A NEW $2 billion investment is heading in the direction of supercomputing facilities, microscopy and imaging capabilities, complex biology – including next generation sequencing – and support for clinical trials infrastructure.
Those are the leverage points for major new investment by the Federal Government in Australia’s medical research sector, continuing along the road to a goal of $20 billion in total funding for the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) by 2020-21.
The Federal Government’s latest $2 billion Research Infrastructure Investment Plan gives the sector a welcome long-term – about 10 years – commitment to seeing Australian researchers have the tools they need to make new discoveries in medical research.
According to Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) president Tony Cunningham, the funding will give the sector confidence to make co-investments. It will also give researchers the confidence to undertake long-term projects that will deliver health and economic benefits to the nation.
“The Investment Plan recognises an important fact – that we can only do world class research when we have access to world class research infrastructure,” Professor Cunningham said.
Prof. Cunningham applauded the government’s commitment of nearly $2 billion of funding announced in the Federal Budget for this Plan.
“This investment will make Australia a more attractive research destination, providing new opportunities for our best and brightest to stay here in Australia for their research career, and allow us to attract the very best global talent,” he said.
He said AAMRI was particularly pleased to see the new investment in medical research infrastructure.
“Our world-class research sector supports in excess of 150,000 jobs, and to keep supporting these jobs we need to keep supporting the infrastructure that underpins them,” Prof. Cunningham said.
He said the investment would help find ways to speed up identification of diseases such as cancer, develop new medical devices to deliver needle free vaccines and help develop new medical treatments to reduce future medical costs.
AAMRI, the peak body representing 49 medical research institutes across Australia, encompassing 15,000 staff and students, acknowledged that the Investment Plan provided a strategic, whole-of-government view to investing in Australia’s national research infrastructure system.
The Plan was developed following the Federal Government’s detailed consideration of the 2016 Roadmap, including nearly 500 written submissions and consultations with over 580 stakeholders.
The Medical Research Future Fund is regarded as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to significantly reshape the landscape of Australian medical research and innovation.
According to the AAMRI, Australia has world leading health and medical research and a world-class health system, but too often they operate in isolation from each other rather than as one system with the aim of a healthier community.
The MRFF was set up to provide the opportunity to bridge the gap between the two, seeing Australian medical research and innovation in partnership with health practitioners.
Established by legislation in August 2015, the MRFF operates as an investment fund. With an account balance of around $7 billion and further capital injections to be made by the Australian Government over the next few years, the MRFF is scheduled to reach its target of $20 billion in 2020-21.
The MRFF’s capital is invested and the earnings are available to fund health and medical research and innovation.
ARCHITECTURE and engineering students at Queensland University of Technology (QUT) have created a ‘Tower of Power’ solar charging kiosk – complete with sun-tracking panels and smartphone app.
The innovative project, supported by the former Emerson Network Power organisation now re-branded as Vertiv, is a stylish modern solar solution to enable students to charge their mobile devices under the sun on campus.
The QUT Tower of Power is an off-grid kiosk built with lightweight but durable materials and fitted with solar panels positioned for optimum efficiency. The kiosk has eight seats in total where students can sit and interact while their devices charge. It’s also connected to an application that allows students to see how many ports are available at any time.
“We challenged design students to propose a structure for a smart solar mobile charging station,” said QUT Electrical Engineering Student Society (QUT EESS) president, Vishnu Kumar Arun.
“The students went above and beyond and created something that is truly innovative and that embodies the Internet of Things (IoT) and electronics projects developed by our engineering team.”
The winning students, chosen from four finalists in the competition, worked closely with the engineering teams of QUT EESS to modify the solution design for fabrication and real-world implementation and are now field testing it on campus. The hope is to expand on the project and get similar kiosks in place in other universities and organisations countrywide with a commercially viable solution.
Vertiv, which sponsored the competition and worked closely with the university to help secure the right batteries for the solution, has been inspired by the project and has ordered its own model of the kiosk to showcase to local government customers around the country as a potential tool for their IoT goals. The critical infrastructure company is also hoping to have a demonstration of the kiosk at Smart Cities Week in October.
“This simple yet innovative idea and execution of it has been a joy to be a part of,” said Alan Smith, senior solutions architect with Vertiv Australia and New Zealand. “This kind of idea is vital to the successful development of IoT and smart cities in Australia, and to make sure environmental efficiency is considered in line with infrastructure that makes sense for people.”
Vertiv ANZ associate director of national sales, Kirk Wetherell said, “Charging mobile devices isn’t the largest burden on the grid, but it still plays its part. This is a fusion of cool architecture and clever engineering and the result is an energy-efficient solution which could be used in a huge variety of settings.”
Co-designer of the Tower of Power, Lydia Carlton said, “We wanted to design something innovative and aesthetically pleasing. But we also felt it was important to make it an area where students could sit down and socialise while their devices charged; so we added seating to the inside and outside to cater for different weather.”
Another co-designer, architecture student Nikita Tongia said it presented a rare opportunity to collaborate on something that would have a direct positive impact on students.
“QUT has great initiatives supporting both sustainability and IoT and we felt this solution fitted in well with both,” Ms Tongia said.
Vertiv supports mobile and cloud computing markets with a portfolio of power, thermal and infrastructure management solutions including the Chloride, Liebert, NetSure and Trellis brands.
AUSTRALIA’S national science agency’s new mobile device app, CSIRO Energise, is plugging in ‘people power’ to help researchers understand how energy is used around the country.
By using the new CSIRO Energise app, ‘citizen scientists’ will help to paint a clearer picture of contemporary energy use to guide research and decisions concerning Australia’s energy future.
For example, solid data can help overcome information gaps around how much households pay for energy, what is driving these costs, and how to reduce these costs into the future.
The app is a key component of CSIRO’s Energy Use Data Model project, which is collating, centralising and enhancing various streams of energy data.
Until now, this information has never been brought together, and the resulting platform will benefit researchers, government and industry.
Over time, users of CSIRO Energise will receive a range of ‘micro-surveys’ covering general household characteristics, tariffs and power costs, energy-usage patterns, appliances, uptake of renewables, and more.
The app will follow users’ responses over time and ask questions in response to specific events, like how air conditioning is used on hot days, and how that can then improve understanding and management of peak energy consumption.
CSIRO Energise is intended as a two-way communication channel, with users receiving insights including tips for energy efficiency in the home, cutting-edge research updates, and short videos from scientists.
CSIRO Energy director, Tim Finnigan said that by taking part, households across the country would provide valuable data to support the science that will ultimately improve national energy systems.
“We know the way Australians use energy is changing, but it’s important for us to know how quickly, and what’s driving that change,” Dr Finnigan said.
“CSIRO Energise will help fill missing pieces of the puzzle with robust, objective data in areas where our knowledge is lacking. This will ensure that CSIRO can continue to drive the innovation that guides an affordable, sustainable and reliable energy system.”
Project leader Adam Berry noted that consumer surveying has moved beyond large-scale mail-outs and focus groups.
“With CSIRO Energise we can ask important questions at critical points in time, for example in the wake of an extreme heatwave or unexpected blackout,” Dr Berry said.
“Getting this information quickly and from a broad sample of households means that we can quickly spot issues, and then start working on solutions.
“Every member of the public can make a valuable contribution to our work by completing these short surveys over time, telling us more about their energy world.”
CSIRO pointed out that data collected through the app remained on Australian servers, featured data encryption and was only accessible to authorised users.