Trustee's report

Argo floats provide real-time observations of the oceans around Australia. A new fleet of floats funded by the Science and Industry Endowment Fund will address substantial gaps in regions of interest to Australia.

As rapid global change disrupts, reshapes and creates new Australian industries, our Science and Industry Endowment Fund (SIEF) continues to strengthen the translation of world-class Australian research into cutting-edge industrial advantages, in line with national priorities. This year, SIEF expanded its role with two new endowments, broadened its portfolio with a new funding program, and grew its investments in breakthrough innovation, strengthened by co-investment. I’m so pleased to present this 2017–18 report of SIEF’s important role in our national innovation system.

In June 2017, the NSW Government recognised SIEF’s critical role and significant impact by making an endowment to create a science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) initiative in New South Wales. Titled Generation STEM, the initiative is designed to increase the supply of STEM skilled labour to meet the current and future needs of the state.

CSIRO was enlisted to manage the activities under the fund, to be delivered under an agreed set of phases, and began the first Planning Phase on 1 July 2017. During this time, a Program Director, an Impact Evaluation Officer and a Consultative Council consisting of seven members were appointed to the initiative. Research and a current-state analysis have been conducted to understand the existing market and inform the strategic plan for the initiative and the first three-year operational plan.

In June 2018, CSIRO made a fourth gift to SIEF of $10 million, specifically to extend the Experimental Development Program (EDP) for up to eight more years, from 1 July 2018. We also made six new grants to usher research through to commercial impact under the EDP, aiming to increase Australian productivity and competitiveness. We secured additional funding by supplementing $9.4 million from SIEF with $10.5 million in co-investment, growing the sustainability of the Fund through an increased role for our partners. The projects include the optimisation of commercial influenza vaccine production and viable alternatives to the use of toxic cyanide for gold recovery. The EDP is now well established as an important funding option for researchers seeking to progress technology development to a stage suitable for attracting commercial investment and market uptake.

This year, we introduced the Medium Equipment Program (MEP) to the SIEF portfolio, addressing a funding gap for equipment in the range of $500,000 to $4 million. In addition to supporting capability and capacity for world-class science, the equipment must encourage collaboration nationally, internationally and with industry. So far, almost $10 million has been awarded for 13 pieces of research equipment across diverse areas of research, from agriculture and marine observation to biomedical science and cyber security.

Thank you to our advisory bodies and to the large number of reviewers who generously contribute their time and expertise to SIEF, particularly providing industry and commercialisation counsel to the EDP panels. The more voices we have in both SIEF and the wider STEM community, the stronger our innovation will be. From growing the future STEM workforce, to broadening the scope of our portfolio, to maintaining the rigour and integrity of our investments, SIEF continues to strengthen Australia’s response to the rapidly changing world and playing a critical role in its future prosperity.

Experimental Development Program projects

Hovermap

The Hovermap drone payload can fly autonomously in GPS-denied environments to create 3-D maps.

In 2016, the Hovermap project led by CSIRO received twelve months of EDP funding to extend the application of drone technology. Most industries use drone technology that relies on Global Positioning System (GPS) technology and is therefore incapable of flying autonomously indoors or underground where GPS technology is inaccessible. The funding was granted to establish an early adopter program for testing the hardware and software components that enable omni-directional 3-D sensing and LiDAR based mapping without the need for GPS technology. The project accelerates the development of Hovermap technology, builds market awareness of the capability and paves the way for successful commercialisation.

Smart Windows

A SIEF-funded collaboration between CSIRO, Monash, Queensland University of Technology and Australian company iGlass is developing a new and improved ‘smart glass’ with automatically controlled optical properties, such as light transmission and visibility. This project looks to overcome known challenges associated with product life and durability to release the potential of such devices for application in automotive component manufacture (e.g. sunroofs) and building design (e.g. windows), with a projected potential global market value of approximately $300 million by 2025.

Medium Equipment Program

cGMP Protein Facility

CSIRO Recombinant Protein Production Facility (RPPF) staff using sterile microbiological medium under simulated manufacturing conditions, to validate aseptic procedures.

SIEF funding will be used with co-investment from CSIRO, Monash University, two Australian firms, and one multinational company to build a flexible and multipurpose cGMP facility, in synergy within an ecosystem of established research facilities, to enable rapid and effective translation of biological discoveries into high-value clinical entities. The equipment will allow process development and large-scale production of biologicals (such as vaccines, monoclonal antibodies, antigens, growth factors and stem cells) under the most stringent regulatory (cGMP) standards, thus enabling their testing in pre-clinical and Phase-I trials worldwide. This unique new capability will provide a collaborative entry point for translating the research undertaken in Australian hospitals, universities, biomedical institutes and SMEs into clinical development.

Argo Floats

The international Argo program is revolutionising our ability to observe, understand and sustainably use the oceans, with over 4,000 Argo floats deployed throughout the world’s oceans. Each Argo float is an autonomous instrument that collects vertical profiles of temperature, salinity and pressure over the top 2,000m of the ocean and transmits the data in real time. In collaboration with several Australian research entities, SIEF funding will enable a new fleet of at least 140 latest-generation Argo floats to be deployed to complement the existing Australian array of 500. The new floats will address substantial gaps in regions of crucial interest to Australia, including waters off the east, west and north-west coasts of Australia and the Southern Ocean, thus realising the vision of an integrated sensor network in the oceans around Australia.

SIEF advisory bodies

CSIRO Gift Advisory Council Members

Prof Alan Robson (Chair)
Dr Peter Riddles (Chair, EDP Review Panels)
Mr Nigel Poole
Dr Ezio Rizzardo
Prof Margaret Sheil
Prof Tom Spurling

Generation STEM Consultative Council Members

Prof Brian Boyle (Chair)
Ms Maile Carnegie
Ms Tish Creenaune / Ms Jacki Hayes
Ms Gail Fulton
Mr Tom McGinness
Mr Graeme Plato

Dr Larry Marshall

SIEF Trustee

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