is just one stage of an overhaul of Australia’s mapping and positioning systems, which currently rely heavily on overseas-run spatial infrastructure.

“Precision in latitude and longitude is becoming very important as new positioning technologies with finer accuracy come online,” says Dawson. “For example, if I measure the location of a pipe using a device with 10 cm accuracy, then come back a year later to dig in that location, then relative to latitude and longitude, it would look like that pipe had moved.”

Currently, positioning in Australia has accuracy between 5m and 10m. Trials are now underway on satellite technology with the potential to upgrade that location accuracy to less than 10 cm.

“With applications such as self-driving cars, 5 m of accuracy can put your vehicle on the wrong side of the road,” explains Dawson.

Cross sector and cross-ditch collaboration

Satellite positioning technology has revolutionised our lives, influencing everything from air transport to agriculture, and real estate to retail.

All of these are set to change dramatically in coming years as improved precision makes so many more applications possible.

The CRCSI’s Positioning Program research stream is part of the next era in satellite positioning, trialling three new technologies that will all potentially contribute to a Satellite-Based Augmentation System (SBAS) for the Australasian region.

The trials involve cross-industry collaboration with more than 30 organisations. They are funded by a $12 million contribution from the Australian Government, plus another NZ$2 million from the New Zealand government, and aim to establish a nationwide, high-accuracy, real-time positioning infrastructure.

The CRCSI estimates that updating our national positioning infrastructure will add an estimated 1.1–2.1% to Australia’s GDP by 2030, through productivity gains in mining, construction and agriculture. Benefits will also be widespread across tourism, transport and emergency services.

“We’ve taken GPS for granted in Australia as something provided as a global public infrastructure by the US, and we’ve accrued value as positioning improves efficiency and drives new products and services,” says Dawson.

The new technologies being trialled will enable precise positioning for a fraction of the cost of currently available commercial services. Providing it as public infrastructure will also reap productivity benefits dwarfing the initial investment.

Three technologies under trial

The Global Positioning System (GPS) is the world’s best known satellite-based navigation system and comprises a ‘constellation’ of 24 communications craft orbiting Earth.

Designed in the 1970s for military applications and funded by the US government, GPS is now accessed by billions of devices worldwide.

In 2020, Europe’s Galileo system, supported by 30 satellites, will become fully operational, improving location accuracy for applications across the planet.

While most of Australia’s satellite positioning currently relies on GPS, users in the USA, Europe, China, Russia, India and Japan are already using the more precise first-generation SBAS technology on a daily basis.

Geoscience Australia has partnered with global technology companies GMV, Inmarsat and Lockheed Martin to trial satellite technologies, and CRCSI is managing a range of industry projects trialling sector-based applications.

Under trial are first-generation SBAS, switched on in June 2017; second-generation SBAS, which came online in September 2017; and Precise Point Positioning, turned on in October 2017. These technologies combine satellite signals with ground stations.

Australia was the first country to transmit second-generation SBAS signals, and the first to trial Precise Point Positioning corrections integrated into an SBAS service.

Fran Molloy

science innovation

Bridging innovation’s valley of death

The ‘valley of death’ is the place where good ideas go to die in the world of science innovation. The term hints at the often insurmountable financial, logistical and regulatory chasm required to bring a potential new product or idea to market. Unfortunately, not many negotiate it successfully.

In the world of cancer medicine, there are multiple valleys of death, says to Dr Warwick Tong, CEO of the Cancer Therapeutics CRC (Ctx-CRC).

The original valley of death in science innovation encapsulated the idea that “you can have great basic science. But to have something in your hands to translate and take forward, that was a difficult place to get money,” Tong says.

In the biomedical arena, the move from basic science to translatable concept is now considered only one of three valleys of death. The second is having enough money to take a new therapy to clinical trials, which can run into millions; while the third is having enough money to file and maintain patents — also expensive. However, Tong believes the Cooperative Research Centre model addresses at least one of those challenges.

Translate and Take Forward

The Cancer Therapeutics CRC operates like a semi-virtual biotech company. Though its researchers are based at universities and institutions around the country, they work solely for the CRC —collaborating and communicating by means of an e-research platform, which enables real-time sharing of data. The platform also helps to ensure everything is documented and there’s no loss of data— both important factors in patent applications.

Tong also argues that CRC ownership of patents is particularly important in the commercialisation process, at least when it comes to science innovation. “Our model means it doesn’t matter where the inventors of our patents sit, the patent is assigned to us in the CRC, so we own it,” he says. “One of the things the pharmaceutical industry often struggles with is having to reach back into academic institutions for intellectual property, so they have to be sure we have the right contracts in place for what we own.”

Commercial Partner Pitfalls

While central control of intellectual property by the Commonwealth benefits commercialisation in the science innovation space — and was part of the base agreement in earlier CRCs — it has not been an ideal setup for all CRCs with commercial partners.

A product to come out of the recent Invasive Animals CRC was a new bait for controlling feral pigs, which has just begun field trials in the USA. Feral pigs are a growing scourge not only there, but also across Europe and Australia. The bait started life as ‘PIGOUT’, a 1080-toxin-laced product, before evolving into ‘HOG-GONE’, a highly specific bait for pigs containing a common food preservative — sodium nitrite. This chemical kills them quickly and humanely, but targets pigs specifically and poses almost no chance of collateral damage to other species.

At the time the Invasive Animals CRC was set up, the standard model for CRCs dictated intellectual property be retained by the CRC, regardless of who contributed to that IP.

Professor Linton Staples, managing director of Animal Control Technologies — one of the commercial partners in the Invasive Animal CRC — says that model was not ideal for participating companies because it didn’t adequately recognise partner inputs. To overcome an ‘uncommercial’ approach, his company ensured that the projects for which his company made a substantial cash or in-kind contribution were exclusively licensed back to the company to then commercialise.  

“It had a capital value implication for us,” says Staples, who is also an adjunct professor of animal science at The University of Queensland.

Regulatory Rigor Mortis

Regulatory requirements have been another challenge to making this space commercialised. Registering a new animal toxin and products for use in animal control is an onerous task.

“The process to do the trials to the very high standards of the US Department of Agriculture has meant that everything has to be documented to the last decimal dot,” Staples says. “The data on product efficacy and safety has to be bulletproof for regulatory review.”

The path to commercialisation of HOG-GONE has been far from smooth — at one point the baits were bursting apart, as the toxin reacted with their ingredients. Staples says his company has had to foot a significant amount of the development bill.

“This particular project is now running into millions of dollars, just because of all these technical difficulties we had to solve.” But with support from an AusIndustry Accelerated Commercialisation grant, Staples is hopeful they will soon have their new product on the market.

Finding your Market

One of the biggest traps for aspiring science innovation is finding their niche. That’s an issue that the Data to Decisions CRC isn’t leaving up to chance: they’re going directly to the source, and working with potential clients — namely agencies in the areas of national security and law enforcement — to develop products tailored to their needs.

“Our approach is to build software prototypes that we roll out for the end users to trial,” says the CRC’s commercialisation manager Duane Rivett. “We then use trial feedback to determine which features are put on the product roadmap.” The CRC’s in-house development teams include experienced commercial software architects, software engineers and data scientists, who work closely with the end users on every aspect of a product’s development.

The Data to Decisions CRC has launched two spin-off companies, both wholly owned subsidiaries of the CRC, with boards featuring members of the CRC’s own directors.

“We’re currently looking at expanding the governance of our start-ups to include external advisors and directors, to bring in different viewpoints,” Rivett says.

While the model for CRCs has changed considerably since the program began back in 1991, Rivett believes this approach greatly helps to bridge the valley of death problem in science innovation.

“In our experience, we can build commercial-grade software in-house and leverage our research from our university streams to deliver cutting-edge solutions,” he says.

-Bianca Nogrady

Unearthing resource value

Two headline technologies for the mining sector are optimising the mining process for individual deposits and unlocking additional value for mining operations, Brendan Fitzpatrick reports.

To stay profitable and environmentally sustainable, mining faces the challenge of extracting efficiency through technological and process innovation. Grade Engineering® and the Integrated Extraction Simulator (IES) are innovations developed by the CRC for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) to assist mines improve the recovery of valuable ore.

A range of mining companies, plus mining equipment, technology and service suppliers, and research organisations collaborated on the development of these technologies with funding from the Federal Government. It comes at a critical time for the industry, which faces increasing pressure to become more profitable and environmentally sustainable.

Conventional extraction methods are becoming harder and more expensive to implement as ore quality drops, mines get deeper and water becomes scarcer.

In an ideal scenario, miners could target the mineral they are after. However, mineral-bearing ores are heterogeneous with different levels of concentration. The challenge is to find ways to extract and process the ores and reject waste early in the extraction process.

Bringing tech to the process

Grade Engineering is an integrated approach to extracting metal more efficiently and improving the overall recovery of valuable ores from individual deposits. “It goes beyond the industry mindset that simply increasing throughout will bring more profit for a mining operation,” says Dr Ben Adair, CEO of CRC ORE. “It factors in the ore quantity and quality.”

Rejecting waste as early as possible in the mining process can significantly decrease the operating costs of a mine. Grade Engineering utilises a range of techniques and strategies that sorts and separates mined materials throughout all stages of the mining process.

Adair says the power Grade Engineering offers is a targeted assessment tailored to specific ores, which determines what lever has the potential to best maximise mine performance. Benefits include decreased costs; improved investment rate of return; reduced energy and water use with fewer emissions; delivery of higher feed grades and lower capital expenditure for start-up or expansion.

The next generation of mining simulation

CRC ORE’s Integrated Extraction Simulator provides insight into the entire process, from the mine to the mill. It combines existing industry standard simulation models with new models from diverse research and development sources. “It is the next generation of fast, reliable and accurate simulation across the value chain,” says Adair.

 

crcore.org.au

Testing Australia’s top aircraft

Research at ANSTO into innovative technologies for the repair and maintenance of military aircraft will have implications on the service life of commercial and passenger aircraft, Brendan Fitzpatrick reports.

Over 4.3 million passengers will fly this year and every day about 104,000 flights bring people and goods to their destination. The global economy relies heavily on aviation with $17.5 billion of goods travelling by air every day representing 35% of global trade by value.

Fatigue and corrosion damage to aircraft structural components are a major threat to the safety and airworthiness of civil and military aircraft, particularly those pushed past their intended service life.

Dr Anna Paradowska, Senior Research Scientist and Industrial Liaison Manager at ANSTO, worked with a team led by DST Group’s Dr Wyman Zhuang to test different technologies used to repair damaged aircraft structural components.

“Structural integrity requirements for aircraft parts are of the highest level. The repaired components need to demonstrate that the restored component shall have a structural strength condition, equivalent or better than its original configuration,” says Zhuang.

Zhuang’s team applied advanced repair techniques to aluminium alloy 7075–T651 — a lightweight, high-strength metal used in the aeronautical industry since 1943.

DST Group used laser cladding to deposit aluminium-silicon powders onto damaged surfaces of 7075 plates. They then applied post-heat treatment to reduce detrimental residual stresses, making the alloy stronger.

Following these processes, the team applied Deep Surface Rolling (DSR) — a surface enhancement technique that can introduce beneficial compressive residual stresses and enhance fatigue performance of repaired components.

After the treatment, Paradowska and the team at ANSTO used a sophisticated neutron diffraction instrument, the strain scanner KOWARI, to compare measurements of 3-D residual stresses on samples treated with different repair methods.

“We used this instrument because it can provide sub-surface information about residual stresses non-destructively with high resolution measurements. Often this information can’t be obtained by other techniques.

Neutrons can penetrate deep into materials to acquire data about localised stresses in the deformed material,” says Paradowska.

“This powerful tool gives researchers a unique capability to study the same specimens going through various stages of manufacturing process.” The neutron diffraction measurements showed that DSR caused deeper and higher magnitude compressive residual stresses at the surface and into the substrate. These stresses increased both the yield and ultimate strength of the tested plates.

Fatigue tests confirmed that DSR increased the average fatigue life by over 500% compared to plates that were only laser-clad, while the post-heat treatment increased fatigue life by 40%.

While research is currently focussed on military applications, it will have ongoing implications to aircraft service life in the broader aviation industry.

ansto.gov.au

Waking up to a big problem

Four in 10 Australians miss out on a good night’s sleep, with inadequate rest costing over $60 billion a year in lost productivity. But research from the Alertness CRC into diagnosis and treatment for sleep disorders promises big benefits to our society and economy, Bianca Nogrady reports.

A bad night’s sleep can ruin your day, but imagine if every night for a year you suffer from a condition that prevents you from getting a full and satisfying night’s rest.

Then imagine that condition affecting four out of 10 Australians and you begin to get a sense of the enormity of our national problem of inadequate sleep.

A recent Sleep Health Foundation report by Deloitte Access Economics estimates the total cost of inadequate sleep in Australia was $66.3 billion in 2016–2017, which is why the Cooperative Research Centre for Alertness, Safety and Productivity has the mission “to promote the prevention and control of sleep loss and sleep disorders”.

Theme leader Professor Doug McEvoy says the Alertness CRC is searching for new tools and approaches to diagnose sleep problems with improved, targeted treatments. “While we talk about sleep apnoea and insomnia, within those conditions there is an amazing variety of presentations and causes of them,” he says. “To get good solutions for patients, you have to understand those differences so you can refine and personalise treatments.”

The Alertness CRC focuses on two leading causes of daytime sleepiness: insomnia and sleep apnoea. Each sleep disorder affects 10% of the population.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep, and it can last from a few weeks to several years. It can be triggered by a stressful event, or related to conditions such as anxiety, depression, chronic pain and heart failure.

Sleep apnoea is a breathing problem whereby people don’t get enough oxygen during sleep so their brain periodically kicks them awake so they can breathe properly again. It’s often related to obesity, but some people have unexplained problems regulating their breathing while asleep.

Part of the challenge with sleep disorders like insomnia and sleep apnoea is diagnosis, which requires complex tests performed by a specialist. Both conditions are also usually under-diagnosed.

One research focus of the Alertness CRC is developing simpler diagnostic tests that can be administered by a GP, nurse, psychologist or pharmacist.

“We start to involve community practitioners in the identification and management of the condition, and the specialists can then act as more of a tertiary referral system for difficult cases,” says McEvoy.

Another challenge for the Alertness CRC is finding effective treatments for sleep disorders. The current gold standard treatment for sleep apnoea is continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP), which requires patients to wear a face mask during sleep. It’s effective, but awkward, and many people can’t or won’t use it.

Patients with insomnia invariably end up being prescribed sleeping medication, which carries the risk of side effects and ‘hangover symptoms’ the next day.

In collaboration with an industry partner and Australian researchers, the Alertness CRC is trialling new solutions to the significant problem of sleepiness.

“Sleep disorders are impacting the health and wellbeing of sufferers, and because they are so prevalent, they’re also impacting productivity and safety of the Australian community,” says McEvoy.

 

ALERTNESSCRC.COM

coral bleaching sun shield trial

Coral bleaching prevented through reef sun shield

A ‘sun shield’ made from an ultra-thin surface film is showing promise as a potential weapon in the fight to protect the Great Barrier Reef from the impacts of coral bleaching.

Great Barrier Reef Foundation Managing Director Anna Marsden said the results from a small-scale research trial led by the scientist who also developed Australia’s polymer bank notes were very encouraging.

The project was supported by The Tiffany & Co. Foundation, made possible through a grant to the University of Melbourne USA Foundation.

“We’ve partnered with scientists from the University of Melbourne and the Australian Institute of Marine Science to develop sun protection for the Reef,” Ms Marsden said.

“The ‘sun shield’ is 50,000 times thinner than a human hair and completely biodegradable, containing the same ingredient corals use to make their hard skeletons – calcium carbonate. It’s designed to sit on the surface of the water above the corals, rather than directly on the corals, to provide an effective barrier against the sun.

“While it’s still early days, and the trials have been on a small scale, the testing shows the film reduced light by up to 30%.

“Scientists tested the effectiveness of the one molecule thick film on seven different coral species in simulated coral bleaching event conditions at the Australian Institute of Marine Science’s National Sea Simulator (SeaSim).

“The surface film provided protection and reduced the level of bleaching in most species.”

With the surface film containing the same ingredient that corals use to make their skeletons, the research also showed the film had no harmful effects on the corals during the trials.

“This is a great example of developing and testing out-of-the-box solutions that harness expertise from different areas. In this case, we had chemical engineers and experts in polymer science working with marine ecologists and coral experts to bring this innovation to life,” Ms Marsden said.

“The project set out to explore new ways to help reduce the impact of coral bleaching affecting the Great Barrier Reef and coral reefs globally and it created an opportunity to test the idea that by reducing the amount of sunlight from reaching the corals in the first place, we can prevent them from becoming stressed which leads to bleaching.

“It’s important to note that this is not intended to be a solution that can be applied over the whole 348,000 square kilometres of Great Barrier Reef – that would never be practical. But it could be deployed on a smaller, local level to protect high value or high-risk areas of reef.

“The concept needs more work and testing before it gets to that stage, but it’s an exciting development at a time when we need to explore all possible options to ensure we have a Great Barrier Reef for future generations.”

The research team comprised of Professors Greg Qiao and David Solomon and Dr Joel Scofield from the University of Melbourne, Dr Emma Prime (formerly University of Melbourne, now Deakin University), and Dr Andrew Negri and Florita Flores from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Professor Solomon (AC) was the winner of the Prime Minister’s Prize for Science in 2011 for his exceptional contributions to polymer science.

First published by the Great Barrier Reef Foundation 

Australian Mining

Improving funding for mining and exploration companies

Following some key conversations at Science meets Parliament last year (2017), the Managing Director of gemaker, Natalie Chapman, was better able to engage and work with MPs to improve funding access for small Australian mining and exploration companies.

Australian company Alkane Resources was seeking Government export investment for the $1b state-significant Dubbo Project which will provide new age metals for vital modern technology including electric cars and wind turbines.

Australia’s export credit agency, Efic – which can finance projects such as this – was constrained by its mandate, which prevented Australian junior miners and explorers from accessing vital support.

Following day one of Science meets Parliament; Natalie said she had gained deeper insights into how to better grow and leverage wider support for policy change.

“I picked up some useful connections and tips on how to tailor my message based on the Parliamentarians’ drivers and the timing of parliamentary processes” said Natalie.

“I was also able to share learnings from my own work by engaging in useful discussions with Members of Parliament who wanted to know why research commercialisation wasn’t working as well as it could be in Australia.”

Meetings were held with the local member for Parkes, Mark Coulton MP, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo MP and the NSW Department of Industry and Department of Resources and Energy to outline the issues for small mining and exploration companies.

In September 2017, the Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steven Ciobo MP announced the funding obstacle for these Australian companies was removed.

With the mandate amended, Alkane Resources is now eligible to apply for funding for the Dubbo Project which will create hundreds of jobs in rural NSW and hundreds of millions of dollars in export revenue.

First published by Science & Technology Australia

To read more stories about this, visit our home page by clicking here.

automotive research

Driving innovation in the Australian automotive sector

Gary White, Managing Director of GJW Enterprises, attended Science meets Parliament in 2008 and met with a senior advisor to then Minister for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research, Senator Kim Carr that changed the innovation of automotive in Australia. 

“The presentations and training at the beginning of the first day were extremely helpful, I really got an idea of how to pitch my work” said Gary.

“Even though we’d all heard about elevator pitches before, I’d never really crafted one until that day.”

Gary was given the chance to meet the Senator’s Industry Advisor, and came prepared with his pitch and a one-page summary of his work.

“After our initial pitches, the Advisor mentioned that he lacked connections with experts in some industry sectors, and I offered to link him with some of the researchers I worked with on automotive research,” he said.

“I suggested a follow-up meeting to discuss the government’s work, and I think they were interested because I wanted to provide solutions, not speak about problems.”

By providing a list of contacts and his organisation’s vision for automotive research in Australia, Gary was able to have an impact on the resulting plan for automotive research and development in Australia.

“Following the launch of the government’s plan, we were able to pitch the Automotive Australia 2020 Cooperative Research Centre,” he said.

“This was successfully funded less than five years after that first meeting at Science meets Parliament.”

“Without that opportunity to get in front of a Parliamentarian to share my excitement and passion for my work, that may not have happened.”

First published by Science & Technology Australia

 

To read more stories about this, visit our home page by clicking here.

Agronomey

Drones increase crop yield

Autonomous 3D mapping drones are being utilised to improve efficiencies in agtech, a key growth area for Australian businesses.

Tapping into state-of-the-art research at UNSW has helped startup company Agronomeye develop sophisticated drone technology that provides precision monitoring data that can be used in agriculture.

Connecting business with research

Co-founder Stu Adam said that by flying drones across large crop areas, Agronomeye enables farmers to survey large areas of land to analyse crop and livestock health. These metrics greatly assist in agriculture management.

“With some farmers needing to survey around 10,000 hectares, you can imagine how much crop health can vary on one agriculture business,” said Adam, who developed the technology in partnership with UNSW through the TechConnect program.

TechConnect is part of the NSW Government’s $18 million Boosting Business Innovation Program designed to provide small businesses access to research organisations. The program’s objective is to build strong local business communities and stimulate economic growth in metropolitan and regional NSW.

TechConnect enabled Adam to tap into research knowledge, technical skills and world-class facilities to develop sophisticated, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) software.

How to partner with a university

A key challenge for Agronomeye was to develop robust systems for monitoring vast amounts of land and creating accessible pixel data. Another was manufacturing lightweight drone technology that could also withstand climate variables and harsh environmental conditions.

“We spoke to developers across the globe and no one was able to provide the solution we required and the team at UNSW ended up being a perfect fit,” said Adam.

“Partnering with the university exposed us to the best minds and technology available and has given us the tools we require to create efficiencies across cropping regimes.”

Adam says that by capturing accurate and actionable data for farmers, Agronomeye provides the information for highly targeted testing rather than random sampling. Drones can fly over large swathes of crop and use cameras and sensors to find variability in the planting area.

This allows the farm manager or agronomist to pinpoint possible problem sites and do highly targeted tests such as soil sampling, leaf-tissue testing and better manage their problems through variable rates of inputs such as fertilizer to meet the nutritional requirements of the crop.

“The technology provides massive efficiencies, better management of inputs and increased crop yield as a result,” he added.

UNSW’s Entrepreneur in residence Danielle Neale said that similar engagements between business and researchers are starting to develop long term relationships.

“All of NSW’s universities use the NSW Government’s “Boost” funding in different ways. At UNSW, our strategy is to find industry partners who can work with our researchers to spark new commercialisation journeys,” she said.

“Businesses are asked to make a contribution that is matched by the university through Tech Vouchers.”

UNSW industry partners also gain access to free courses at the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre, from design thinking and lean startup to digital fabrication.

Danielle Neale and Stu Adam both participated in the recent Commercialising research forum held at Sydney School of Entrepreneurship as part of the Spark Festival. Read more at Research Futures

More about TechConnect

TechConnect provides eligible businesses with up to $15,000 funding through TechVouchers. Businesses can also access other funding programs through the TechConnect initiative that gives start-up entrepreneurs, regional and metropolitan SMEs an ecosystem to innovate the future of technology.

More about Boosting Business Innovation

The $18 million Boosting Business Innovation Program is designed to provide small businesses access to research organisations. Its objective is to foster:

  • a networked innovation ecosystem across NSW
  • additional external funding
  • more small to medium enterprises that can scale up and innovate
  • more regional start-up sectors
  • innovation clusters across the state
  • access to high tech equipment and technical expertise research by SMEs and start-ups through TechVouchers

Find out more about Tech Connect

Find out more the NSW Government’s Boosting Business Innovation program.

Stu Adam and Danielle Neale were guest speakers at the Spark Festival Commercialising Research Forum convened by Inspiring Australia (NSW).

Prime Minister’s Prizes for Science go to…

Winner of the 2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science

What can kangaroos and platypus tell us about sex and humanity?

Distinguished Professor Jenny Graves AO FAA

Professor Jenny Graves AO has transformed our understanding of how humans and all vertebrate animals evolved and function. In the course of her work, she has kick-started genomic and epigenetic research in Australia, and predicted the disappearance of the male chromosome.

Australia’s pouched and egg-laying mammals are a fantastic source of genetic variation because they last shared a common ancestor with placental mammals so long ago. They are truly independent experiments in mammalian evolution.

Jenny Graves’ life’s work has used marsupials and monotremes, birds and lizards, to understand the complexity of the human genome and to reveal new human genes.

She has transformed our understanding of how sex chromosomes work and how they evolved, predicting the decline of the Y chromosome.

Her research has contributed to a deeper understanding of the immune system; prion diseases, blood proteins, and helped understand the tumour driving the Tasmanian devil to extinction.

In a collaboration between La Trobe University and The University of Canberra, she’s studying how bearded dragons change sex in response to temperature, a critical issue as the climate warms.

For her pioneering investigations of the genetics of sex, Professor Jenny Graves AO receives the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Science.

2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation

How Australian dairy milk is saving the world’s teeth

 

Laureate Professor Eric Reynolds AO FICD FTSE FRACDS

Thirty years ago, a young dental researcher discovered a protein in dairy milk that repairs and strengthens teeth. Today, that protein, sold as Recaldent, is used by millions of people every day as they chew gum and visit the dentist.

The inventor, Eric Reynolds, now leads the University of Melbourne’s dental school and travels the world, working with Australian and global businesses to create new products to further improve oral health.

Products using Recaldent have generated sales of over $2 billion to-date, and it has been estimated they’ve saved over $12 billion in dental treatment costs worldwide.

But he’s not finished on his mission to save the world’s teeth. His team have also developed a test and vaccine for severe gum disease which are now being commercialised by CSL and their partners.

“Oral diseases are the most prevalent diseases of humankind,” Eric says. One in four Australians have cavities and/or gum disease and the cost of treatment in Australia alone is over $8 billion.

For inventing and commercialising Recaldent, Professor Eric Reynolds receives the $250,000 Prime Minister’s Prize for Innovation.

2017 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year

Unravelling the complexity of height, intelligence, obesity and schizophrenia

 

Professor Jian Yang

The publication of the human genome near fifteen years ago revealed that the human genome is complicated. Jian Yang has created pioneering new techniques to unravel that complexity and solve the ‘missing heritability paradox’.

His work will enable researchers to determine the genetic factors behind complex diseases, opening the way to new drugs and better genomic risk prediction.

Some aspects of the human genome are ‘simple’ – red hair, Huntington’s disease, and haemophilia for example are determined by changes on one or a few  genes. Most inherited traits are far more complex and current gene analysis tools can only track down a small fraction of the DNA variants responsible for many inherited conditions.

Jian Yang developed a new statistical method to analyse genomic variation and showed that genetic variation in obesity, cognitive ability, and schizophrenia are due to the contribution of a large number of genetic variants across the genome.

So, to understand the heritability of complex traits and diseases we will have to analyse the genomes of hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. Jian is now creating the tools to enable these large analyses. Thousands of geneticists around the world are already using his software.

Professor Jian Yang receives the $50,000 Frank Fenner Prize for Life Scientist of the Year for creating ways to understand inherited traits and the human genome.

2017 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year

Watching the processes of life

 

Professor Dayong Jin

We need new ways to detect the early stages of disease and cancer. Dayong Jin believes the key is for physicists, biologists, engineers and doctors to work together. And that’s what he’s doing with his team at the University of Technology, Sydney

He has created new kinds of microscopes that allow us to watch molecules at work inside living cells. Using quantum dots, lasers, nanocrystals and other technologies, these microscopes will allow us to watch the inner workings of our immune system, see how bacteria become resistant to antibiotics, and to find one cancer cell amongst millions of healthy cells. He’s working with Olympus to commercialise his inventions.

But his personal vision goes much further.

He believes that his technologies will enable portable, easy to use devices to detect the first signs of disease, evidence of drugs, or of toxins in food and the environment. With the support of the Australian Research Council he’s working to give Australian companies the opportunity to create these new devices.

For creating new technologies to image the processes of life, Professor Dayong Jin receives the $50,000 Malcolm McIntosh Prize for Physical Scientist of the Year.

2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools

The outdoor classroom

 

Mr Neil Bramsen

In the outdoor classroom at Mount Ousley Public School in Wollongong, primary students are watching and recording bird sightings. They’re down at the beach assessing the level of marine debris. They’re reading, or just thinking, in the butterfly garden.

“The outdoor classroom is probably my favourite place to be,” says Neil Bramsen, Mount Ousley’s assistant principal. And it extends far beyond the school. Students have talked with astronauts on the International Space Station and made global connections through Skype with schools in Africa and America.

Neil sees science as an enabler of learning across the curriculum. “It’s a way of hooking kids into learning. We want kids to enjoy school. It’s got to be a balance of fun and learning.”

Mr Neil Bramsen receives the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Primary Schools for his innovative partnerships with scientists, the community and other schools to foster students’ enthusiasm, knowledge and skills in science.

2017 Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools

Bringing science alive

 

Mr Brett McKay

Kirrawee High School has a rich history in sport and music. Its alumni include six Olympic athletes and several leading musicians. Today, thanks to the work of Brett McKay over the past twenty years, Kirrawee has become a force in science education as well.

Brett McKay is Head Teacher Science, at Kirrawee. As a physics and science teacher he has overseen a four-fold increase in students taking physics. Many have gone on to careers in science around the world. He has inspired young women to consider science careers. A recent year 11 student recently said, “Thanks to Mr McKay… I found my love and passion for science and a highly possible career path for me.”

Importantly he’s brought science to life for students not considering science as a career. He recognises that we all need a grounding in science to make informed decisions in the modern world.

And he’s shared his knowledge of science teaching with his peers through the Science Teachers Association of NSW and with primary schools in his area. He is seen as an encouraging, resourceful, and engaging teacher who brings science alive for students.

Mr Brett McKay receives the Prime Minister’s Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching in Secondary Schools for his achievements in inspiring his students to love science and to use it in their daily lives.

This information was first published by Science in Public.

Thriving in a disruptive world

Thriving in a disruptive world

First of all, let me say that I really jumped at the chance to speak to the summit when I was offered the opportunity because I think it’s a good topic, at the right time, and it’s very important that it’s being done by the Financial Review, which over decades has built up its reputation for being an economically rational voice in the Australian policy debate – and boy, do we really need those voices going forward.

And as Minister for Industry Innovation and Science, my job is to be a voice for rationality, to be a voice for articulating where we’re going in terms of the future, but I need your help. It’s a coalition of the willing and I want to talk a bit about that today.

So for me, when I became Industry Minister at the beginning of this year I said I wanted to make collaboration a hallmark of my efforts in the portfolio, and this summit is a really valuable opportunity for government, entrepreneurs and researchers to collaborate, to listen, and to formulate ideas on how to maximise the benefits of the age of disruption.

Innovation by degrees

I labelled my talk – a footnote almost – Thriving in a Disruptive World, because that’s what Australians will do. I’m relentlessly optimistic about this. I don’t buy the line that we can’t do it. I don’t necessarily believe we can do it the American way, the Israeli way, the Chinese way, the Singaporean way; we’ve got to do it the Australian way, building on our own attributes and on the strengths we have as a country.

And, yes, it means being clear-eyed about where we have problems and difficulties and confronting them, but also being, I think, to some extent charitable to ourselves and accepting there are things we are really good at, and how do we build on those to create what I believe can be one of the most technologically advanced and prosperous countries in the world? I think that’s very important from my point of view.

When I became Minister, I became Minister for Industry, for Innovation and for Science. I’ve got a threefold responsibility, and since becoming Minister I’ve worked to complete the transformation of the Industry part of the portfolio. Industry policy is no longer about protection, it’s not about shielding people from the forces of digital transformation or the work of the future, and I will have more to say about that later. Industry policy is about economic transformation through innovation, which takes many forms.

We’ve got to remember, innovation can be very incremental, it can be very straightforward in response to changes in market conditions, all the way through to the creation of new products, processes and services that maximise the benefits of our first-class scientific and research base.

The fourth revolution

Now, we are in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution. Bill Ferris today was right to talk about the fact that we’re in the middle of this revolution and we’ve got all of this competition going on, where markets and platforms are changing faster than ever before and technological transformation will change every job in every industry.

And we, as a government, are not pretending that we can put our heads in the sand and protect those jobs that are threatened by technological change. I saw a headline in the Fin Review the other day which sort of implied that. That was wrong. The Industry portfolio is moving on and the industry settings in this country are moving on.

Now, we can’t force entrepreneurs to make particular investments, just as we cannot order businesses to adopt specific technologies or command communities to embrace certain industries. We can, however, help to create the conditions for them to innovate, and this means engendering, principally, a culture of collaboration between business, academia, research bodies and government, and it means providing the platforms and the skills that enable Australians to transform their business. It means reshaping our business models to meet new competition, new markets, and new demands, and this is how we’re transforming the portfolio – industry policy in the 21st century.

Areas of innovation and change

It will be a surprise to some of you that- let me take a very prosaic example. Australia’s manufacturing industry is in many ways now becoming more of an exemplar of innovation and change. This is an industry in which big change is underway, particularly as we restructure the auto industry.

Now, that’s a big challenge, to take an industry which had been on the Government teat for 40 or 50 years and to take it through a process of transformation; to put behind car assembly and to say in the future we’re going to focus on high end design, we’re going to focus on smart manufacturing; and we’re doing this through government programs.

Where a government has provided protection over time, there is an obligation to help those industries to actually adjust and then become self-sustaining, and that’s what we’re doing.

We’re providing funds to businesses like Blown Plastics in Adelaide, which have literally transformed themselves from making car parts to supplying complex parts for medical devices. Companies like Marand Precision Engineering – a Melbourne-based company established by a former Holden worker.

Marand supplies advanced industrial precision tools to a range of industries: automotive, mining, aerospace, defence and more. So manufacturing in this country is looking different. It’s servicing global markets with complex goods and services, where the only way to compete successfully is to transform, to be ahead of global trends, and to integrate into global supply chains.

Show me the money

And, yes, we’ve had to put money into this. You have to grease the wheels of change. But that’s how industry policy and that’s how innovation actually occurs on the ground: you provide the conditions and you help companies through.

We can’t help every company, and we’ve actually got Bill Ferris looking at the effectiveness of the assistance we already provide, because, of course, you can’t provide assistance to every company, nor should you have to. We ultimately want companies to stand on their own feet, but we need to find ways that government best assists by providing the right platforms and the right infrastructure.

Now, where is all this leading? Why are we doing all this? Why do we transform industry sectors? Why do we bother? Isn’t it easier politically to just prop a sector up? And even in sectors like steel or rail, where we’re looking at what the future holds for them, we’re saying to them: we’ll help you, we’ll assist you – whether it’s Arrium in Adelaide, whether it’s rail procurement and manufacturing in Australia – if you can become globally competitive. That is the sine qua non of this, that assistance is provided to help transform these industries and to provide the basis for globally competitive activities.

The innovation mindset

Now, what is the vision with this innovation culture that I’m talking about here? I really want it to be the analogue of the adjustment process that we’ve established over the last 20 or 30 years through decades of micro reform. See, what happened with micro reform over the last 20 or 30 years is that we created a very powerful adjustment mechanism in the economy which means that the booms and the busts of the ’80s and ’90s – Michael will remember them well; he was writing about this stuff in Canberra in the Press Gallery.

Remember, every time, inflation would go up, wages would go up, interest rates would go up, the economy would crash. That’s gone. Through the Asian Financial Crisis, through the resources boom of the last few years, look at the way we have accommodated those changes.

There is a powerful adjustment mechanism in the economy, but there’s another adjustment mechanism I want in the economy, and that is the shift to this innovation mindset with a global outlook. So that when we are looking at how we diversify our economy, we’re creating companies and enterprises and entrepreneurs and risk-takers who command a premium in the marketplace because they are producing something no one else can produce, they’re ahead of the curve – very important for us to be able to do that.

And that can help to offset some of the oscillations and the ups and downs we’ve seen of the commodity economy. We ultimately want an economy where overseas people say, this is an economy based on innovation. Yes, we’ll have our resources still, we’ll have our agriculture, we’ll have our services, but across the economy we will be known for being innovative and smart in all of those areas. That’s why I now talk about smart manufacturing; I don’t talk about manufacturing anymore, it’s smart.

Now, there’s been criticism about the Government’s rhetoric around innovation ever since the election, and this is a fair point that we took a bit of a shellacking in the election, there’s no doubt about it, about the term innovation. And people said, oh, that’s equated with people losing their jobs. People are frightened. And people were right to say that when you talk about something in the broad and there’s lots of people out there making lots of money, but making all sorts of predictions about all sorts of jobs that could be lost because of technological change and everything else that’s happening.

We’ve been hearing this for decades, for generations – I’ll come back to it – my point is this: and it’s true that the word innovation, unless you give it some specificity, can worry people because until people see that innovation is actually all the things I’ve said before- and this is how we try and explain it on the ground these days. We don’t explain it by talking about the general concept; we talk about the specifics of how innovation works to make things better for your company, for your community, for your business, your industry. And this is how we have to sell it to our fellow Australians and we have to take our fellow Australians with us.

A time for optimism

And you’ll have lots of talk from the Opposition and others in high-minded ways, talking about the work of the future and the future of work and all these big numbers. Well, I’m very optimistic. I’m a technological optimist. I’m an economic rationalist and a technological optimist, and I believe that we will benefit mightily from the changes that are coming, but we have to take people with us, no doubt about it.

All those communities that feel somehow they’re going to miss out on change, that’s part of the role of government, to make sure that people know they’ll get a fair crack of the whip. They’ll get a fair crack of the whip because we’ll make sure structural adjustment programs, we’ll make sure the education and training system, our systems of training and re-training, learning and re-learning, adapt to the new world. Is that hard work? The longer I stay in this portfolio, the more I see those issues around education and training as germane to everything else we’re trying to do. And yes, it is hard work.

We’re a federation; we don’t control all the levers. And yes, we’ve got immigration policy, the states have got vocation, education and training; we’ve got to make sure everything works in tandem. And through various COAG, industry and skills councils, my colleagues and I at the federal level are working with the states to get that greater coordination going on. But we are here to help people through the transition. So for me, I do lie awake worrying about the future of work, but only in the sense that I want to make sure every Australian is reassured we are going to take them on the journey.

The other point I would make going through is that in the period since Malcolm Turnbull launched the National Innovation and Science Agenda, we’ve actually gotten on with implementing it. Whether it’s new tax incentives for early stage investors; changing the rules surrounding venture capital limited partnerships; $200 million CSIRO Innovation Fund for new spin-off companies; half a billion dollar Biomedical Translation Fund to commercialise our great medical discoveries; the money we’re putting into science, technology, engineering and maths at the school level, STEM; the various proposals we’ve got around to support greater women’s participation in STEM as part of all of that; there’s a whole series of things that we’ve done.

We’ve largely implemented that agenda. The bits that are still outstanding – crowd-funding got done the other day finally, wasn’t that great, that was fantastic. Now, it took a bit longer than I would have hoped, but that’s the way the legislative sausage machine works in this country.

The bit that’s still outstanding from my point of view is I’d like to see more done around bankruptcy. I want to make it easier for us to structure and re-structure companies in this country because I think we do it harder than countries like the US, and that’s something we’re working on with the Attorney-General and his people. We’re already seeing results: venture capital investment has reached a record high since our reforms came into effect; investment in early stage venture capital limited partnerships has risen 80 per cent in the last year.

The vibe

There is actually a vibe out there, you can feel it among the start-ups and you can feel it when it comes to the funding. There is a vibe and this is the window of opportunity, and I take the point from those members of the audience who say when you’re on the crest of a wave this is the time to capitalise on it – and you’re right, this is the time to capitalise on it.

We’re also seeing a significant lift in collaboration between business and research communities. Now, I never tire of saying this, Bill Ferris never tires of saying this, Alan Finkel is here: we really punch above our weight when it comes to knowledge creation as a country. This is one of the great secrets of this country and one of the ways in which we will succeed the Australian way. It’s our knowledge creation and the base that provides. But it’s the collaboration, getting that collaboration done between the various sectors – to me that is the big cultural change that has to happen in this country, we are still too siloed.

We did work in NISA 1 with the universities around the incentives for them when it comes to their research grants to be more commercially oriented, more focused on translation of research. But there is a lot more to do, and as one of your speakers alluded to before, government can’t do it all. But the important thing is we look around and I see great models to build on.

I look at what Macquarie Uni have done with their business parks where they are helping to build and reinforce some of our biggest brands, like Cochlear. The University of Wollongong established an Advantage SME program specifically to develop relationships with small business – a one stop shop for SME’s looking to access research capability. I’ve established an advisory committee to look at opportunities for university and innovation precincts. If collaboration is important, apart from the organic collaboration and precincts that we’ve seen develop across this country, what policy measures do we take to really reinforce that if that is the best way, or one of the best ways to get collaboration?

Bill Ferris, I know has some other ideas. I have no doubt he will tell you about them later, but my point is I’m looking at this in a very excited way. The Australian Nuclear Science & Technology Organisation is an exemplar; it’s leading the way with its planned innovation precinct, enabled by legislation I got through the Parliament last week that will see scientific partners, businesses and graduates crowding around Australia’s Centre of Nuclear Capability and Expertise at Lucas Heights. There’ll be a graduate institute, a technology park, and the world’s first nuclear science and technology innovation incubator. Think about that, the world’s first, and that’ll be at Lucas Heights, and they’ll look at how they roll this out across the country.

Now, there’s a lot more that has to happen. Bill Ferris, his hair has gone prematurely grey because he’s been asked to produce by later this year a plan, a strategic plan for our innovation, science and research system to 2030.

As I alluded to before, part of that plan is about how do we get the best value out of all the money we’re spending already, whether it’s the R&D tax incentive which we’ve been having a look at, whether it’s the way we spread money across industry capability, whether it’s through our entrepreneurs programs, accelerating commercialisation, the ways in which we provide money to industry for research and commercialisation. Are we doing it the best way? Is it the most effective? Are we getting the best value-add?

But Bill will also be looking at what the system looks like in 2030, and also what does that mean in terms of the resource base for the sector by 2030. We’re also looking at whether we have national missions which actually allow us to crystallise and bring together various parts of the innovation and science system to work on big themes, as a way to not only achieve big things, but also to make sure that that brings the rest of the system with it and actually encourages the sort of collaboration and change that we’re talking about.

Leading by example

Now, government has to lead by example. Government can talk about it, government can speak, government can disperse money, but a very important way that we can lead by example is actually create customers in the private sector.

So for example, for this cultural change that we’re talking about for ICT, government leading by example includes the Digital Transformation Agency under the leadership of Angus Taylor. He’s been doing good work when it comes to how the Government uses digital products and processes.

The Government is targeting an increase of 10 per cent in value of ICT contracts going to SMEs. That’ll be $650 million of extra money flowing to innovative Australian companies, because the best assistance for an SME is to get a contract.

The same is happening with what we’re doing around our defence spending – $195 billion over the next 10 years. I want to squeeze every last dollar of national benefit out of that money. We want to get world-first capability, but we also want to get world-first spin-offs for the rest of Australian industry.

Look at the way in which American defence spending, American space spending powered the American economy. This defence spending, which includes a major portion of next generation innovation programming, which includes cooperative research centres focused on defence projects and all the rest of it, which includes an innovation hub and a new industry defence capability centre, that provides us with a powerful mechanism, along with the demand that will come from the naval shipbuilding program and the other elements of capability development, for us to create the basis of really smart manufacturing.

And what we’re about is, where possible with industry policy, to actually create new industries, new opportunities. The Government will have more to say about this next week in relation to the space industry, which we see as an immense opportunity for growth. We’ve been reviewing our space industry capability; it’s underway now, and the review will provide a framework for our sector to grow. It’ll report over the next little while.

But my point is this: I look at space, I look at defence, I look at cyber-security and I see industries of the future where we can be global leaders – not in every aspect; we choose our niches.

The other thing I look at – and it comes back to my technological optimism about the Australian way – is that we actually do big science in this country really well, and as a result of the National Innovation and Science Agenda we’ve committed 2.3 billion over 10 years to critical research infrastructure, like the Australian Synchrotron in Melbourne, which is part now of ANSTO, which is creating great cancer-zapping drugs, for example – I can put it no more technically than that – which is creating all sorts of nuclear science and medicine, which is world-leading.

The Square Kilometre Array, we’re putting up to $300 million towards that. Our fantastic astronomy project which will complement the work we did in the Budget, where we put over a hundred million into the European Southern Observatory for more astronomy work, which with instrumentation and the capabilities that go with that create great global opportunities for collaboration.

Because countries overseas want to cooperate with scientists and researchers who have access to globally competitive infrastructure, and that’s what we’re doing here. We’re creating globally competitive infrastructure which attracts those scientists, those researchers who want to work here. That is one of our great attributes.

I put out a national science statement in March at the Press Club. One of the points I made there was our commitment to basic science. As a country, one of our strengths is basic science, and basic science is blue sky. Even when science fails, you learn something.

The important point about basic science is you don’t know what it leads to, what opportunities it leads to. As a country, we have great attributes in basic science. So part of my job as Innovation Minister is to make sure appropriate resources go to basic science, and then we are linking it up in the way that Bill and others are talking about in terms of commercialisation and translation.

Quantum computing

I want to talk briefly about the quantum computing company, Silicon computing company that I launched the other day. I had hoped it would be a $100 million company; it’s an $83 million company at the moment. Any of you got an extra $17 million; we will gladly take it at this stage. Federal Government, state government, Telstra, CBA, University of New South Wales, a consortium of other universities, are working on quantum computing. This is a bet that Malcolm Turnbull took in the National Innovation Science Agenda.

We said we’d put money behind this, because if we can be world leaders in quantum computing, think of the opportunities that come with that. And if you link that up with what the University of Sydney are doing with their alliance with Microsoft, which is looking at creating an ecosystem around quantum computing in the Sydney Basin; that is about how you establish world-leading research and applied capability and the spin-offs that go with that.

But you’ve got to do the science; you’ve got to understand the science. You can’t be just a fast follower or a fast adopter; you’ve actually got to do the science, and if you do the science you’ll get the results. So again, this is a big bet for this country. The amounts initially sound modest, but it’s a big bet for this country.

What do I lie awake at night worrying about? Well, many things I suppose, but in this portfolio I really want to nail the digital economy. I really want to nail this because there’s no doubt in my mind that we’ve got more to do. I really want to nail Industry 4.0, the industrial internet, the internet of things, whatever you want to call it.

I’m working with my colleague Angus Taylor, who’s looking at smart cities and how they operate in the context of the internet of things. We recently signed an agreement with Germany’s Platform Industrie 4.0 which ensures Australia takes a proactive role in developing and adopting international standards.

We need to be ahead of the curve in adopting these standards for our businesses to have access to global value-chains and remain competitive. This is what governments do best, this sort of stuff – get in on the ground floor, help develop the standards, and those standards then govern how these technologies are used, and you’re in on the ground floor of that, you can take advantage of that.

I mentioned cyber-security earlier, which is related to this. We have both a challenge in terms of cyber resilience across the economy, and we are working on that through our cyber-security strategy we released last year. But on top of that, I want Australia – because of our capabilities – to be, if not number one, one of the top countries in the world when it comes to cyber-security. Yes, there’s Israel, there’s China, there’s Russia, there’s America. They’re all doing things, but we can do it really well.

And I go around, I see the work of the Cyber Security Growth Network under the former head of security at Atlassian, and I look at the work that they do and I know they’re on the right track. They’re focused on how do we make sure the public dollars contribute to this, that they’re not fragmented; how do we make sure we’re appropriately skilling the country and we’ve got the right sort of regulations and framework?

The digital economy

So I want to nail the digital economy, and later today, we’re releasing a paper about what are the next steps when it comes to digital economy. We want a conversation with the public about that, and where do we take it next? This is not a top-down approach. I don’t believe in people coming along, giving you a lecture about what should happen, when; I believe in the wisdom of crowds, that’s one of the reasons I’m here today. It’s very important for us to draw on your knowledge about where you think things should go.

On the future of work, my colleague Michaelia Cash and I are working within Government on a more articulated set of policies around how we address the sort of issues I mentioned earlier, and that will include more and more of our colleagues. I haven’t gone out there and spoken much about it, because frankly I think we’ve got to do the work and we’ve got to listen to people and their perspectives more. But what is important to me about this, as I said before, is we take everybody with us when it comes to the future of work.

And the other point I want to make about the future of work is I don’t want this to be a new frontier for warfare over industrial relations. I want us to work in a way which goes with the grain of market forces, which facilitates disruption, but in a way which helps to look after people. I don’t want it to be an excuse for further re-regulation of the labour market. Yes, we’ve got to look after people, but in a way which is consistent with the grain of market forces so we maximise the benefits of the change. As I said before, this portfolio’s not about protection anymore, it’s about going forward.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, I’ve probably overtaxed you. I want to conclude on this note: I was reading- no, I was watching a TED Talk, and then I said I must get the book. It was by Tom Friedman – great writer. He’s just written a book about thanks for being late, which is a bit like, you know, you should pause to reflect.

I won’t explain the title any more than that. But the point he made is, you know, we’ve got this exponential increase in our capabilities across the economy, across the society. We can all feel it. There’s a lot going on. We can feel the pace. You know, the industrial revolution, the steam revolution, you go through all the revolutions, even though they were pretty quick, they were pretty fast, this feels really fast.

He said, you know what? We also need to lift our human capabilities, and that’s a much bigger task. It’s a much bigger task. And part of the task, as I see it, in lifting our human capabilities is that we all take leadership, whether it’s government leading by example where it can, you in the business sector leading by example.

My advice to you in dealing with issues where you’re seeking to get support is look at your stakeholders; who are your stakeholders; who are your coalition of the willing and how do you work with them to get what you’re talking about?

We hear a lot of talk in Australia that we don’t have a burning platform, we’re too complacent – 26 years of growth, we’ve made it through, employment’s growing, manana, we can worry about all this tomorrow. Well, you know, Winston Churchill used to talk about the fact that an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty and a pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity. I’m relentlessly an optimist.

You’re here today because you are optimists and because you want us – all of us – to live up to the highest levels of the human spirit, and that spirit is one of inquiry, it’s one of hope, it’s about how we work relentlessly to improve the human condition.

So ladies and gentlemen, Government is doing what it can. It can do more. It can always do more, and you can do more, but ultimately let’s create that sense of urgency, that sense of cultural change, because without that cultural change – in an Australian way; I’m not saying we change our culture – but in an Australian way, let’s create that platform for the future and make what is the best country in the world even better.

Thank you.

Text of this speech was originally posted on the website of the Minister for Innovation, Industry and Science. 

Top 10 Science Meets Business Innovations

Featured image above: Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis 

1 THE CURE

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: PRMT5 inhibitors

IMPACT: The Cancer Therapeutics CRC (CTx), with its UK-based commercialisation partner, Cancer Research Technology, has licensed rights to a program of small molecule drugs called PRMT5 inhibitors to MSD (Merck in the US and Canada) in a multimillion-dollar deal. PRMT5 drugs have clinical potential in both cancer and non-cancer blood disorders. The deal involved an upfront payment of $21 million and potential payments in excess of $700 million. A minimum of 70% of those payments will be returned to CTx.

Cancer Therapeutics CRC


2 INNOVATION IN EXPLORATION

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: RoXplorer®

IMPACT: The new RoXplorer® will help access previously hard to locate greenfields (unchartered) mineral deposits beneath the barren surface rocks, which obscure mineralised rocks in about 80% of Australia. RoXplorer® will drill at around one sixth the cost of conventional diamond drilling techniques and be much safer. This will help reverse a two decades old trend which has seen Australia’s share of the world’s expenditure on mineral exploration drop from one quarter to one eighth.

Deep Exploration Technology CRC


3 SAVING EVERY DROP

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: Aquarevo

IMPACT: Each of the 44 homes in Australia’s first water sensitive community, Aquarevo, in Lyndhurst, Victoria, requires approximately 70% less mains water than a regular suburban house. The homes catch, filter and treat most of their own water supply. Houses are plumbed with three types of water – drinking, recycled and rainwater – which means drinking water won’t
be flushed down the toilet. The project was developed in conjunction with Villawood properties and South East Water.

CRC for Water Sensitive Cities


4 DRIVING ON EMPTY

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: eBus

IMPACT: A partnership of the AutoCRC, Swinburne University of Technology’s Electric Vehicle Laboratory and Bustech (part of Transit Australia Group), this is the first electric bus to be designed, engineered and manufactured in Australia. The buses are, on average, 80% cheaper to maintain than the current diesel buses. Each seat has a USB charger for mobile devices and the buses seat 50 passengers. Late last year, Bustech signed a deal to produce buses for the South Australian government.

Excellerate Australia (Automotive Australia 2020 CRC)


5 THE DEMISE OF CASH

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: digi.cash

IMPACT: digi.cash is a system that allows the issuing and circulation of many different kinds of electronic cash. It can be stored on phones, computers or an external storage drive like a USB and can be sent the same way as any other file. The digi.cash founder Andreas Furche says it is “much faster than Blockchain-based so-called cryptocurrencies, and much better suited for centrally issued financial instruments, like national currencies, or shares”.

Capital Markets CRC digi.cash


6 SAFETY FIRST

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: “If It’s Flooded, Forget it” campaign

IMPACT: Multimedia communications encouraging specific behaviour during disasters can be challenging. The BNHCRC has proven that use of the right visual imagery in official emergency warning communications assist people to act appropriately. Early versions of the “If it’s Flooded, Forget it” preparedness campaign inadvertently showed people engaged in “exactly the activity that we are trying to prevent” according to QUT’s Professor Vivienne Tippett, who is a BNHCRC lead researcher. New versions of the campaign involve a 4WD coming to a flooded waterway and deciding not to drive through, “the behaviour we’re trying to encourage”.

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC


7 SWIMMING UPSTREAM

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: Carp bio-control virus

IMPACT: Carp are one of the worst introduced freshwater aquatic species in Australia with an economic impact estimated at up to $500 million per year. A new carp bio-control virus with potential to kill up to 95% of individual carp is ready to be released.  “Ten years of CRC research has basically given the answer the carp bio-control agent is safe and useable,” says Invasive Animals CRC communications manager, Ian McDonald. The virus will be most effective in the first couple of years of use.

Invasive animals CRC


8 AIMING HIGH

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: International collaboration on laser signals

IMPACT: In collaboration with the Japanese space agency, JAXA, researchers from the CRC for Space Environment Management sent a beam of light, via an electro-optic laser from Mt Stromlo in Canberra, 6.7 million km away to an accelerating Japanese satellite called Hayabusa 2. It showed that a laser of this capacity can reach space debris in near-Earth orbit and is a significant step towards being able to more accurately track and eventually manoeuvre space debris (see “Shining a light on space debris”).

CRC for Space Environment Management 


9 FIGHTING MORE THAN FIRES

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: Assessing measurement of toxic chemicals

IMPACT: PFOS (perfluorooctane sulfonate) and PFOA (perfluorooctanoic acid) are common toxic synthetic fluorinated chemicals. While being phased out, they are still encountered in fire-fighting chemicals. The National Measurement Institute collaborated with EPA Victoria on a CRC CARE project to conduct Australia’s first proficiency studies for these contaminants. These studies are an important tool for assessing contamination.

CRC CARE


10 ON THIN ICE

TECHNOLOGY/PROGRAM: Totten Glacier thinning

IMPACT: Taking advantage of a long crack that opened up in sea ice (which is normally impenetrable to ships), ACE CRC researchers used Australia’s icebreaker Aurora Australis to confirm that the Totten Glacier, East Antarctica’s largest glacier, is melting from below as warm ocean water reaches the ice shelf. Totten has the highest basal melt rate among Eastern Antarctic ice shelves and contains enough ice to raise global sea levels by about 3.5m if it melted completely.

 Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems CRC

collaborate

Collaborate to learn, learn to collaborate

One of the most marked changes in science and innovation in Australia in recent years is the attitude to collaboration. As we hold Collaborate | Innovate | 2017, there doesn’t seem to be any argument or concern over the importance of collaboration. It’s one of those things that is so well accepted that it seems strange to even remember when the value of collaboration was questioned and even argued against.

A decade ago, it was not uncommon to be virtually shunned in the scientific community for advocating a multidisciplinary approach to a problem or seeing industry as a partner to work with. The image of the lone scientist plugging away at a problem was often raised as the ideal way of doing science – if he or she was just left alone, well-funded, great things would happen.

The turnaround in attitude has been marked. I’ve seen a presentation from a demographer claiming that the fastest growing job in Australia is baristas. But I reckon Pro Vice-Chancellor Engagement, or some variation of that title, couldn’t be far behind. Universities and other research organisations have scrambled hard over the past few years to improve their level of interaction with industry. There doesn’t seem to be any resistance to the argument that Australia must improve its level of collaboration between the academic and industry sectors.


“It is in all our interests to learn more about the process of collaboration itself, so that we can continually improve.”


Winning the argument for more collaboration is only the first step. It doesn’t automatically follow that the resulting collaborations will be optimal, or even productive. Successful collaboration consists of getting a series of things right. Done right, collaboration means the whole adds up to more than the sum of the parts. Done poorly, it can be a mess.

That’s why Collaborate | Innovate | 2017 doesn’t just hammer away on the need for collaboration. It concentrates on the skills needed for good, productive collaboration. Collaborators need to be trusted partners and that can take more time and more effort than people anticipate. Collaborators may not be ready at the same time, or there may be a big differential in power or culture. These are speed bumps, not barriers.

The collaboration potential of an individual or organisation is not set in stone. It can, and does, change over time. It can be enhanced with experience, education and culture. Similarly, a dud policy can kill it off. It is in all our interests to learn more about the process of collaboration itself, so that we can continually improve.

The Cooperative Research Centres Programme has more than a quarter of a century of experience in relatively large-scale, complex collaborations. The money is of course vital to enabling great collaborations to deliver brilliant results. But collaboration is much more than an ingredient in seeking funding – it is a key to unlocking great innovation, which will result in much greater rewards than any government funding program. Deciding to collaborate is important; learning to collaborate well is vital.

Find out more at crca.asn.au

– Tony Peacock is CEO of the Cooperative Research Centres Association and founder of KnowHow.

You might also enjoy Tony Peacock’s commentary, Firing up our startups.

The future is innovation

Collaboration between industry and research is vital. We know that unlocking the commercial value of Australian research will result in world-first, new-to-market innovation and new internationally competitive businesses. Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs) are an excellent, longstanding example of how industry and researchers can work together to create these growth opportunities.

The CRC Programme supports industry-led collaborations between researchers, industry and the community. It is a proven model for linking researchers with industry to focus research and development efforts on progress towards commercialisation.

Importantly, CRCs also produce graduates with hands-on industry experience to help create a highly skilled workforce. The CRC Programme has been running for more than 25 years and has been extremely successful.

Since it began in 1990, more than $4 billion in funding has been committed to support the establishment of 216 CRCs and 28 CRC Projects. Participants have committed an additional $12.6 billion in cash and in-kind contributions.

CRCs have developed important new technologies, products and services to solve industry problems and improve the competitiveness, productivity and sustainability of Australian industries. The programme has produced numerous success stories; far too many for me to mention here. A few examples include the development of dressings to deliver adult stem cells to wounds; creating technology to increase the number of greenfields mineral discoveries; and spearheading a world-leading method for cleaning up the potentially toxic chemicals found in fire-fighting foams.

These examples demonstrate not just the breadth of work being done by the CRCs, but also the positive benefits they are delivering.

Click here to read KnowHow 2017.

KnowHow 2017

Senator the Hon Arthur Sinodinos AO is the Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science in the Australian Government.

cyber crime

Creating a secure and resilient economy

Collaboration is a term frequently used in business and across many industries. It’s one I have come to hear often across my Small Business, Innovation and Trade portfolios, and it is also a term that causes much confusion – what exactly is collaboration?

I am regularly asked this when I talk about collaboration and why I think it’s important. I concede that it can sometimes be thrown around so much that it starts to look like a meaningless buzzword, and has perhaps become something of a cliché used by people when they want to look like they’re solving problems or pursuing innovation.

That being said, I genuinely believe in the importance of collaboration. It’s important that we work with others, that we share our knowledge and our resources to get better outcomes to the challenges we are facing.

With the world becoming increasingly digitised, it has never been more important for collaboration to occur across all sectors of our own economy, and across global economies.

The online world knows no geographical boundaries. So we have no choice but to collaborate. We need to work with our industry bodies, with global organisations and other governments to ensure we have the best capabilities to deal with whatever comes our way.

The challenge of cyber crime

The ever growing cybersecurity industry is the perfect example of why we need global collaboration. Cybersecurity not only safeguards the digital economy so that it can continue to grow, generate jobs and create a resilient economy into the future, it also ensures our online privacy and prevents cyber crime.

The Internet of Things (IoT), along with other technologies, is creating an almost totally connected world – gone are the days when we only needed to worry about protecting our personal computers. Instead we now need to protect vast networks of devices that span our offices, building sites, shopping centres, public transport systems and homes.

In 2016, the average Australian household had nine internet connected devices. While this may seem like quite a substantial number, it is expected to more than triple to 29 by 2020 and will also include devices such as fridges, televisions and indeed entire households that will run remotely.

Predicting patterns of cyber crime

While the IoT offers exciting opportunities to enhance our lives, it also offers opportunities for hackers to commit cyber attacks. Unlike traditional forms of crime, these attacks don’t just come from people living in your neighbourhood, state or country, they can come from anywhere in the world at any time of the day and from any device.

The only way we can ensure that we are best prepared to deal with these attacks is if we can predict patterns of cyber crime and learn how to mitigate it – this is where collaboration becomes crucial.

Shared knowledge is not just a good way to combat cyber crime, it is in fact the only way we will be able to succeed against it. The biggest problem with combating cyber crime is the speed at which technology advances – meaning it is vital that various agencies and organisations around the world are working together and sharing their knowledge and experience concurrently.

While the benefits of working together to combat the world’s biggest form of crime has its benefits, collaboration across the cybersecurity industry is itself is very valuable with the potential to create huge economic benefits for those in the game. Currently, cybersecurity industry’s estimated worth is over US$71 billion globally. This value is expected to double by 2020.

This industry has the potential to be a huge driver for Australian jobs and the economy, which is why Victoria is investing heavily in collaboration and collocation of allied interests.

In the past two years we have created Australia’s biggest cybersecurity cluster right in the heart of Melbourne. This hub includes Data61, the digital research arm of the CSIRO and Australia’s leading digital research agency; and the Oceania Cyber Security Centre, which brings together eight Victorian universities and major private sector partners.

Collocating at the Goods Shed in Melbourne’s Docklands precinct, the Oceania Cyber Security Centre will also work in partnership with Oxford University’s world-leading Global Cyber Security Capacity Centre, Israel’s Tel Aviv University, and the State of Virginia, the largest defence state in the USA.

These organisations and initiatives are undoubtedly reputable and capable of doing great things. Combining their knowledge and resources in a collaborative way creates an internationally connected cybersecurity powerhouse.

In Victoria, we are now leading Australia’s cybersecurity industry and emerging as a dominant player in the Asia Pacific but we cannot do it alone – we have acknowledged that, we have made moves to change that. In doing so we are increasing our cybersecurity capabilities and helping our allies to increase theirs.

While cybersecurity is a great example of how collaboration is currently working to secure the future of our digital economy, in many jobs and across many industries the situation is the same. In truth, it is simple – if you don’t work with others and learn from their mistakes or value their skills, you are sure to fail.

Hon Philip Dalidakis MP

Victorian Minister for Small Business, Innovation & Trade

Read next: Professor Zdenka Kuncic, Founding Co-Director of AINST, sheds light on opportunities to collaborate and accelerate through the U2B model.

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

science and innovation

Crossing the cultural divide

Australia’s future health and economy is a vibrant, interactive ecosystem with science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) at its core. STEM is central – and essential – to Australia’s ongoing success in the next 50 years. Australia is considered an incredible place to do cutting-edge research, pursue blue-sky ideas and commercialise innovative products. Pioneering discoveries fuel the innovation process. Students cannot wait to enrol in science and maths. Policies are developed using peer-reviewed evidence and broad consultation. Aspirational goals are backed by practical solutions and half of our STEM leaders are women – it’s the norm.

Sounds good doesn’t it?

To excel in science and innovation, however, Australia needs a major culture shift. We can all ‘talk the talk’, but as OECD figures demonstrate, we cannot ‘walk the walk’. Australia rates lowest compared to other OECD countries when it comes to business-research collaborations – not just large businesses, but small to medium-sized enterprises as well.

Academia blames industry. Industry blames academia. Everyone blames the government. It’s time to turn the pointing finger into a welcoming handshake and engage across sectors to actually make innovation happen.

Literally thousands of researchers in this country want to see our academic and industry leaders reach across the divide and make change happen. With every decision made, their future is impacted.

Paradigm-shifting science and innovation takes time and requires a diverse workforce of highly-skilled researchers and professionals that specialise in these fields.

The lack of a skilled workforce and poor collaboration are significant barriers to innovation. As part of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, the industry engagement and impact assessment aims to incentivise greater collaboration between industry and academia by examining how universities are translating their research into social and economic benefits.

Australian academic institutions have begun to break down silos within their own research organisations with some success. In medical research for example, the breadth and scale of interdisciplinary collaborative projects has expanded exponentially – spanning international borders, requiring a range of skills and expertise, terabytes of data, and years of research.

Research teams have become small companies with synergistic subsidiaries – diagnostic, basic, translational and clinical teams – working toward a common goal.

Yet their engagement with industry is low. Industry struggles to navigate the ever-changing complex leadership structures in higher education and research. When you speak one-on-one with researchers and industry leaders, however, they seem almost desperate to cross the divide and connect! It’s a detrimental dichotomy.

How can we harness the full potential of our research workforce?

We can energise innovation by fostering a culture that values basic research as well as translation of discoveries to product, practice and policy. A culture that opens the ivory tower and is not so sceptical of industry-academia engagement. That responds to failure with resilience and determination rather than deflating, harsh judgement. That sees the potential of our young researchers.

We need to lose the tall poppy syndrome and openly celebrate the success and achievement of others. We must hold ourselves to higher standards and in particular, women must be equally recognised and rewarded for their leadership.

As a nation, we must ensure we are prepared and resourced for the challenges ahead. Not only do we need the best equipment and technologies, but we also need a readily adaptable workforce that is highly-skilled to address these issues.

To facilitate a culture shift and increase engagement with business and industry, we need to provide researchers the skills and know-how, as well as opportunities to hone these skills. Young researchers are ready to engage and hungry to learn; and they must be encouraged to do so without penalty.

They then need to be connected with industry leaders to identify the qualities and expertise they need to strengthen, and to extend their network.

We can change this now. The solution is not expensive. It is simply about letting down our guard and providing real opportunities to meet, to connect, to network, to exchange ideas and expertise – and to share that welcoming handshake.

Dr Marguerite Evans-Galea

Executive Director, Industry Mentoring Network in STEM, Australian Academy of Technological Science and Engineering, Melbourne

CEO and Co-founder, Women in STEMM Australia

Read next: Professor David Lloyd, Vice Chancellor of the University of South Australia, believes university and industry have a shared purpose.

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

collaborative relationships

The art of collaborative relationships

When we speak of innovation we increasingly couple it with collaboration. Collaboration is regularly promoted as a positive attribute and a productive means to an end.

In my own research, I promote collaboration as a mechanism for including more women in scientific teams in male-dominated fields, and as a mechanism to sustain research when individuals are juggling the competing demands of life and family.

In this context, at one end of the spectrum we might be speaking of the collaboration that characterises teamwork within an organisation, while at the other end of the spectrum we might be speaking of international scientific collaboration that draws geographically dispersed networks together.

My research over the past decade on women in the academy and women in science has heightened my interest in the art of collaboration and how it might encapsulate ‘the way we do things around here’ – our organisational culture.

I am particularly interested in the way in which men are sponsored and socialised into strategic relationships, particularly with business and industry – an opportunity not readily available to most women.

Yet we know little about the social processes that sit behind the scientific production of knowledge, and most of our recognition and reward systems focus on the outstanding individual.

The myth of individual creative genius is a myth that my colleagues who work with remote Indigenous communities – just like those in large international scientific research teams – know is culturally and historically specific.

Those who are privileged to work with Indigenous communities know that collaboration based on deep respect of different ‘ways of seeing,’ encoded in art, language and religion and formulated over extremely long periods of time, is central to sustaining collaborative relationships. Longevity of relationship is particularly highly valued, and the time taken to build respectful collaborative relationships and trust is a critical part of this sustained engagement.

They also know that while knowledgeable individuals are involved, the knowledge is collectively owned and accessible only through well-established protocols.

The art of collaboration is far more than a set of pragmatic, instrumental practices. With a degree of candour, I should state that I am not always a great collaborative partner. I put this down to my academic identity being formed in the discipline of anthropology where the ‘rite de passage’ was years of field research alone in a remote village.

This prepares the aspiring researcher for collaboration from a position of heightened ignorance but not necessarily with academic peers with a common knowledge base. I also evidence deficiencies in two attributes essential to collaboration: time and discomfort with failure.

Innovation demands the time to build teams, network, establish cross-sectoral collaborative relationships, generate and test ideas, fail, learn and start again, and to translate research findings and disseminate these to a range of audiences. It also requires the time for reflection and exercise of the imagination.

Collaboration at its best generates this time and, at its best, offers a safe space to fail.

Professor Sharon Bell

Honorary Professor College of Arts and Social Sciences, ANU

Board Member, Ninti One

Read next: Heather Catchpole: Collaboration at a higher scale

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

Successful collaboration

Successful collaboration unpacked

Contrary to popular belief university researchers are good at collaborating, but often this is limited to collaborations with other university researchers. In fact, the Nature Index, one of the many university ranking systems, produces multiple rankings of world universities – one of which is based solely on successful collaboration with other universities.

So, what are the prerequisites for successful collaboration?

I believe there are three key ingredients:

  1. Awareness of the drivers of each institution in the collaboration
  2. A shared understanding of the problem the collaboration is trying to solve
  3. Trust between the people collaborating

The most recent Nature Index list of the Top 100 bilateral collaborators provides some interesting insights into the collaboration process. Almost all collaborations in this list are between institutions in the same country, and often within the same city.

Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology top the list with most collaborations, while the only entry that includes Australian institutions is one involving Curtin University and The University of Western Australia. In both cases, the collaborating institutions are strong rivals.

What does this data suggest about why there is so much collaboration occurring between university researchers?

The first prerequisite is a given because at the highest level the drivers for all universities are essentially the same. The shared understanding often comes quite quickly as the collaborators are often experts in the field they are working in, and therefore start with a common vocabulary.

Building trust is the most time-consuming part of collaborating, but as the bilateral data above shows, close physical proximity helps and trust can be built between researchers – even when their institutions are in competition.

What about collaborations with industry?

In Australia, there is a lack of appreciation in universities of industry drivers and vice versa.

In the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre, located on the Curtin University campus, Cisco, Woodside and Curtin have developed an innovation centre and workplace for customers, partners, start-ups, universities and open communities. One significant outcome of the first year of operation is an understanding within the three founding members of their drivers and differing corporate cultures, which has proven to be a relatively time-consuming process.

A shared understanding of the problem is often also a challenge, as a different vocabulary is spoken by the collaborating parties. In the past, the model was often that the industry partner provided money and left the university researchers to solve the problem, contributing little input into the process. This often led to a suboptimal solution or a solution to another problem than what was intended.

In our projects at the Cisco IoE Innovation Centre, we meet as a joint industry and academic team on a weekly or fortnightly basis, which allows us to develop a shared understanding of the problem and evolving solution. Finally, building trust is always an involved process, which can be made easier between industry and academia because of the absence of competition between the collaborating organisations.

In summary, the secret to successful collaboration between academia and industry is no different to one within academia, provided additional attention is paid by both parties to cultural differences and the development of a lingua franca.

Professor Andrew Rohl

Director, Curtin Institute for Computation

Read next: Brad Furber, COO of the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre at UNSW Australia, paves the path to easier, faster and more impactful collaboration.

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