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December 2023

Note from the SIEF Manager

Dear SIEF supporter,

Welcome to SIEF’s second newsletter for 2023.  It has been a busy and exciting year for SIEF.

In June, SIEF farewelled SIEF Trustee Dr Larry Marshall who completed his term as Chief Executive of CSIRO.  I am pleased to introduce Professor Doug Hilton as the new Trustee and the SIEF team looks forward to working with him.  My thanks also go to Kirsten Rose for her time as Trustee between Larry’s departure and Doug’s arrival.

In other SIEF news, a new Experimental Development Program project has recently commenced. SIEF has also run two rounds of the Medium Equipment Program which will fund cutting-edge scientific assets.

The outcomes of the NSF Global Centers program were announced in September. The NSF Global Centers is the first activity being supported by the SIEF National Missions Collaboration Program (SNMCP). The successful projects were two multi-lateral research projects aiming to tackle the challenges posed by climate change. SIEF looks forward to the impact these large and collaborative projects will have in addressing climate change.

I wish you all the best for the remainder of 2023, and I look forward to sharing more SIEF news with you in 2024. 

Dr Melissa Straffon

SIEF Manager
0408 134 581

SIEF National Missions Collaboration Program

In March 2023, SIEF established the $13.5 million SIEF National Missions Collaboration Program (SNMCP), which is supported by a further Gift to SIEF from CSIRO. The SNMCP supports Australian-based research teams to undertake science and research activities addressing national priorities and contribute to achieving Australia’s national objectives.

The outcomes of the National Science Foundation Global Centers in Climate Change and Clean Energy (NSF Global Centers) program, the first activity supported by the SNMCP, were announced in September 2023. These projects are:

  • The Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Centre is pioneering large-scale net-zero hydrogen production methods. It explores three innovative technologies: renewable energy-integrated water electrolysis, methane pyrolysis with valuable solid carbon co-products, and solar-driven water splitting. The University of Adelaide, Flinders University, and Curtin University represent Australia in this international collaboration, working with partners from the US, Canada, the UK, Egypt, and Germany.
  • The Electric Power Innovation for a Carbon-free Society (EPICS) Centre will be a global scientific leader in developing transformative computing, economic strategies, engineering solutions, and forward-thinking policy to enable a completely renewable energy power grid. This joint project involves the US, UK, and Australia and is led by CSIRO and the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO), the University of Melbourne, and Monash University in Australia.

For further information about these projects, please visit CSIRO’s website.

NSW Generation STEM

Group photo at Sublime Point
Participants took in the view at Sublime Point.

Generation STEM is a 10-year initiative, which began in 2017, to attract, support, and retain NSW students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Managed by CSIRO, the program is made possible by the NSW Government’s $25 million endowment to SIEF.

Generation STEM is delivering several programs including Deadly in Generation STEM. Deadly in Generation STEM aims to increase engagement and retention of Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander students in STEM educational pathways, STEM employment and/or future education through culture and on Country.

Deadly in Generation STEM unites science, culture, and growth

Embracing the challenge of stepping beyond one's comfort zone defined this year's Deadly in Generation STEM Camp. Over 4 exciting days in October, 17 Aboriginal students from Year 8 to 10, representing several schools in NSW’s Illawarra region, gathered to learn about how STEM connects with culture. The days were packed. From astronomy and coding drones to bush medicine, dancing, and bush regeneration, the camp fuelled student’s curiosity while bridging the gap between Indigenous knowledge and local STEM opportunities. With the guidance of Cultural Knowledge Holders, local STEM experts, and mentors, the students engaged in hands-on activities centred around the theme of 'Caring for Country'.

For Mitchell, a participating student, a highlight was learning how to code the drones. Science is his favourite subject at school. But from his camp experience, he’s also learned that Indigenous people were the first scientists in Australia and that their knowledge has carried through time and is used today. The students left with memories, new connections, artefacts reflecting their journeys, and the knowledge that STEM skills are reflected in their every day.

See the CSIRO website to read the full story about the camp.

Experimental Development Program

The SIEF Experimental Development Program supported by CSIRO’s Gifts to SIEF, funds projects to progress technology development to a stage suitable for attracting commercial investment and market uptake. The Trustee recently approved funding for a new project ‘Low-cost ultrasound-assisted low-temperature drying technology’.

CSIRO has invented a novel way of applying ultrasound for efficient low temperature drying of materials. This technology has been shown to reduce the energy cost and increased throughput with similar (or better) retention of key quality attributes in drying of various products compared to established drying methods. The innovation allows for easy adoption in a continuous industrial operation as the process is undertaken at atmospheric pressure and at low cost.

The SIEF project will provide essential support in scaling-up demonstration of the technology to produce significant volumes in a continuous operation, at one third of the energy cost with similar key product quality attributes compared to freeze drying.

For more information on the low temp drying project visit the SIEF website.

Medium Equipment Program

New Revio long-read sequencer machine with scientists standing on either side in a laboratory
Researchers with new Revio long-read sequencer

Australia is set to benefit from an injection of new equipment into the Australian innovation system from SIEF’s Medium Equipment Program (MEP). MEP (supported by a Gift to SIEF from CSIRO) is designed to address a gap in funding for equipment in the medium range, and aims to enhance capability and capacity and encourage collaboration – national, international and with industry. Two rounds of the MEP have been run since our last newsletter. 

Seven new equipment systems were approved for funding through MEP Rounds 4 and 5, including the Revio High Fidelity sequencing system. The Revio allows for high throughput, high quality, high fidelity (HiFi) sequencing of DNA, RNA and epigenetic markers. The purchase of this machine establishes for Australia a sovereign, sustainable, strategic, highly secured and world-class HiFi sequencing capability. Sequencing capability will be increased by six times, filling a gap in the national genomics infrastructure. The purchase of this machine is a highly collaborative project involving CSIRO, Queensland University of Technology, Australian National University, Canberra Clinical Genomics, University of Sydney, Macquire University, Charles Sturt University, University of Canberra, ACT Health and Bioplatforms Australia. 

The machine has already been used to generate fundamental data for agricultural, environmental, conservation, biosecurity and health related species.

Further information about the Revio HiFi sequencer and its benefits for agricultural, medical, and environmental sciences can be found on the CSIRO website and at the Applied Genomics Website

For further information on what has been funded by the Medium Equipment Program and the other equipment that has been funded visit the SIEF website.