Nanotechnology, genomics and remote ocean sensors to improve the health of the Great Barrier Reef are among the projects that will benefit from $393m over five years in Australia, as part of new federal research funding.
On Tuesday, the Australian federal government released its response to the national infrastructure roadmap, allocating funding to its research priorities after recommendations by an expert group led by the chief scientist, Alan Finkel.
The plan was submitted to the government in February 2017 but was allocated an additional $393m over five years – or $1.9bn over 12 years – in the 2018 budget on 8 May.
New funding announced in the current round includes grants over the forward estimates of:
- $36m to the Australian National Fabrication Facility for nanotechnology manufacturing research
- $22m for marine observation systems used by international marine and climate science communities, as well as $31m for the research vessel RV Investigator to operate for an extra 120 days at sea
- $14m for microscopy and microanalysis equipment for applications including health and biomedical research
- $48m for Bioplatforms Australia’s work in the field of gene sequencing
The government response states the public benefit of the research will include: improving weather forecasts; increasing the identification of cancer; better management of the Great Barrier Reef by using remote sensor data to detect coral bleaching; and using genomics to increase wheat yields and agricultural returns.
The program also includes “expansion of the southern hemisphere’s unique nuclear capabilities to drive world-leading advances in biotechnology, agricultural, chemical and material sciences”.
The government estimates the investment will create about 500 new jobs over the next 10 years, including for science, technology, engineering and maths graduates.
Finkel said: “The interdependence between national research facilities and scientific breakthroughs is a virtuous merry-go-round that that has been given a boost in the budget to spin faster for the common good.
“The benefits include new diagnostics for earlier disease detection, micro-sensors used in advanced agriculture, and new metal alloys for construction and machinery.”
In a statement the education minister, Simon Birmingham, said the Turnbull government “is partnering with researchers across our world-leading universities and other research institutions that will deliver a stronger economy, a healthier environment and cutting-edge medicines and treatments”.
“This is the single largest and most comprehensive investment in research by any Australian government,” he said. “Australia’s prosperity depends on the work being done in these research labs today and into the future.”
The budget papers stated the injection of $1.9bn over 12 years would bring to $4.1bn the total cost of government investment in national research infrastructure projects.
The plan will be reviewed every two years to keep investments in line with research priorities.
Image: Australian National Fabrication Facility at UNSW