Science and Industry Endowment Fund Annual Report 2014-15

Find out more about the Science and Industry Endowment Fund in the 2014 - 2015 Annual Report - Appendix 4.

Trustee’s report

Having recently started as the Trustee to SIEF, I have been very impressed with the array of research in which the fund has invested since the fund was rejuvenated by a Gift from CSIRO, as a result of the fast WLAN patent litigation in 2009. The range and depth of research the fund is supporting is extraordinary and exciting for the future of Australian innovation.

Over the last year, SIEF-funded programs have included research into sustainable resource use, research that fast-tracks solutions to national challenges and scholarships that create and sustain young researchers to solve our country’s greatest challenges. Research on these national challenges is aimed at assisting Australian industry, furthering the interests of the Australian community or contributing to the achievement of Australian national objectives. Collaboration with organisations capable of working together on solutions for national challenges is also a key objective, which leads me to share some of this year’s highlights from the Fund.

Supporting research infrastructure collaborations

Funding through SIEF has supported Australian research partners to develop purpose-built facilities to both engage with industry with an innovation focus, and foster integrative and collaborative work by sharing joint access.

Both the Canberra-based National Agriculture and Environmental Sciences Precinct (NAESP) and the Clayton-based Biomedical Materials Translational Facility (BMTF) were launched in the last year.

A collaboration between Monash University and CSIRO, the Clayton-based BMTF will develop as a biomedical manufacturing centre for Australia. This is a major partnership, which will build on Australia’s global competitiveness. The innovation led by the BMTF will foster rapid progress in materials and biomedical sciences and assist in commercialising the next generation of medical devices diagnostics and cell therapies.

The BMTF will be a focal point to draw in, engage and stimulate industry, with 20 emerging industry players involved. Within Australia’s med-tech sector there are a range of highly innovative companies with high growth potential. The BMTF’s focus on translating biomedical materials research provides these companies with a means to proactively engage earlier in the research and design process.

The NAESP, a collaboration between CSIRO and ANU, will bring transformative changes leveraging a base to conduct outstanding research and innovation essential to food security and environmental stewardship in the face of climate change, population growth and land degradation. It will link with partners in the ACT and will continue to build on its already strong links with Australian and global life sciences companies.

(L‑R) Anatomics CEO Andrew Batty, Minister Ian Macfarlane, Chief Executive Dr Megan Clark, Manufacturing Flagship Director Dr Keith McLean and Monash University Vice‑Provost Professor Ian Smith at the SIEF funding announcement.

Supporting the next generation

I passionately support the creation of scientific capability in the next generation of Australian researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs to address national challenges. A focus of SIEF is to help advance our early career scientists by readying them for the changing global research environment. One of my first actions as Trustee was to ensure selection criteria for the current round of Postdoctoral Fellowship applications included whether the project challenges the boundaries of knowledge and/or has potential for disruptive innovation. This is important as the major emerging national and global challenges require radically new thinking.

In November 2014, SIEF supported the Australian Academy of Science to send 15 outstanding young Australian researchers to the Lindau Nobel Laureate meeting in Germany. With a focus on physiology and medicine, 37 Nobel Laureates met with 600 young scientists from across the international community to share their knowledge and establish new contacts. Discussion centred on topics such as global health, the latest findings in cancer and AIDS research, the challenges in immunology and future research approaches to medicine. This annual meeting is a unique and inspirational opportunity for Australian early career researchers to interact both with their international peers as well as the best of the global research community.

A big drawcard for Australia occurred this year when the Australian Academy of Science hosted an ‘Australian International Day’ highlighting Australian science, innovation, technology, education, food and wine. Australia’s Minister for Trade and Investment opened the event followed by Australian produce and music, and presentations from Australian scientists.

Supporting world-leading innovation

An exciting research project has the potential to position Australia at the forefront of rapidly developing technology in the global market. The SIEF-funded AeroEngine Project takes a complex aero engine, made up of 23 different components, and aims to demonstrate that it is possible to fabricate all the components using additive manufacturing processes, for example 3D printing. These ‘waste-free’ technologies will also fast-track the sustainability of Australia’s titanium mineral resource.

This project brings together Australia’s leading materials, additive manufacturing research and design capabilities, alongside industries across the materials and aerospace supply chain. This activity is strongly supported by end-users, so the outcome of the research will be meaningful and add significant value to commercial products, while being educational and demonstrating the innovation that can be achieved. The outstanding research and technical capabilities from three research partner organisations – Monash University, CSIRO, and Deakin University – with end users MicroTurbo, span in-depth metallurgy knowledge, process modelling and a variety of additive manufacturing technologies. Recently, an additional Australian small manufacturing in the 3D printing domain (Amaero) formally joined the collaboration.

The success of this project will position Australia at the forefront of this new technology and make Australia one of the lead contenders in additive manufacturing in the global market. A demonstrator model has already been widely acclaimed at a number of international airshows, including the Avalon Airshow and the French Airshow.

3D print of a small jet engine. © Monash University

SIEF Advisory bodies

I have been astounded by the level of support provided to the Trustee by the Fund’s advisory bodies. Without the invaluable insight and recommendations provided by these esteemed members, on a pro bono basis, my role as SIEF Trustee would be truly challenging.

Advisory Council

Prof Alan Robson (Chair)
Prof Tom Spurling
Dr Ezio Rizzardo
Prof Margaret Sheil
Mr Nigel Poole

Expert Panel

Prof Tom Spurling (Chair)
Dr Ezio Rizzardo
Dr Oliver Mayo
Prof Elaine Sadler
Dr Trevor Powell

Undergraduate Degree Panel

Prof Margaret Sheil (Chair)
Prof David Symington
Dr Terry Lyons

In addition to the advisory bodies, a large number of reviewers have generously contributed their time and expertise, for which I am very grateful.

SIEF’s measure of success comes from the success of others, and in that regard, with the world-leading science that is being conducted and continues to be supported under this Fund; I can say that it is a privilege to be the SIEF Trustee overseeing the innovative research leading the way in tackling the nation’s challenges.

Dr Larry Marshall
Trustee SIEF

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