CSIRO positions its science for the future
“CSIRO must move with the times, and increasingly ahead of the times if Australia’s scientific research is to be relevant for the challenges that face Australia,” says Chief Executive Dr Geoff Garrett.
“Many of our research priorities reflect the significance of the emerging bioeconomy that is based on innovative ways of using renewable biological resources, and helping convert agricultural commodities into higher value differentiated products and new products, services and markets.”
“CSIRO is in a unique position to blend its skills in life sciences, biotechnology, mathematics, physics and engineering to build integrated research programs that deliver such results as new, healthier foods to match modern lifestyles and nutrition needs, advanced materials and polymers including those based on mimicking nature (e.g. resilin) and new sources of energy to reduce the reliance on petrochemicals in the economy.”
CSIRO Deputy Chief Executive Dr Ron Sandland said the total appropriation funding for 2006-07 was A$608 million, an increase of A$14 million on the current financial year
Dr Sandland said one of the biggest changes was the increased resources to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and mathematical sciences to strengthen CSIRO’s capabilities in both these critical research areas.
He said this increased capability will be used to support advances in research and development in a range of areas such as:
the discovery of advanced materials for manufacturing.
“For example, we will develop technologies for the monitoring and management of water resources through the Water Resources Observation Network (WRON) which, by 2010, will enable better management of water through more accurate monitoring of water resources across Australia,” Dr Sandland said.
“We will be reaching for the sky by building a new radio astronomy facility (xNTD) in Western Australia which will improve survey speed by a factor of 30. With other infrastructure this will increase Australia’s chances of being identified, in 2006, as the best site for the Square Kilometre Array (SKA).”
Dr Sandland said CSIRO will refocus its effort in advanced materials science to provide a platform for applications in many exciting new areas such as nanocomposites and ‘self healing’ polymeric materials.
Self-healing polymers are new polymer materials that are super strong, tough, light weight and can respond to changing conditions in their environment, and, possibly in the future, mend themselves.
Nanocomposites are multifunctional materials developed using nanotechnology to combine properties such as:
CSIRO will increase investment in sustainable polymeric materials, building on expertise in the use of these materials for:
medical devices and implants
a wide range of novel surface coatings
high-strength hybrid composites.
Success here will provide opportunities to revolutionise manufacturing industries in Australia.
“We are confident that the organisation’s research investment is being directed to the areas that are most relevant and likely to return the most benefit to Australia,” Dr Sandland said.
“We will be increasing total investment in reducing greenhouse gas emissions (nine per cent growth in Energy Transformed Flagship) by concentrating on low emission electricity production technologies such as gasification, post-consumption capture and sequestration.”
“The Hydrogen and Renewables Theme will focus on hydrogen production based on solar radiation, with the goal of achieving a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of solar hydrogen production, solar cooling and power from low-grade heat by 2015.”
“We will be repositioning our investment mix in agriculture, rural manufacturing and food. There will be an emphasis on matching agricultural productivity with environmental sustainability and greater focus on differentiated agricultural products of higher value to support the emerging bio-industries sector and bio-economy.”
Dr Sandland said that in refining its research programs the organisation must face the challenge of dealing with conflicting views within, and external to, CSIRO.
“We have decided to grow our investment into exciting new areas where we believe we have a unique opportunity to make a difference – at the same time we will need to exit some research projects or reduce some research areas where we are no longer competitive or the potential to have impact is less clear,” he said.
He said those research based decisions would be made at division level.
“There will be creation of new jobs in several areas, but with some significant shifts in investments between research areas, it is possible that there will be some job losses from areas from which we have shifted resources. CSIRO’s first choice is always redeployment of staff affected by such resource shifts.”
“The precise impact of these shifts will not be known until the portfolio of research projects and budgets are finalised later in the year. Staff will be kept fully informed throughout the process.”
Advances in, and convergence of the bio-sciences and biotechnology, mathematics, physics and engineering will drive innovation and transform Australia’s already world-competitive agribusiness into a key component of the emerging bio-industries sector.
CSIRO will strengthen research programs which help convert agricultural commodities into higher value products, new products, services and markets. These include new, healthier foods to match modern diets and lifestyles, biodegradable materials and new sources of energy to reduce the reliance on petrochemicals. Many of these programs are in partnerships and supported by industry groups such as the Grains Research and Development Corporation.
CSIRO will reduce its direct investment by less than five per cent in the livestock and wool industries related research and seek greater co-investment in strategic science by industry.
There will be greater co-ordination across CSIRO to reduce duplication of current research into agricultural sustainability: this can be done without diminishing our impact. Given the importance of this area it is expected that new programs will grow in the next couple of years.
CSIRO will strengthen research programs that help convert agricultural commodities into higher value differentiated products and new products, services and markets. These include new, healthier foods to match modern lifestyles and nutrition needs, advanced materials including those based on mimicking nature (for example, resilin) and new sources of energy to reduce the reliance on petrochemicals; thus building the emerging biotechnology sector and bioeconomy.
Information and Communication Technology
ICT and mathematical sciences will have an increase in budget of around A$7.8 million, with recruitment of up to 30 scientists and engineers to enable it to contribute to projects such as large scale sensor networks, for example the creation of a Water Resources Observation Network,(WRON) which by 2010 will enable better management of water through more accurate monitoring of water resources across Australia.
CSIRO will be increasing its research on energy by five to ten per cent, where it will be concentrating on a range of vital greenhouse gas mitigation strategies including clean coal technologies. CSIRO will focus its activities in renewable energy to those areas in which it can have a significant impact. These include using solar energy to transform natural gas to hydrogen and separating it from carbon dioxide, post-combustion capture of carbon dioxide for geosequestration; and more efficient means of storing and distributing energy from sources such as wind.
The importance of Radio Astronomy as a leading science initiative in Australia is recognised in the Science Investment Process. The Square Kilometre Array (SKA) proposal and its forerunner the xNTD, are seen as key components of Australia’s determination to remain at the forefront of radio astronomy. ‘Progressing the SKA proposal will require significant input from existing resources, and if ultimately successful, additional investment’, Dr Sandland said.
CSIRO remains committed to grow the National Flagship Programs to 30-40 per cent of the organisation’s appropriation funding. The total investment in Flagships is projected to grow to A$160 million in 2006-07, an increase of A$25 million of appropriation. This increase is to be primarily directed towards broadening and deepening Divisional involvement in Flagships.
There will be an increase in investment for CSIRO’s environmental activities, with significant growth in ground breaking opportunities in sensor and sensor networks. Two major initiatives in the whole-of-system environmental research are the development of the Water Resources Observation Network (WRON) (A$9 m) and the Australian Community Climate and Earth System Simulator (ACCESS).
Research on new types of advanced materials for manufacturing (and many other applications across CSIRO’s research areas) is acknowledged as one of the current hotspots of science. CSIRO will increase investment in sustainable polymeric materials, building on expertise in the use of these materials for medical devices and implants, a wide range of novel surface coatings, and high-strength hybrid composites. CSIRO’s overall investment in sustainable manufacturing will be at least maintained across the portfolio.
Biosecurity and counter-terrorism
CSIRO will strengthen its focus on biosecurity – protecting Australia and its people from biological threats such as invasive species and weeds, avian influenza and SARS. Investment in the Counter Terrorism Theme will be doubled to A$7 million.
Recognising Australia’s leading position in mineral resource development, and the importance of the minerals industry to Australia, CSIRO’s investment in minerals and mining will increase by A$1.64 million. This will support the Light Metals Flagship’s work on alumina and aluminium production and the emergence of an Australian titanium metal industry. It will also support the development of technologies related to the Minerals Down Under initiative.
- CSIRO Deputy Chief Executive Dr Ron Sandland said the total appropriation funding for 2006-07 was A$608 million, an increase of A$14 million on the current financial year
- Dr Sandland said CSIRO will refocus its effort in advanced materials science to provide a platform for applications in many exciting new areas