FOUR challenges to Australian industry sectors are being met by new Cooperative Research Centres (CRCs), backed by more than $151.5 million in Federal Government funding, in a bid to find innovative solutions.

The CRCs are being set up to find practical solutions to problems such as farm soil performance, honey bee product development, digital technology to boost farming practices and next generation vehicle control systems – then produce tangible outcomes.

The iMove CRC will receive $55 million over 10 years to explore ‘digital and evolving vehicle technologies’ to help traffic to flow more smoothly. 

“The goal is to reduce traffic congestion, lower fuel use and emissions and, as a result, drive improved national productivity and competitiveness,” Industry, Innovation and Science Minister Arthur Sinodinos said.

A new CRC for High Performance Soils will receive almost $40 million over 10 years to help farmers bridge the gap between soil science and farm management.

“This will give them the tools and knowledge they need to make decisions on complex soil management issues,” Senator Sinodinos said.

A new CRC for Honey Bee Products will receive $7 million over five years in a program to help link unique floral hive sites to product quality control processes. The aim of the CRC’s programs will be to create “a healthy product image for national and international markets”.

The new Food Agility CRC is aiming to  help Australia’s food industry grow its comparative advantage through digital transformation. The CRC will receive $50 million from the
Federal Government over 10 years.

“I’m delighted that the new CRCs selected in this 18th funding round will involve interdisciplinary researchers working with industry to explore new processes, including digital technologies, to deliver improvements in strategic industry sectors,” Senator Sinodinos said..

He said the CRC program was a competitive, merit based grant program to support “industry-led and outcome-focused collaborative research partnerships between industry, researchers and the community”.

“Since the programme’s inception, the Australian Government has invested more than $4.2 billion in innovation and research that is aimed at finding practical solutions for Australian industry, whether it is new products, processes or services,” he said.

www.business.gov.au/crc

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QUANTUM mechanics researchers at the University of Queensland (UQ) and Britain’s University of Sussex have found a way to ‘supercharge’ the sensitivity of measuring sensors utilised in fields as diverse as mineral exploration and climate change.

Theoretical physicist Stuart Szigeti, of UQ’s School of Mathematics and Physics, said future precision sensing technology would exploit unusual effects of quantum mechanics.

“Our research showed a way to recycle atoms and reuse them in a device called an atom interferometer,” Dr Szigeti said. “This technique will vastly improve the performance of these devices, leading to improved sensing technology. 

“An atom interferometer uses the quantum ‘wave-like’ nature of atoms in order to make very precise measurements of accelerations, rotations, and gravitational fields.”

Dr Szigeti, who works within one of five nodes of the Australian Research Council Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems, said the devices would have applications on land and sea.

“They can be used in mineral exploration, allowing us to more easily locate mineral reserves underground, and in hydrology, allowing us to track the movement of water across the planet as we monitor the effects of climate change,” Dr Szigeti said.
“They’ll also be important in navigation.”
Simon Haine, from the University of Sussex, said the development of precise atom interferometers had been hampered by an effect known as quantum noise, which was uncertainty in a quantum system signal.
“Quantum noise can be combatted with a property of quantum mechanics known as ‘entanglement’,” Dr Haine said.
“Proof-of-principle experiments have recently shown how to generate entanglement within atom interferometers, and have used this to alleviate the effects of quantum noise. However, this comes at a cost, as in the process of creating entanglement, most of the atoms are wasted, which hinders the performance of these devices.
“Our project has found a way to harvest and recycle these atoms to improve the sensitivity of ultra-precise measurement devices.”
The research, involving Dr Szigeti, Dr Haine and colleague Dr Robert Lewis-Swan from UQ, has been published in Physical Review Letters.

www.uq.edu.au

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AUSTRALIAN satellites successfully launched in April will not only support Australian Defence Force capabilities but will also help to rejuvenate the nation’s space research.

The satellite systems have been developed for several different tasks by a range of Australian universities.

The main satellite, called Biarri Point, was launched from Cape Canaveral in the US and carried to the International Space Station (ISS) aboard an Orbital ATK/Cygnus OA-7 cargo craft carried into orbit by an Atlas V rocket.

Defence Industry Minister Christopher Pyne said the Australian satellites were part of a re-supply mission to the ISS. Biarri Point is a satellite developed by the US but as part of its payload it has GPS technology developed by the University of New South Wales (UNSW) Sydney in partnership with Defence Science and Technology (DST) Group. 

The Biarri satellite and several other small satellites developed by Australian university teams will be steadily deployed from the ISS.

“The crew of the ISS will load the Biarri satellite along with other small satellites into the launcher later to be deployed into their own orbits by early July,” Mr Pyne said. “After the satellites launch from the ISS, the Biarri satellite will be switched on and commence its mission of less than one year.”

Mr Pyne said Biarri carried a GPS technology payload developed by UNSW and was integrated into the satellite by DST to conduct a range of experiments involving Australian facilities, such as Mount Stromlo Observatory in Canberra.

“The experiments are aimed at increasing our understanding of outer atmospheric effects on small satellites and improve our situation awareness of space,” Mr Pyne said.

“The 2016 Defence White Paper highlights the importance of space-based systems for information gathering, communications, navigation and surveillance for all ADF and coalition operations.

“Advances in small low cost space platforms provide a unique opportunity to support Australian Defence Force capabilities and to rejuvenate Australian space research,” he said. 

On the same mission are the SuSAT satellite from the University of Adelaide and the University of South Australia, the UNSW-ECO satellite from UNSW and INSPIRE 2 from the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and Australian National University.

All are part of the multi-national, multi-university QB50 program, in which 27 countries are launching 50 small CubeSat units to analyse Earth’s thermosphere..

www.acser.unsw.edu.au/QB50

 

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THE Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce (AICC) has discovered a range of flaws in the way Australia approaches innovation – including evidence that workplaces in general are not supportive enough of innovation – on its fourth dynamic innovation index in collaboration with Sky News Business.

Named the Q1 Innovation Index 2017, AICC’s latest analysis provides crucial insights for business executives and policy makers, capturing the current perspectives of executives on the state of innovation within their organisations. 

There were four major findings of the index: workplaces are not supportive enough of innovation; consumer engagement is the key to business growth; R&D is seen as the leading driver of innovation; and most executives believe innovation will directly impact jobs in 2017.

The index focuses on changes in corporate culture, research and development (R&D), jobs and consumer engagement.

AICC CEO Michelle Blum Michelle Blum said the key indicators in this index were continually updated to reflect the evolution of the concept of innovation.

“As such, two novel indicators were added this quarter: firstly, to assess how executives expect innovation to affect employment; and secondly, what innovative changes executives are making within their companies in 2017,” Ms Blum said.

MAJOR FINDINGS

The four major findings of the index were:

  • Workplaces aren’t supportive enough of innovation: “There has been a marked decline in the proportion of executives believing that their workplace environment allows innovation to flourish. Executives are also looking for more transparent structures in the workplace to support innovation.”
  • Consumer engagement is key to business growth: “Executives are placing increasing importance on customer engagement as a driver of future business growth. Engagement was ranked as the largest area of future growth for businesses, and there has been a 100 percdent year-on-year increase in executives indicating that customer engagement is an area for future business growth.”
  • R&D is seen as the leading driver of innovation: “Of the innovation-active companies in our survey (90%), investing in internal R&D, or seeking collaborative R&D partnerships were seen as the key ways of innovating in 2017.”
  • Innovation and jobs: “(About)65 percent of executives believe that innovation will directly impact jobs in 2017. A quarter of participants think that innovation will reduce the need for some jobs, while four out of ten think that innovation will generate new jobs.”
  • Ms Blum said, “In today’s disruptive climate the social imperative to innovate is stronger than ever. Key themes from this index are the importance of R&D, collaboration and a workplace environment supportive of innovation.”
  • “Australia can take advantage of the progress and experiences in Israel, where embracing uncertainty, collaboration, and exploring new and dynamic ways of working, have led it to consistently be recognised as a role model for innovation.”

www.aicc.org.au'

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AUSTRALIA’s Parkes radio telescope is at the sharp edge of the search for civilisations across the cosmos, launched by internet entrepreneur Yuri Milner and renowned physicist and author Stephen Hawking.

Breakthrough Listen, the 10-year, $100-million astronomical search for intelligent life beyond Earth, launched in 2015 by Milner and Hawking announced its first observations using CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope late last year. 

Parkes has joined two US telescopes, the Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia and the Automated Planet Finder at Lick Observatory in California, in their ongoing surveys to determine whether civilisations exist elsewhere and have developed technologies similar to our own.

Mr Milner, founder of the Breakthrough Initiatives which include Breakthrough Listen, said the addition of Parkes was an important milestone.

"These major instruments are the ears of planet Earth, and now they are listening for signs of other civilisations,” Mr Milner said.

After 14 days of commissioning and test observations, ‘first light’ for Breakthrough Listen at Parkes was achieved on November 8, 2016, with an observation of the newly-discovered Earth-size planet orbiting the nearest star to our Sun, Proxima Centauri.

A red dwarf star 4.3 light years from Earth, Proxima Centauri is known to have a planet (named ‘Proxima b’) orbiting within its habitable zone, the region where water could exist in liquid form on the planet’s surface. 

Such ‘exo-Earths’ are among the primary targets for Breakthrough Listen.

Berkeley SETI Research Center director and leader of the Breakthrough Listen science program, Andrew Siemion said the chances of any particular planet hosting intelligent life-forms were probably minuscule.

“But once we knew there was a planet right next door, we had to ask the question, and it was a fitting first observation for Parkes," Dr Siemion said.

“To find a civilisation just 4.2 light years away would change everything.”

CSIRO’s Parkes radio telescope has long worked in unison with the US and European space programs because it is perfectly positioned to observe parts of the sky that cannot be seen from the northern hemisphere. This includes the centre of our own Milky Way galaxy, large swaths of the Galactic plane, and numerous other galaxies in the nearby Universe.

CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science director, Douglas Bock said the Parkes telescope was one of the most highly cited radio telescopes in the world.

“The Parkes radio telescope has a long list of achievements to its credit, including the discovery of the first ‘fast radio burst’,” Dr Bock said.

“Its unique view of the southern hemisphere sky and cutting-edge instrumentation means it now also has a great opportunity to contribute to the search for extra-terrestrial life.”

Swinburne University of Technology is working closely with University of California, Berkeley, and CSIRO to design and implement a signal-processing and data-storage system for the project that will make the Breakthrough Listen data available to the science community.

ARC laureate fellow at the Centre for Astrophysics and Supercomputing at Swinburne University of Technology, professor Matthew Bailes, who is also the Breakthrough Listen project’s Australian science coordinator, said Breakthrough Listen would do more than just “hunt for ET”.

“The detection system on Parkes will be simultaneously searching for naturally occurring phenomena such as pulsars and fast radio bursts, which are a large part of Parkes’ present work,” Dr Bailes said.

“The Australian science community welcomes the opportunity to share the Breakthrough Listen data for other ongoing research projects.”

Breakthrough Listen will use 25 percent of the science time available on the Parkes radio telescope over the next five years.

The Breakthrough Listen science program is directly aligned with CSIRO’s strategy to operate world-class national facilities for the use of scientists, to ensure that those facilities are adequately and sustainably funded, and to facilitate the delivery of world-leading science outcomes and impact.

www.csiro.au

 

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AUSTRALIANS with cancer will be the first to benefit from the multi-million dollar Australian Cancer Research Foundation (ACRF) Detector launched in April at the Australian Synchrotron.

The ACRF Detector generates light a million times brighter than the sun to produce three-dimensional images of proteins, These images are studied to follow and document experiments that develop ways to neutralise particular proteins that develop cancers.

ACRF CEO, Ian Brown, said ACRF and its supporters were proud to have provided the $2 million grant that facilitated the purchase of the ACRF Detector at the Australian Synchrotron.

“The ACRF Detector is a vital, core piece of equipment for cancer and medical research in Australia, and one that will be used by cancer researchers from all institutes, hospitals and universities,” Professor Brown said.

“It shows the three-dimensional structure of proteins, which do most of the work in cells, identifying opportunities to neutralise those involved in cancer and promoting those that may protect us from cancer.” 

The Synchrotron is operated by the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO). Australian Synchrotron director, Andrew Peele, said the leaps that will be enabled by the new detector will more than double the facility’s capacity to collect data, leading to more targeted and effective treatments and, ultimately, improved patient outcomes.

“This new capability will take a beamline that was previously at full capacity – booked for use at all available hours of the day – and find it an extra gear, so it can deliver more research, and arm researchers with clear representations of protein structures,” Professor Peele said.

“There are a lot of questions that still need to be answered in the world of cancer research, and by partnering with ACRF and speeding up the throughput of important research, we are bringing more solutions closer than ever before.

“We’re essentially shifting from dial-up internet to high-speed broadband, putting our foot on the accelerator of cancer research technology, providing faster protein analysis to turbocharge cancer research and facilitate significant discoveries.”

Industry, Innovation and Science Minister, Arthur Sinodinos, unveiled the ACRF Detector, which he described as being “akin to a turbocharged camera, and will take images at a speed and accuracy currently not possible at any other Australian research facility”.

The detector will enable researchers, including those working in cancer, to more than double their outputs, gaining more answers at a faster rate, Senator Sinodinos said.

He said currently more than 60 percent of all the research conducted on the Synchrotron’s Micro Crystallography (MX2) beamline was dedicated to cancer research, “helping scientists to understand and develop new drug targets and refine treatments for a disease that is the leading cause of death around the globe”.

Senator Sinodinos said the new ACRF Detector wass a great example of how collaboration between research facilities, not-for-profits and government can improve outcomes for the Australian community.

“This investment in Australian research and technology has the potential to increase and quicken the rate at which research turns into practical applications for patients and the community,” Senator Sinodinos said.

“High quality research, collaboration and smart investment are needed to ensure that new research and knowledge are supported, and I am thrilled to be here today to witness exactly that, and officially reveal the ACRF detector.”

Attending the launch of the ACRF Detector with Senator Sinodinos was researcher and protein crystallographer from the University of Western Australia, Professor Charlie Bond, who had utilised the MX2 beamline for extensive protein analysis, including research into the childhood cancer neuroblastoma.

They were also joined by Lucy Jones, who is focused on driving change in survival rates through increased research into neuroblastoma, having lost her daughter Sienna to the illness in 2010.

“Losing a child to neuroblastoma has driven me to do all I can to support research in finding an effective treatment for this insidious disease and other childhood cancers, made all the more challenging due to the high cost of drug development and the rarity of most childhood cancers,” Ms Jones said.

“We must do everything we can to help researchers such as Prof. Bond, and innovative technologies such as this, to help make the whole research process more efficient by reducing costs and time to clearly benefit the research of childhood cancers and other diseases, shortening the time between lab discoveries and clinical testing of new drugs,” she said.

Neuroblastoma occurs most commonly in infants and children under five years of age. It is cancer made up of cells that are found in nerve tissues called neuroblasts, commonly found in adrenal glands and along tissues around the spinal cord in the neck, chest, abdomen and pelvis.

The ACRF Detector was made possible by a $2 million grant from the ACRF, and additional contributions from Monash University, CSIRO, La Trobe University, NZ Synchrotron Group, the University of Western Australia, the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, the University of Melbourne, the University of Queensland, the University of Sydney, the University of Wollongong, Victor Chang Cardiac Research Institute, the University of Adelaide, Australian National University and ANSTO. 

www.anstro.gov.au

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INNOVATIVE work by an Australian research team into head and body protection, from very high forces and impacts, is providing an edge for Defence personnel and has wider ranging applications beyond the military.

Defence scientist Horace Billon and his team, part of the Defence Science and Technology Group (DST) advise clients such Australian Special Forces on how best to maintain their current equipment and guide them on future equipment acquisition. 

Dr Billion said there was a range of challenging frontiers in individual protection.

“One is head protection and, in particular, gaining a deeper understanding of mild traumatic brain injury, which is likely to arise from impact and blast effects,” Dr Billion said.

“What we found is that a lot of the head injury criteria that we use have been taken from the automotive industry.

“However, the criteria associated with vehicle crashes don’t necessarily cover the whole range of ballistic phenomena, in particular very short duration and very high strain rates.”

The goal for the DST group of scientists right now is to establish a more robust set of criteria, so what is developed can cover the entire gamut of military situations.

 “Our challenge is to come up with better criteria which will take a lot of work but is something that would be good for DST to be involved in, potentially through an international collaboration under The Technical Cooperation Program,” Dr Billion said.

At present, DST researchers most often use the Hybrid III crash test dummy headform for head protection research. This is a hollow headform which contains a suite of accelerometers inside to provide researchers with rotational and translational acceleration information of the head.

The information recorded can be related to the concussive effect of non-penetrating impacts. The same headform also has an instrumented neck that provides researchers with torques and forces at upper and lower neck joints.

“By measuring all these parameters we can relate the head and neck injury criteria to existing medical criteria for injury,” Dr Billion said. “That gives us an idea as to whether a particular non-penetrating injury would be survivable, and that information is obviously very valuable to our clients.

“We also have a Canadian ballistic load-sensing headform that was developed with assistance from  Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC). It provides us with information, via a series of load cells, about skull fractures from impacts. 

“The heads complement each other in terms of the information we get from them, so for us it’s definitely a case of two heads being better than one.”

One of the DRDC scientists who helped develop the Canadian head, Simon Ouellet, has been working with Dr Billon and colleagues at DST’s Melbourne laboratory this year.

Dr Billon said the crux of the research was in providing the client with a better picture as to what situations they are faced with and what armour systems are appropriate.

“What I find personally rewarding is the short term problem solving we do. The ADF often need solutions in a hurry,” Dr Billon said.

“In that situation we are under pressure to get quick answers but we always try to give them the best possible solution in the given time frame.

“Sometimes that does mean cutting back on the science ‘frills’ and fast tracking it. In those cases it’s better for us to provide a 70-80 percent solution on time, rather than a 100 percent solution that is too late.”

www.dst.defence.gov.au

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