CSIRO has made six major science investments at the leading edge of world research trends in a bid to stay ahead of global disruption. TONY HESELEV reports

Article from resourceful: Issue 11

RESEARCH NEWS

Announced in late 2016, CSIRO has grown its investment in six new areas of breakthrough science to meet emerging challenges and drive innovation for Australia.

CSIRO aims to generate and reinvent industries through new groundbreaking science.

Dubbed CSIRO’s 'Future Science Platforms', this investment aims to generate and reinvent industries, as well as deliver jobs and prosperity for Australians. Another key aim is to expand CSIRO’s core science capabilities.

The platforms will deliver innovation in different areas including health and biology, the environment, resources, agriculture, materials and manufacturing.

Among the six platforms is Deep Earth Imaging, which will develop technology to image subsurface geology to unlock the potential of minerals, energy and water resources that lie deep beneath the earth or sea (see Exploration El Dorado in this issue).

CSIRO Chief Executive, Dr Larry Marshall, believes investing in challenging and riskier science is needed to stay ahead of accelerating global disruption of all kinds – from economic to environmental.

CSIRO invested $17 million in 2016/17 to launch the six platforms, and this will grow to $52 million a year by 2020.

The platforms are designed to provide a basis for long-term research to solve a range of problems, similar to how gene shears research has delivered solutions for health, medical science and agriculture.

Over time, they aim to develop underpinning technologies with the potential to generate significant revenue.

In the short term, CSIRO wants researchers in each platform to explore the best ways to meet the scientific challenges with a gradual shift of emphasis to applications to deliver significant impact.

Each platform integrates data and digital technology to meet the rapidly changing needs of industry, community and the environment. Each also requires deep collaboration across scientific disciplines within CSIRO and among research partners such as universities, Cooperative Research Centres, industry and specialist organisations to deliver sustainable value to the nation.

CSIRO’s Executive Manager, Science Impact and Policy, Tom McGinness, says the platforms allow researchers to develop new scientific and engineering approaches informed by some of the major challenges and opportunities faced by Australia and the world.

“Our organisation is based on innovating, creating and being smart, and we need to keep generating ideas, developing new capabilities and leading in areas where we think it makes sense to do so,” he says.

Mr McGinness says that if and when the platforms make the transition from science of the future to science of today – becoming part of mainstream CSIRO research – they will be considered successful.

The six Future Science Platforms are:

  • Deep Earth ImagingDeveloping technologies to more precisely image and discover mineral, energy and water resources that lie deep under the earth or sea to unlock their potential.
  • Active Integrated Matter – Reinventing industry by connecting robotics, materials, sensors, data and artificial intelligence. Advances will provide global solutions and position early adopter industries ahead of the pack.
  • Digiscape – Developing decision tools such as sensors, data visualisation and artificial intelligence to provide insights and knowledge to environmental policy makers and help agricultural industries become more productive and sustainable.
  • Environomics – Developing genomic technologies for managing ecosystems and species under environmental change, detecting biosecurity threats and creating new products to help feed billions more people by matching crops to future soil and weather conditions.
  • Probing Biosystems – Developing devices and systems to monitor our health in real time to provide timely and customised medical interventions such as preventing diseases recurring.
  • Synthetic Biology – Designing and producing new biological devices, systems and machines to create synthetic vaccines, personalised ‘spare parts’ for our bodies and conserve biodiversity and ecosystems.

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