CSIRO – A national resource (1986)
By Robert KertonJune 1st, 1986
Since 1926, we have played a major role in making Australia’s primary industries amongst the most competitive in the world. But, in recent years, the structure of world economics has changed radically. One of our major aims today is to develop new areas of expertise to meet the challenges of the world revolutions in technology and information systems. CSIRO is now, more than ever before, designing its programs around the specific needs of Australia’s industries and the welfare of the Australian community.
[Title appears: CSIRO A National Resource]
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Narrator: For more than 150 years, Australia has flourished on the strength of its natural resources.
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Its wealth of minerals and its agricultural produce.
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And since 1926 Australia’s major scientific organisation, CSIRO, has played a vital role in making our primary industries amongst the most competitive in the world.
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But the structure of world economics has changed and Australia’s continued prosperity is no longer guaranteed by primary produce alone. So, one of CSIROs major aims today is to develop new areas of expertise, which will let it meet the challenges of the world revolutions in technology and information systems.
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In recent years CSIRO’s research programs have changed more radically than ever before.
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With over seven thousand researchers and support staff working in almost every scientific discipline, CSIRO is probably the most diverse scientific organisation in the world.
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Its work is carried out in over forty divisions.
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They’re grouped into institutes which reflect the needs of various industry sectors.
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Each division has an external advisory committee to help make sure that the divisions work is relevant to the needs of industry.
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As Australia’s economic and industrial needs are reassessed, so is CSIROs research priorities changed to anticipate future growth areas.
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A current top priority is to develop computer based information technologies and encourage their application.
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CSIRO research helped make Australia a world leader in the design of customised chips for specialist applications.
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This led to the development of a VLSI silicone chip with up to one hundred thousand components.
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The technology was then transferred to an independent company, Austek Microsystems, in Adelaide. Austek is now successfully capturing a slice of the world market against competition from companies in the United States and Japan.
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Increasingly, CSIROs research effort is geared towards successful commercial applications.
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To help this process a technology transfer company, SIROTECH Limited, was setup in 1984.
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This revolutionary computer controlled welder is an example of successful collaboration between CSIRO and industry.
Based on systems developed by the Division of Manufacturing Technology, the Synchro- Pulse CDT Welder is set to become a major export earner.
Another highly promising product is PSZ, or Partially Stabilised Zirconia.
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This exceptional ceramic is tougher than steel and has potential applications in everything from diesel engines to extrusion dyes.
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Australia is already the world’s largest supplier of the raw material, Zircon Sand, and is now gearing up to produce refined zirconia powders as well as PSZ products for the world market.
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A new commercial material called Scrimber has been developed in conjunction with Repco Research Proprietary Limited.
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It uses timber from young trees, combined with polymers, to produce a strong easily workable building product.
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The aim of CSIRO research in manufacturing technology is to find gaps in the market, which correspond with Australia’s areas of greatest expertise and then fill those gaps.
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This flexible robot controlled manufacturing cell was developed to suit the small batch production runs typical of Australian industry.
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While this machine has been adapted to combine the spinning and twisting of wool into a single process with a system called Sirospun.
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It represents savings of up to forty per cent over conventional processes.
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Meanwhile, back on the sheep’s back, researchers are finding other ways to make wool more competitive with synthetic fibres. CSIRO research in the ’60s showed that sheep dramatically increased their wool growth when fed sulphur rich amino acids.
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This discovery encouraged researchers to clone the high sulphur protein genes found in peas. Their eventual aim is to transfer these genes to clover to feed the national flock.
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This could result in doubling the amount of fleece grown and considerable cost savings for the wool industry.
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Plants of another kind have been the subject of research by scientists from the Division of Entomology.
Salvinia has been described as the world’s worst water weed.
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Extensive screening proved that this tiny Brazilian weevil had an exclusive taste for the weed.
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Its capacity to clean up clogged waterways in Australia, Papua New Guinea and elsewhere, earned the weevil a reputation as an exemplary biological control agent.
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Concern for waterways on a different scale led to the development of a major new analytical tool called microBRIAN – BRIAN stands for Barrier Reef Image Analyst System and it was developed as an enhancement process for images received from the Landsat satellite.
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BRIAN has already saved twenty million dollars in surveying the Great Barrier Reef and has application in other environmental areas, such as, soil erosion and bushfire control.
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CSIRO expertise in using and enhancing the satellite information is part of a board expansion of the organisation into space technology.
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CSIRO’s Office of Space Science and Applications has been set up to coordinate this fast growing area of national importance.
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The Division of Oceanography will be a prime user of space technologies, monitoring surface temperatures, current movements and other data.
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Fishery scientists will also benefit as they continue their work of developing sustainable commercial fisheries and safe guarding others threatened by over exploitation.
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CSIRO is now more than ever before designing its programs around the specific needs of Australia’s industries and the welfare of the Australian community.
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Australia’s successful transition into the 21st Century as a prosperous, industrial society depends largely on how well we anticipate and meet the needs of a changing world.
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CSIRO is taking on that challenge with expertise and commitment, demonstrating that it, too, is a national resource and a vital one.
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[Text appears: ©1986 CSIRO Australia]