INNOVATION

Australia Is The Centre Of The Universe... For Sciences

Black hole physics, nano technology, algae stuff -- it's all happening down under.

15/09/2016 8:33 AM AEST | Updated 15/09/2016 8:34 AM AEST
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Saul Gravy
Australia is future proofing the nation with cutting-edge research.

Forget sunburnt country cliches and riding on the sheep's back, Australia is suddenly the world's centre of futuristic research.

Take the last year for example: there's a new $31 million centre underway to investigate the physics of black holes and warped space-time led by Swinburne University of Technology.

Then there's the $9 million Deep Green Algae Biotech Hub announced where researchers are looking at coaxing algae into making drugs.

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Sydney Nanoscience Hub is one of many cutting-edge institutions that opened in the last year.

Or the opening of the $150 million Sydney Nanoscience Hub at the University of Sydney where you're likely to find researchers fighting cancer with nanoscale diamonds.

No wonder NASA has hired an Australian to search for alien life in the Solar System.

Is this the "ideas boom" Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been banging on about?

The Down Under phenomena is thanks in a large part to funding from the Australian Research Council, which has provided partial funding to all but one of the aforementioned projects as well as funding for the Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems at the University of Queensland and the announcements of a $92 million centre of excellence for research into climate extremes at the University of NSW and a $35 million Centre for Exciton Science at Melbourne University.

Acting chief executive Leanne Harvey said the funding related to the Australian Government's science and research priorities.

"The ARC Centres of Excellence scheme aims to enhance and develop Australia's research excellence through highly innovative and collaborative research, as well as build Australia's human capacity in a range of research areas, including the humanities and social sciences," Harvey said during the launch of $283.5 million to nine ARC Centres of Excellence.

Looking at the field of quantum engineering and physics, the ARC splashed out $65 million in the latest round of funding.

Sydney Nanoscience Hub professor David Reilly is also chief investigator of The Centre for Engineered Quantum Systems and told The Huffington Post Australia it was creating an industry that extended beyond universities.

"I think the government is looking leverage money to create something that is lasting," Reilly said.

They're not splashing money hoping to see returns next year, this may be a decade down the line.David Reilly

"The term 'ecosystem' gets overused but I think what they are really hoping for is to create a critical mass of research and activity in an area Australians are already doing quite well in.

"In quantum, you could argue we're leading world in many ways."

He said it was also about future proofing the nation long past the four-year government term.

"If you think about the really big challenges for Australia in the coming decades -- health or defence or security -- governments need to ask what the world will look like in 2045.

"This is when the U.S. is perhaps is very different in how it operates on a global stage, where information security is paramount and governments are asking how to maintain sovereignty with the superpowers of China and India. How can we rely on security, technology and continue to have the way of life that Australians expect.

"If lead time in creating that technology is decades long, we need bold, ambitious projects now to deliver things way down the track.

"They're not splashing money hoping to see returns next year, this may be a decade down the line."

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