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9 September 2019 Speech

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I would like to begin by acknowledging the Kaurna (pron Gar-na) people as the Traditional Owners of the land that we are on today, and pay my respect to their Elders past, present and emerging.

Thank you all for being here today at the launch of the Atom Trap Trace Analysis facility or ATTA as we call it.

Delivering major national infrastructure like this facility cannot be done by one organisation alone. We are, delighted to be here with our partners at University of Adelaide, Institute for Photonics and Advanced Sensing; to celebrate this new leap forward for measuring the radioactive noble gas isotopes.

It is one of only a few comparable facilities worldwide, and the first here in the Southern Hemisphere.

I'm also delighted to be joined today by South Australian Premier Steven Marshall and the Vice Chancellor of University of Adelaide Peter Rathjen. Together, we're committed to investing in South Australia as a leading location for world-class research. Through great partnerships like these, we are able to advance initiatives like groundwater research and create a sustainable future for generations to come.

While our focus on the environment stretches back a century, over the past decade we've invested close to $250M in researching groundwater, building integrated assessments like Northern Australia and BioRegional assessments.

Undertaking this research and the establishment of the ATTA Facility is truly part of continuing this collaborative effort to address our greatest challenges.

In fact, some of the hardware used in the ATTA facility came from Griffith University's Centre for Quantum Dynamics. Following a refurbishment of the system for noble gas analysis and development of a new laser system, it was transferred to its current location in March 2019 as part of the more recent collaboration between CSIRO and The University of Adelaide. I believe Professor Robert Sang, Dean Academic of the Griffith Sciences Group and former Deputy Director of the Centre for Quantum Dynamics at Griffith, is here today. Thank you for all your work here.

The challenge of understanding and protecting our resilient and valuable environment is one CSIRO has tackled from our earliest days, like taking on the scourge of prickly pear, through to today's work in areas like the Gas Industry Social and Environmental Research Alliance, or GISERA.

The Millennium Drought of 2001-2009 highlighted the value and importance of our continent's groundwater resources. It is clear we need a better understanding of the ecosystem and how it is recharged so we can ensure it can be protected from overuse and contamination. With this new facility, we have noble gases which make the perfect tracer and provide cutting edge measurements. A new element to add to our tool kit.

Combined with CSIRO's Noble Gas Mass Spectrometry Laboratory, this will provide a much deeper understanding of the continent's groundwater systems. The unique tracers the lab is capable of analysing will expand the time-scales for estimating groundwater. It's unprecedented that we will now be able measure groundwater age beyond several hundred million years. A global first.

Another challenge we face is food security and growing Australia's share of premium AgriFood markets. I know this is important to South Australia who produce some of the highest quality produce in the country, and wine.

With a big global market pull of 3B new mouths to feed – we need to ask - how do we double our water efficiency, and grow differentiated crops with higher margin and higher yield despite climate change? Our precious water resources are an important part of this equation.

Already our science created a start-up Digital Agriculture Services (DAS) with the first ever software to comprehensively assess and monitor rural land anywhere in Australia.

Big data has also created tools like YieldProphet, which helps farmers make planting decisions based on localised conditions, and the National Drought Map, which brings together disparate national data sources to inform government and insurance decision-making around drought relief and support.

As you can see, we are focusing our science and innovation on solving real problems that matter to real people and creating opportunities for Australian businesses.

Our partnerships here in South Australia have a shared vision for looking to the future to manage our ecosystems and open to new industries of the future.

CSIRO has nearly 400 staff across three sites, representing a multidisciplinary approach unique to our national science agency.

We have been strongly engaged in building up small and medium businesses right here in South Australia.

For example, our CSIRO engagement centre connected environmental remediation business Ziltek with CSIRO expertise to commercialise our RemScan technology, a handheld soil contamination detector.

A few years ago we partnered with investors to create the South Australian business Chrysos, which commercialised an x-ray technology for detecting gold and is now accessing billion-dollar markets around the world.

Those are just some of the partnerships and projects we already have established here in South Australia, and looking forward, we're focused on continuing our work together through:

  • Growing the South Australian Space Industry
  • Collaborating on energy options and the stabilising the Grid
  • Developing ehealth and wellbeing as we move toward prevention vs cure
  • And continuing our support for start-ups and entrepreneurs.

Spending time with CSIRO’s partners and celebrating what we have achieved through science and research is one of the best parts of my job.

Partnerships like ours are the heart of how we turn science into solutions. Both with the University of Adelaide and stakeholders across the state.

Australia's future success and prosperity will be driven by those with the vision to imagine a better, more sustainable future and the experience to invest in it. We see that happening right here in South Australia.

As we celebrate this opening of ATTA, and the greater work being done on groundwater research, I look forward to more visits as our partnership continues to deliver more reasons to celebrate.


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