Collaborate Innovate Magazine 2020/2021

Page 1

Collaborate Innovate CRCA.ASN.AU • 2020/2021 • ISSUE 10



Building team diversity

By working with the people who benefit from their research, CRCs are creating the workforce of the future p18




The number of Excellence in Innovation awards presented in 2019 for outstanding examples of the transfer of CRC research results, knowledge and technologies that have been developed for communities, companies and government agencies.


The CRC Report

The CRC Program’s age. It was officially launched by the Australian Government in 1990. In three decades, 225 CRCs have been funded, fostering research in fields addressing major challenges facing Australia.



New CRCs started in June 2019: Blue Economy CRC, SmartSat CRC, Future Food Systems CRC, and Future Battery Industries CRC.


The number of organisations working in collaboration with the Autism CRC at the end of the 2018-2019 reporting period.

“You begin to understand that research is really a business.” Samantha Le May, PhD candidate RMIT, Space Environment Research Centre collaborator.

2 Collaborate Innovate |

$3 MILLION The funding to open the Security Operations Centre at Edith Cowan University, the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere. It is home to the Cyber Security CRC.

“We have the minerals the world needs to support demand over the next 10 -20 years.” Stedman Ellis, CEO of the Future Battery Industries CRC, see p34.

$1.1 billion

The money funded by the Australian Government since 2013 to CRC Project grants dedicated to fostering new technologies.


Total reports for end-users produced by the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC in the 2018-2019 reporting period, plus 12 book chapters, 56 journal papers and 34 refereed conference papers.


The independently valued benefit of research and adoption activities, over 15 years, conducted by the CRC for Water Sensitive Cities in 2019, at a benefit-cost ratio of 1:6.


CELEBRATING 30 YEARS OF CRC SUCCESS It’s 30 years since the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) Program was established. During this period, it has boosted productivity, grown the economy and created jobs. It provides government grant funding to support industry-led collaborative research partnerships, with matching contributions from partners. Since the program’s inception in 1990, the Government has committed more than $4.8 billion to support the establishment of 225 CRCs, while industry and research partners have committed $14.9 billion in cash and in-kind contributions. Since CRC Projects (CRC-P) was added to the program in 2015, 111 CRC-Ps have been established, providing opportunities for small and medium enterprises to participate in collaborative research. The Australian Government has committed $755 million to the CRC Program in the forward estimates to 2022–2023. The CRC Program also helps create a highly skilled workforce with research capability in industry. CRCs have supported more than 4000

PhD students since the program commenced, with a majority having found employment with industry or research end-users following graduation. CRC success stories include: • The Sheep CRC, which launched in 2001 and operated until 2019. During this period the gross value of the Australian sheep industry increased from $5.6 billion to more than $8.5 billion. • The Deep Exploration Technologies CRC developed the RoXplorer® coiled tubing drill rig, which is regarded as the biggest breakthrough in drilling technology in the past 50 years. • The HEARing CRC, which developed an innovation underpinning Cochlear medical devices that has improved the quality of life for millions of people. Continuing CRC work includes: • The Tasmania-based Blue Economy CRC, established in 2019, which is projected to increase the value of seafood production to $5 billion by 2050. It will allow for 50 postdoctoral fellowships and 50 PhDs to train

THE HON KAREN ANDREWS MP, MINISTER FOR INDUSTRY, SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY scientists and engineers for the aquaculture, offshore renewable energy and engineering sectors. • The Future Battery Industries CRC, which is developing opportunities for specialist battery manufacturing in Australia and funding 40 PhD students to undertake an education and training program to build a workforce to support Australia’s future battery industries. The CRC Program is a proven model for industry and research collaboration and has my strong, ongoing support. I wish all involved every success in the future.

Australasian Honey Bee 2021 Research Conference Save the date 29 June – 1 July 2021 Perth, Western Australia Looking forward to seeing you in Perth!



Alertness CRC

While we rely on electric light bulbs, television screens and mobile devices, they also break our body’s innate links to bright sunlit days and dark nights, perhaps dimly illuminated by the moon and stars, and often cost us sleep. That sleep loss doesn’t come cheap: inadequate shut-eye cost the Australian economy $66.3 billion in 2016-17 through a loss of wellbeing and productivity. Flooding the night with light affects the human production of melatonin — a hormone that helps regulate sleep. However, new research from the Alertness CRC shows the brightness of artificial light is not the main problem — it’s the amount of blue light in a light source that most impacts our internal clocks. “High dosages of electric light at night can be very confusing for the body clock and leads to disrupted sleep that, over time, affects people’s health and mood,” says Monash University neuroscientist Associate Professor Sean Cain, a circadian

rhythms expert. This is partly why many long-term shift workers experience health issues, he adds. “At the same time, we need people to be alert at work, particularly when they are operating in safety-critical roles, so that’s when exposure to more blue light becomes important.” The Alertness CRC, in collaboration with Australian SME Versalux Lighting Systems and Monash University, have developed MelaGen™ — LEDs that can be programmed to vary blue light content across any single building environment. This dynamic approach regulates visual and non-visual light to maximise wellbeing. “MelaGen™ can assist in resetting circadian rhythms and promoting good quality sleep,” says Vince Macri, National Product Manager, Healthcare at Versalux. He says the MelaGen™ system can also enhance vision and improve health, safety, performance and wellbeing in the workplace. — Brendan Fitzpatrick

Northern Australia is set to break into the rapidly growing spice market, thanks to research conducted by CQUniversity Australia and Agriventis Technologies. Glasshouse trials of a range of spices are showing strong potential for inclusion in broadacre crop rotations. The end goal is to help northern Australian farmers establish sustainable broadacre spice crops and access the global spice market - which already boasts annual trade of around US $12 billion. Thanks to support from the CRC for Developing Northern Australia which has funded the project, and Rockhampton Regional Council which has helped create trade and investment opportunities with one of South Korea’s largest food and manufacturing companies, Australian spices could soon end up on plates across Asia. Other research partners include NT Department of Primary Industries and Resources, WA Department of Primary Industry and Regional Development, BBIFMAC, TRAP Services, Rockhampton Regional Council, and farmers in Rockhampton, Biloela, Bowen and Tully.

Find out more

CRICOS: 00219C | RTO: 40939 | J_AD_200067


Image: MelaGen™


iMove CRC

TOWARDS SMARTER TRANSPORT Three years into its 10-year funding period, iMOVE Cooperative Research Centre shares some of its early successes and reflects on the value of its emerging collaborations and need for national coordination. Transport affects every one of us every day, even if we stay at home. Better (more convenient, faster/more efficient, more reliable, more comfortable...) transport systems improve lives, communities and industries, but there are many challenges to overcome to make it happen. On one hand we have disruption and constant evolution in passenger transport. With the stream of new entrants into this space comes a raft of questions for traditional transport service providers, particularly state and local governments. On the other hand we have the fragmented, low-margin world of freight, which desperately needs to collaborate to improve, but is subject to significant commercial sensitivities that impede willingness to go down that path. Ten years is a necessary amount of time to conduct significant R&D, but also a challenging timeframe in a fast-changing transport environment. We are pleased to be delivering some things years before we anticipated — in particular, the momentum that has built around Mobility as a Service (MaaS) — but we can also reference the growth in number and capability of journey-planning apps for mobile phones. Our research into

MaaS has already expanded from an initial investigation into consumer attitudes, to a real-world trial happening in Sydney delivering valuable insights. It is research that pushes us closer to fully integrated transport services in our increasingly crowded cities, enabling people to reduce their dependence on single-occupant vehicles. Some research areas remain worthy of ongoing investigation and trial, but are proving to be further off than previously anticipated, such as automated vehicles. They were once a frenzy of media commentary and speculation, yet the complexities of getting a computer to mimic a human driver and the challenge of winning community acceptance of this technology are now much clearer. Queensland is particularly active in Australia’s research into the benefits and challenges of vehicle connectivity and the safety and efficacy of highly automated vehicles. There is also some movement in collaboration to improve freight, albeit of a much less disruptive nature. Last year, we completed the well-received Freight Data Requirements Study on behalf of the Federal Department of Infrastructure to assist them with their development of the

National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy. The department is now drawing on that study to inform their development of the National Freight Data Hub. We believe supply chains will greatly benefit from improved visibility, and this is supported by a suite of projects — currently in formation — that will devise practical and realistic ways to achieve this. Another way our partners are looking to deliver better transport is by being more holistic. Integration of our transport and land planning is not a new concept, but it is one that deserves renewed attention for its potential to achieve simultaneously favourable social, environmental and economic outcomes. There is already much diversity in the 39 projects in the iMOVE portfolio, and every day brings new opportunities. Trends are emerging in what we have learnt and how we can build on this for future activities. Transport needs to continue widening its collaborations and embrace national coordination to ensure the benefits are shared as we all progress towards a better transport future — whether we choose to leave the house or not! Collaborate Innovate |



SAVING AUSTRALIA’S OYSTER INDUSTRY The Future Oysters CRC-P is a case study for the success of short-term industry research collaboration, reports Matthew Brace. spent several years successfully improving the growth rate, meat condition and general robustness of Pacific oysters. When POMS hit New South Wales in 2011, the Tasmanian industry began using the program to breed a POMS-resistant oyster as a proactive measure. Growers also invested more in the program to help defend against the virus. Matt Cunningham, a principal investigator under the CRC-P and general manager of R&D organisation Australian Seafood Industries (ASI), says project funding enabled the team to accelerate their work. Remarkably, by the end of summer 2019, Pacific oyster stocks in Tasmania had almost fully recovered. “Some growers are suggesting they might even have an above-average production this year,” says Cunningham. “Other places around the world hit by POMS were much slower to recover, so the breeding program has clearly been pivotal.”

Dr Christine Crawford is a principal investigator for the Future Oysters CRC-P, and a senior research fellow in the Fisheries and Aquaculture Centre in the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at the University of Tasmania. She says that despite the devastation caused by POMS, there were some silver linings. “Because the farmers were devastated and lost so much stock, they have had to re-evaluate their farming conditions quite dramatically. As a result, they have become much more efficient. The POMS virus only becomes active when water temperatures are consistently above 18°C. So growers now monitor water temperatures more closely and harvest more oysters before the water warms up too much.” Crawford adds that as great as the recovery has been, the next two years will be crucial in determining whether this success is going to continue.

Image: Tommaso Cantelli / Unsplash

Tasmania is home to some of the world’s cleanest seas and most sought-after seafood. But when a highly contagious virus hit in 2016, killing up to 95 per cent of Pacific oysters on infected farms, it looked like the end for the state’s $30 million industry. Pacific Oyster Mortality Syndrome (POMS) also caused havoc in South Australia because Tasmanian hatcheries were supplying the state with approximately 90 per cent of the oyster spat — the very young oysters used to establish and develop oyster beds. In the search for a solution, scientists and industry leaders stepped up a selective breeding program that had been underway since the late-1990s. It was supported by the $3 million Future Oysters Cooperative Research Centre Project (CRC-P), established to tackle the deadly outbreak and help save the industry. The breeding program was already proven by scoping research and had

6 Collaborate Innovate |


Image: Progardes®

A NEW LEGUME BRINGS HOPE TO DROUGHT-AFFECTED CATTLE INDUSTRY A lifeline has arrived for northern Australia’s cattle farmers, who have endured almost a decade of drought, in the form of a new kind of legume. Paddock trials by research teams of high-protein Progardes® Desmanthus have shown it to be an exceptionally drought-tolerant and persistent legume for semi-arid grazing regions. Among many benefits, the legume helps cattle reach target weights faster, reduces enteric methane in ruminants, extends the length of a pasture season, reduces the need for feed supplementation and improves soil health. It is adapted to a range of clay soils so it’s more likely the legume will establish itself, even in difficult soils where other legumes have previously failed. Brisbane-based Agrimix Pastures was awarded $2.83 million in CRC-P funding with its partners (chiefly James Cook University, CSIRO, Meat & Livestock Australia and the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries) to commercialise Progardes® Desmanthus as part of a $10 million project. The team is working with five cattle producers whose combined land covers approximately nine million hectares. Project manager Nick Kempe says the legume will result in significant economic, environmental and social benefits. “Trials have shown that Progardes® Desmanthus can achieve about 40kg of extra weight gain per head per year,” he says. “It also reduces enteric methane emissions and generates soil nitrogen, which increases total forage biomass, including grasses. This keeps pastures healthier for longer and improves paddock productivity.” — Matthew Brace

PROTECTING STUDENT DATA IN EDUCATION TECHNOLOGY Education technology (ed-tech) startup Practera is working with a team of partners to develop world-leading privacy protection for online student data. The collaboration was awarded $1.995 million of CRC-P funding as part of a $7.45 million project to help safeguard Australia’s education industry. Practera’s director of R&D and data integrity, and leader of the project, Ruth Marshall, says it is becoming “increasingly important to provably protect personal and confidential data”. “Companies are increasingly having to strengthen the security of their data systems to avoid breaching legislation,” she adds. “It does not take many breaches before an ed-tech company’s brand is undermined, and academic institutions cannot afford the risk of hiring them. Ethically and morally, protecting children’s online activity is the right thing to do, but the education sector is also facing increasingly tougher privacy legislation in Australia and overseas.”

Practera’s Ruth Marshall. This work will develop technology to reliably and consistently measure the privacy risk associated with any education dataset, and the effectiveness of any risk-reduction mechanisms applied to data. “This will go a long way to improving the sector’s capability across the entire data life cycle, including data management strategy and policy,” says Marshall. — Matthew Brace


Partner with us CRICOS Provider 00025B

Progardes® Desmanthus is a drought-tolerant legume for semi-arid grazing regions.

The University of Queensland is a leader in innovation, excellence and sustainability. By partnering with others, we can create impact both locally and globally.


CLOUD SOFTWARE TO IMPROVE MINING EFFICIENCY Global demand for minerals shows few signs of slowing down, but decreased volumes of high-grade ore deposits remain. With tighter regulations in place to lessen the environmental impact of mining, conventional extraction methods are no longer sufficient. The Cooperative Research Centre for Optimising Resource Extraction (CRC ORE) has developed the Integrated Extraction Simulator (IES), a modelling system designed to improve mining efficiency. “The IES software product has been designed as a complete mine-to-concentrate decision support system,” says Nick Beaton, who heads up the IES program at CRC ORE. He says the cloud-based software lets mining engineers test possible changes that could be made in mining processes, then compare different scenarios across different time frames. With modelling done in a virtual mine, a team of experts can collaborate on the simulation, all accessing the model simultaneously from anywhere in the world to test changes in the design, layout and operation of both the mining process and the concentrator in ways that can optimise metal production and reduce its environmental footprint.

8 Collaborate Innovate |

“We’ve used IES to plan continuous improvement initiatives in the mine-to-mill operations and to optimise multiple mining and processing scenarios across the life of the mine,” says Beaton. The IES can be used across different mining and processing procedures, starting from drill and blast, through all the stages of processing, from comminution to flotation to leaching. Each process and each piece of equipment in the mine is configured using IES software to create a processing flowsheet, which is calibrated using historical surveys, mass balances and model-fitting exercises. The simulator is trained by using historical data and refining its predictions, comparing these with the previous years’ operational data from the plant. Once the IES is trained to predict past performance accurately — with some fine-tuning applied — it is switched to optimise-mode. “This is where it gets interesting,” says Beaton. A lot of expensive computing happens next, but by using fully scalable cloud-based processing power, IES users aren’t outlaying for expensive computing equipment that lies idle most of the time.

MAPPING ORE BODIES IN CRITICAL DETAIL Engineers can do a mass simulation of every block in the ore body to test different mining and processing scenarios, even combining multiple rock types in the ore stream. “The result provides the planning engineers with a 3D virtual view of the metallurgical landscape which they can use to optimise extraction and calculate recovery, throughput, operating cost per tonne, power consumption and even CO2 emissions,” says Beaton. “Within IES, you can access models built by the best researchers in the industry, from blasting experts to leaders in comminution, separation and flotation.” Beaton says the IES system is being used to optimise processing operations by CRC ORE participants BHP, Teck, Anglo American and AngloGold Ashanti at mines in Australia, South America, Canada and Africa. In one example, IES helped improve the profitability of Anglo American’s Los Bronces mine in Chile by 5-6%. “This is significant for the mine and for the whole industry,” says Beaton. — Brendan Fitzpatrick

Alertness CRC

ROSTERING FOR BETTER HEALTH AND PRODUCTIVITY Australia’s growing connection to the global economy ensures it is open for business 24/7. While people in health, transport and emergency services have historically worked around the clock, globalisation expands work hours beyond nine-to-five for people across increasingly varied industries. Shift work and irregular rostered hours can worsen workers’ health, safety and productivity. As Australians work longer, more unconventional hours, there’s greater demand on employers to reduce workplace risks by putting fatigue management plans in place. The Alertness CRC has brought Australian optimisation software company Opturion and Monash University together to create the world’s first software program that automatically applies fatigue rules to create better staff rosters. “AlertSafe® Rostering is a cloud-based integrated rostering system that helps employers design an optimal roster that takes into account employees’ constraints and preferences, and seeks

to limit and mitigate worker fatigue,” says Alan Dormer, CEO of Opturion. He says avoiding fatigue caused by a poorly designed roster will help reduce industrial accidents. “Research shows that avoiding fatigue, mistakes and non-conformances can be reduced by up to 30 per cent. Initial results from the Monash Medical Centre trial are similar. Other benefits are increased productivity and a reduction in sickness absence.” The engine room behind the software is a complex algorithm offering sophisticated fatigue management in roster building, roster management, human capital management, and time and attendance systems. AlertSafe® can highlight fatigue risk on an individual, team and enterprise level. “We can design a fatigue-mitigating roster that is better for employees and can reduce costs to employers,” says Monash University and Alertness CRC theme leader Professor Mark Wallace. — Brendan Fitzpatrick

If you want to reach for the Moon, ask the people who know the Universe.



For more than 100 years, we’ve been collaborating with organisations to solve the greatest challenges through innovative science and technology.

Australia’s National Science Agency

Collaborate with us to unlock a better future. B&M | 20-00099

Legacy CRCs

WINDING UP ON A HIGH NOTE Four CRCs and forty CRC-Ps are coming to the end of their term this year. We take a look at some CRC highlights and cover a selection of CRC-P high-flyers.



ars PERIOD 0 — 6 ye ACTIVE June 202 0 3 to 4 1 1 July 20 DING CRC FUN n o li il $31 m RS PARTNE iversities, rs (10 un e n rt a p 27 dustry) ment + in rn e v o g 7 1 EMENTS ACHIEV in MAJOR free space pdates on • Live u ols iages and contr train carr for lights p u els d ck o a b m nance • Battery in mainte a tr e v ti ic • Pred map rail route r • Smart ercapacito nergy sup -e h ig H • ent developm



ACTIVE PERIO D 1 July 2014 to 30 June 2020 — 6 years CRC FUNDIN G $34.01 million PARTNERS 13 partners (6 universities, 7 government + industry) MAJOR ACH IEVEMENTS • Personalise d children’s tre atment program • Four preclin ical licensing de als • More than $4 0 million in licensing revenu e • Potential fo r more than $7 00 million • Three Pharm co research collaborations

UTICS CRC FOR ALERTNESS, TY TIVI SAFETY AND PRODUC ACTIVE PERIOD 0 — 7 years 1 July 2013 to 30 June 202 CRC FUNDING $14.48 million PARTNERS nt) 28 industry + governme 32 partners (3 universities, S MAJOR ACHIEVEMENT group work scheduling for ng teri ros fe® rtSa Ale • used lighting design • Advances in human-foc sleep disorder detection • SmartSleep Analyzer™ treatment • Novel digital insomnia nagement tools • Individual shift work ma for sleepiness rs rke ma • Blood based bio

E n CRC CAenRt an d Remediatio

n Assessm Contaminatio nment of the Enviro

OD ACTIVE PERI 9 years 30 June 2020 — 1 July 2011 to G CRC FUNDIN n io ill $29.10 m PARTNERS stry + govt) iversities, 21 indu 29 partners (8 un VEMENTS MAJOR ACHIE ork for ediation Framew m • A National Re an-up best practice cle ediating TM technology for rem RE • matCA hting foams PFAS from firefig acid s devastated by nd tla • Restoring we sulfate soils leum r assessing petro • Guidance fo y str du in g vin sa contamination, >$1 billion n water for alysis of irrigatio • Real-time an agement better crop man il vapour stco effective so • Faster, more analysis

10 Collaborate Innovate |

INTELLIGENT MIXED WASTE REMANUFACTURING CRC-P ACTIVE PERIOD 1 Jan 2018 to 31 Dec 2020 — 3 years CRC FUNDING $2.7 million PARTNERS University of New South Wales; Dresden Optics; Astor Industries; Consonic; Duromer Products; Elemental Manufacturing; Jasca Engineering; Brien Holden Vision Institute MAJOR ACHIEVEMENTS • Recycling waste plastics into spectacle frames • Fully automated closed-loop system • Zero-waste process can apply to other products

CRC-P HIGH PE RFORMANCE EN ERGY ST ALTERNATIVE TO LITHIUM-ION BA ORAGE TTERIES ACTIVE PERIOD 1 Jan 2018 to 30 June 2020 — 2. 5 years CRC FUNDING $1.5 million PARTNERS First Graphite; Sw inburne Universi ty of Technology; Flinders Universi ty; Kremford MAJOR ACHIEV EMENTS • Develop grap hene-oxide (GO) super-capacitato • Develop new r commercial prod uction process for GO • World-first alt ernative to lithium ion (LI) battery • Compatible wi th current techno logies • Superior weig ht, charge rate, lif ecycle than LI • Better environ mental footprint than LI

Legacy CRCs

PPING INABLE CRO CRC-P SUSTAON, GRAINS, FODDER TT SYSTEMS: CO IOD ACTIVE PER — 3 years 15 Nov 2020 to 17 20 ct O 1 G CRC FUNDIN $3 million ricultural PARTNERS p; Kimberley Ag -O Co t ric st Di r Ord Rive ; Department of Chia Company e Th t; en iversity of m st Inve sity of WA; Un d Food; Univer partment De nd Agriculture an ns; Queensla tio ra pe O ris ar ; CSIRO; King Sydney; H ies and Forestry er sh Fi , re tu gy ul of Agric e and Technolo ersity of Scienc iv Un h lla du Ab IEVEMENTS MAJOR ACH in irrigated owledge gaps kn d • Addresse systems rage cropping cotton/grain/fo rthern Australia no onal skills in gi re d pe n lo ve • De rthern Australia s to inform no ol to d te ea Cr • stments cropping inve s for northern my and genetic no ro ag ed or • Expl Australia , specifications market quality d se es dr Ad • quirements and volume re


— 2.5 years

PARTNERS Australian Hearing Se rvices; BioPower Sys tems; C.N.C. Design; Hyda c; University of Adela ide MAJOR ACHIEVEM ENTS • Designed and bu ilt the O-Drive wave energy farm • Hydraulic and ele ctric power hub • Converts hydrauli c energy coming from both waves and tides • Pulls energy from both heaving buoys and oscillating pitch devic es at the same time

Soil CRC

FUTURE-PROOFING OUR SOILS New research from the Soil CRC is showing how we can naturally care for the fragile soils of Australia, the mainstay for our food, biodiversity and water future. Australian soils are subject to many kinds of stress, such as compaction, erosion and low rainfall. Poor soil can have a huge impact on our agricultural productivity. The CRC for High Performance Soils (Soil CRC) is bringing together scientists, industry and farmers to research practices that help farmers to improve their soil. The CRC includes university, farmer group and state government partners. “The CRC is bringing new technologies and ideas into farming systems with the goal of making them more resilient,” says Dr Lukas Van Zwieten, who leads a Soil CRC program focusing on applying research to solve multiple soil issues at once. “This means farms may function for a longer period going into water stress and when the drought breaks, they bounce back more quickly. “Water is the main limiting factor for crop and pasture productivity in Australia,” adds Van Zwieten. Compaction due to large machinery used on farms can compound these issues, as can soil chemical constraints such as sodicity, which make it harder for water to penetrate the soil.

NATURAL IMPROVEMENTS Once farmers harvest their crops, farmland can remain fallow for months or even years. Soil CRC researchers — including Professor Terry Rose at Southern Cross University, one of the project leaders within the program — are looking at using that time to grow plants specifically selected to improve soil resilience. They have trial plots for sugar cane and grain crops across Australia, including in northern Queensland, New South Wales and South Australia. “Sugar cane production in northern Queensland is often affected by pests called nematodes, which eat the sugar cane roots,” says Van Zwieten. “So CRC researchers are trialling the use of a kind of mustard plant that has biofumigant activity to decrease the amount of these nematodes in the soil.” The researchers are also trialling using cover crops that add extra nutrients to the soil when they break down. One of these plants is a large legume called Sunn Hemp or Indian Hemp (Crotalaria juncea) which can fix its own nitrogen from the atmosphere. It also has a large root system that creates a lot of biomass, becoming food for microbial life. “Like any other animal, microbes have to eat,” says Van Zwieten. “And what

they eat is organic material. Like you or I might eat a piece of bread, microbes eat organic compounds exuded from roots and the biomass from plant matter left over from the harvest. By growing cover crops, farmers can maximise organic inputs into soil, increasing microbial abundance and biodiversity, and potentially increase plant-available nutrients for future crops across Australia.” CRC researchers are also using plants to physically open the soil to reduce compaction. “The tillage radish has a large taproot which basically opens the soil. As it breaks down, you get large holes in the soil, so when it rains you’ve got an easy pathway for water.” The CRC researchers will test the soil in a lab to see how it performs when exposed to water stress. “We are hoping these mixed-species cover crops will result in bigger, better yields and yields that might be more resilient to weather variability,” says Van Zwieten. “That’s what farmers need. “Where farming systems or chemical inputs are becoming more difficult to use due to restrictions and cost, these types of alternative management practices are becoming more important.” — Cherese Sonkkila

Professor Terry Rose from Southern Cross University is part of the Soil CRC team that is seeking to improve farming soil resilience.

12 Collaborate Innovate |

Rail Manufacturing CRC

Build your

Keeping trains on schedule during peak hour is a major challenge for rail operators, with crowds often causing trains to ‘dwell’ at stations for longer than usual. This can force delays and longer commutes, as well as reduce the number of trains running across the network. The Rail Manufacturing CRC (RMCRC) has teamed up with the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) and integrated services company Downer to solve this problem. They developed Dwell Track, a tool that combines 3D camera technology and algorithms to track the movement of passengers on rail platforms in real time. Rail operators can use this data to manage crowds at peak times and keep schedules running smoothly. It can also help them to make quicker decisions when managing busy platforms, such as increasing overhead announcements and providing signs that show passengers where to stand.


“Not only does Dwell Track have the potential to reduce travel time and delays for passengers, it could also increase the number of passengers served on the train network,” says Larry Jordan, Research Director at RMCRC. The system, which was trialled at Wynyard Station in the city’s CBD, includes 16 camera devices, a mobilebased tool that shows captured camera data and dashboards that provide analytics summaries. Hervé Harvard, director of UTS Rapido, a research unit that develops technology solutions for industry, says understanding the needs of rail operators was central to the project’s success. “We wanted to understand how rail operators would use the product and design a solution that would actually meet their needs,” says Harvard. “It’s a very user-centred design as a result.”

— Gemma Conroy

La Trobe’s Research and Innovation Precinct is building the innovation and entrepreneurial hub of Melbourne’s North, a dynamic ecosystem enabling businesses to grow. The R&I Precinct will be home to entrepreneurs, start‑ups, SMEs, corporates and public sector research organisations. Locating at the Precinct you will have world-class researchers, facilities and infrastructure and your future workforce at your doorstep. • The R&I Precinct welcomes industry to co-locate on our

Melbourne campus and to collaborate with our researchers, students and partners to achieve business success.

• The La Trobe Industry PhD program embeds the student in your business to solve real-world business challenges and build a culture of outcome focussed research and innovation.

• The La Trobe Accelerator Program works with entrepreneurs

to provide coaching, mentoring and networks to turn ideas into viable businesses.

La Trobe strives to be your partner of choice on your business’s growth journey and to achieve global impact across Health, Agriculture, Food and Environment.

We welcome you to contact us to discover how La Trobe can help your business:

CRICOS 00115 02/20 DC36967

Image: © RailGallery


In Brief

A BETTER PLACE TO WORK How CRCs are helping us plan smarter, healthier workplaces. For 30 years, science, industry and government have joined forces through Australia’s CRC Program to solve some of our biggest challenges across social, economic and environmental research areas. Innovations

The Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC cyclone research program identifies building codes that help structures survive severe storms that are increasingly common in our changing climate. CRC for Water Sensitive Cities helps design low-maintenance soil-free green walls that improve air quality and reduce urban heat islands in cities.

from CRCs have delivered improved outcomes in medicine, manufacturing, natural hazards, agriculture, digital technology, mining, defence, biosecurity, mental health, indigenous equity, fisheries and more.

Workers can stay alert throughout the day as the Alertness CRC MelaGenTM lighting system adjusts to meet productivity needs. The long-range, twin-engine Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft uses fuel-efficient wing surfaces developed in collaboration with the CRC for Advanced Composite Structures.

Land tax and insurance risk for this office have been perfectly calibrated via the AI-based digital valuation models and tools created by Value Australia CRC-P.

Reliable, renewable and clean offshore energy generated by wind, tide and waves that can power microgrids is under development by the Blue Economy CRC.

Innovative textiles that repel water and reduce odour are just one of many new technologies under development by the Innovative Manufacturing CRC.

Fast and reliable communications are delivered via SmartSat CRC’s development of advanced signal processing algorithms and communications architectures.

14 Collaborate Innovate |

In Brief

Pleasant indoor temperatures are attainable without using excess energy thanks to the CRC for Low Carbon Living VIHEW Tool, an integrated tracking app that visualises real-time thermal conditions and comfort levels, plus electricity and water consumption. The Future Food Systems CRC will deliver high-tech solutions for urban agriculture and vertical farming, enhancing food security and food climate resilience in cities.

Mangoes and other fruit can be tracked to their source to ensure food safety and quality through smart supply chain technology from the CRC for Developing Northern Australia. PFAS chemicals used in fire extinguishers can be contained and remediated through innovative clean-up products developed by CRC CARE.

Better batteries that are cheaper, store more energy, last longer and have less environmental impact are all on the horizon because of research by the Future Battery Industries CRC.

Business food waste will be diverted from landfill to productive re-use through initiatives developed by the Fight Food Waste CRC.

The iMove CRC is developing advanced strategies for car-share parking to reduce competition for car spaces, ease traffic congestion and lower transport costs.

Computers will resist malicious attacks thanks to the Cyber Security CRC​‘s Deception as a Service platforms that improve resilience in SME business systems.

Collaborate Innovate |



SKILLS FOR EARLY CAREER RESEARCHERS CRCs can kickstart your post-PhD career, says Chloe Walker. Making the transition from academia to industry is always a challenge for early career researchers. The skills needed for the private sector don’t always line up with those developed within a higher degree by research program. This puts candidates with industry links at a huge advantage — particularly those connected to a CRC. Recent analysis by LinkedIn found that the top five soft skills most sought after by employers are creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability and emotional intelligence. Careers in industry require much more than simply a deep knowledge of a subject area and the ability to analyse data. Top candidates also need to manage stakeholders, pitch their ideas to investors and balance a budget. Communication skills rate highly on every list of what employers want, and Chuhao Liu, a PhD candidate in civil engineering at the University of Wollongong (UOW) and the Rail Manufacturing CRC, takes every opportunity to develop his presentation skills. In 2018, he won the UOW Three Minute Thesis competition before also winning the CRC Association’s Early Career Researcher Showcase. Chuhao credits the learning opportunities he’s had through the Rail Manufacturing CRC for much of his success. “Working with the CRC is extremely beneficial,” he says. “Once a year we have a PhD training workshop, where we learn things such as how to pitch, how to look after our mental health and how to build our LinkedIn profile.” Networking with people outside his usual circle at UOW, including both industry experts and other PhD students,

is another benefit. These connections are what led Chuhao to start working on his startup idea, a sound-based AI track monitoring system that landed him in the top five at TEDxSydney Kick Start, where he found some potential collaborators. Working with the CRC has also highlighted the many factors involved in commercialising research. “Before, I just focused on the technology,” he says. “But if you want to apply your research to real life, technology is a small part. How do you make people trust you? You need to network and understand law, branding and advertising.”

LO O K I N G TO S PA C E FOR COMMERCIAL OPPORTUNITIES Understanding the commercial implications of research outcomes has been one of Samantha Le May’s key takeaways from working with a CRC. A PhD candidate in environmental science at RMIT, Samantha also worked with the Space Environment Research Centre (SERC) during her Honours year. She says one of the things SERC really emphasised was intellectual property. “As a researcher, you’re not thinking about intellectual property, but as soon as you have industry participants, you begin to understand that research is really a business,” she says. Samantha’s research focuses on more accurately mapping space debris to improve catalogues. She also considers how regulation might be shaped to address the problem. Having access to a range of industry experts through SERC has been key

Putting science to work

SAMANTHA LE MAY’S CAREER PATHWAY Bachelor of Environmental Science, RMIT >> Honours, RMIT/SERC >> PhD, Geospatial Sciences, RMIT/SERC to bringing it all together. “Being involved with SERC has given me a broad perspective on the topic,” she says. “I’m trying to tackle an overall view of the problem and connect ideas together in one place. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without this diverse range of input.” Later this year, Samantha will be heading to Texas as a Fulbright Future Scholar. She says that attending international conferences, thanks to the travel allowance provided by SERC, helped boost her profile. “I think a lot of the opportunities that made my Fulbright application competitive can really go back to the fact that I had the support of SERC.”


E A R LY CA R E E R RESEARCH NOMINEES KICKING GOALS Chuhao Liu, who has worked with the Rail Manufacturing CRC, says communication skills are an essential component of research work.

Dr Jac Den Houting from the Autism CRC, 2017 finalist for the CRC Association ECR awards, has now completed her PhD investigating how anxiety in autistic children relates to their academic achievement. She is a Postdoctoral Research Associate at the School of Education at Macquarie University and is looking at the data collection benefits of involving autistic people in the research process. She says of the experience of being a finalist, “it was a real confidence boost to be selected, and it was nice to know I could communicate my research in a way that people found engaging”.

CHUHAO LIU’S CAREER PATHWAY Texas A&M University, Master of Science (Geotechnical Engineering) >> PhD, Geotechnical Engineering, University of Wollongong/Rail Manufacturing CRC >> Co-founder, iRail

Dr Jenalle Baker from the CRC for Mental Health, a 2018 finalist, has now completed her PhD, where she developed an online assessment tool for Alzheimer’s that is fast, low cost and can be used from home. The tool enables remote assessment of learning difficulties for clinicians and could help industry to recruit for clinical trials. — Cherese Sonkkila showcasing-early-career-researchers

BUILDING TEAMS From left: Alexander Conway; Cheryl Mangan, Research Translation Manager, Autism CRC; Brendan James, Digital Product Manager, Autism CRC.

All together now Diversity ensures better research, better business and better societies, reports Claire Harris.

Diverse teams that include people of different gender, culture, age, neurological diversity and perspective are more effective, innovative and profitable. Yet for many Australian research and development organisations, including most CRCs, achieving workplace diversity and the resulting positive impact is still a work in progress. A lack of diversity not only limits available talent, it’s bad for research and business, and doesn’t deliver what our communities need, says the Hon Karen Andrews, Minister for Industry, Science and Technology.

18 Collaborate Innovate |

“By ensuring STEM represents the society in which we live, we can better understand changing needs and develop more innovative and thoughtful solutions in response,” she says. Gender is a prominent diversity issue for STEM and is pervasive from childhood onwards. From high school, girls are under-represented in STEM and technology subjects. At tertiary level, low overall participation in STEM education means the number of women in the STEM workforce is not increasing at a substantial rate.

It’s not just STEM fields where there’s a problem. In the Australian workforce, women have lower work participation rates than men and also earn less, with the weekly pay gap currently at 13.9 per cent. The Australian Government’s Advancing Women in STEM (2019) report notes other key factors influencing females’ decisions to enter and remain in STEM education and careers include bias and stereotyping, career insecurity, a lack of flexible work arrangements and a lack of female role models.



Improving gender diversity is not simply a matter of fairness. “Gender diverse companies are 15 per cent more likely to financially outperform their counterparts, and it is estimated an extra six per cent of women in the workforce could add $25 billion to Australia’s GDP,” says Andrews. “Imagine if we had the full participation of women in STEM in history up to now — what discoveries, cures, breakthroughs and inventions we could have had.” Tony Peacock, CEO of the Cooperative Research Centres Association (CRCA), says a few years ago CRCs were “a long way short of where we should be” in addressing the imbalance. These days, while the “light bulbs have gone on”, he says he is still encouraging CRCs to try harder. “If we see boards or leadership teams with imbalance from a gender point of view, as a start, our response has been, ‘Why would you close yourself off to all the talent?’ If you’re operating an innovation business, you can’t ignore diversity.” Peacock says the CRCA has looked at how best to assist CRCs to implement more effective diversity policies. This includes setting a strategic objective, and outcomes related to greater diversity of CRC boards, management and scientific teams, and a 50:50 gender split for leadership positions. He believes taking the first step of measuring, and publishing the results publicly has had an effect. “Newer CRCs in particular are asking for guidance about how to run their organisation, and they are implementing good practice where possible,” he says. “As well as pushing our CRCs at the leadership level, we also encourage policies and programs to enable up-and-comers. “One of the strengths of the CRC model is flexibility and being able to design the way that people are employed and are able to contribute over time. For example, implementing ways for people to work hours that are suitable for their families, or having the support for childcare while travelling for meetings or conferences.”


Around 21 per cent of Australians have a non-European background and three per cent have an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander background, but only 11.3 per cent


CRC and partner initiatives include: • Quotas for the number of women recruited in project, fellowships and governance positions. • Recruitment practices such as the wide advertising of roles, diverse shortlists, independent audits, and diversity on recruitment panels. • Workplace policies such as greater job flexibility. • Commitment to high-profile activities such as the Science in Australia Gender Equity initiative and Male Champions of Change.

of directors of ASX 200 companies are culturally diverse, according to the CRCA. To address future diversity at the board level, the CRCA has recently launched the Pathways to Directorship program. It will fast-track 100 people towards board positions during a five-year period. Peacock says professionals from all disciplines in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) who identify as under-represented and from both member and non-member organisations of the CRCA are encouraged to apply. It’s an initiative that complements Minister Andrews’s support for increased diversity on boards. “In 2016, the Government set a target of women holding 50 per cent of government board positions overall and men and women each holding at least 40 per cent of positions on individual boards,” she says. “The Department of Industry, Innovation and Science has committed to working with stakeholders, including the CRC Advisory Committee and the CRCA, to improve diversity, including for gender, within CRCs and their boards. In saying that, there’s more work to do.”


“Evidence shows that the best solutions are co-designed with the communities who need them,” says Cheryl Mangan, Manager, Research Translation at the Autism CRC, the world’s first national cooperative research effort focused on autism. “A big part of what I do is bring together multidisciplinary teams that include autistic individuals, researchers and technology development partners to create solutions to problems they could not solve alone.” More than two thirds of young people on the autism spectrum are unemployed or underemployed, but the CRC is developing a web application to help change that. Mangan is a co-leader on the MyWay Employability project, a smart web application that allows young people on the spectrum to plan and prepare for their working life with a focus on strengths and career interests. “All of the information and resources are co-produced with the autistic community,” says Mangan. “One of the most beautiful things about working with young people on the spectrum is that they’re really honest and very constructive, which is necessary in any co-design.” Mangan says that co-producing with communities means the solutions are relevant, effective and have the greatest chance of impact. “It is so important that the community has ownership of the solution; then they will find value in it and use it.” — Cherese Sonkkila

BY T H E N U M B E R S : G E N D E R E Q U I T Y I N C R C S


Average percentage of female CRC senior staff. The manufacturing sector has the highest average (41%) followed closely by medical services (39%).


The proportion of CRCs with policies for a target percentage of female representation in board and/or senior positions by the end of the CRC phase.


Percentage of women on CRC boards in 2018, up from 17.3% in 2010.

Collaborate Innovate |





According to Peacock, during the CRC bidding process, leadership teams are working very quickly and adaptably, so they often review their teams. Many of the recently established CRCs are doing an “awesome job” harnessing diversity, he says. “It is often a matter of doing the best they can with what they’ve got initially, but the CRCA advises them throughout the process,” says Peacock. “One of the strengths of the CRC model is that they are adaptive and can implement best practice policies very fast. Sometimes the CRCA does push and I’ve asked questions such as, ‘Why is it that everyone in the room seems to have a very similar background?’ “I think there is a role for government, in the guidelines, to make sure people stop and pay attention, but I feel we’ve played a fairly useful role because we coach and advise along the way.” Changing mindsets and policies is the key.

“Thankfully, we’ve moved far past the, ‘Hey, it’s not fair,’ sentiment to, ‘It’s stupid not to consider diversity,’” he adds. Andrews says building a diverse and inclusive workplace should be a core part of any organisation’s business. “Senior leaders should listen to their employees’ experiences to drive change. Addressing inequality in STEM is about more than just addressing the numbers. We need to challenge our systems and practices.”

The CEO and Managing Director of the Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC), David Chuter sees diversity as a key driver for innovation. By embracing diversity in all aspects of its research collaborations, the CRC encourages industry, researchers and staff to explore new avenues and innovate. For example, IMCRC’s Just In Time Implants project combines 3D printing, robotic surgery and advanced manufacturing to create tailored implants for bone cancer patients. It brings together a diverse team of roboticists, material scientists, additive manufacturers, business experts and clinicians from two universities, a hospital and a global medical technology company. “By expanding the scope of our research projects, bringing in expertise via third-party collaborations across all industry sectors and establishing an inclusive collaboration culture, we have seen some significant investment in Australia,” says Chuter.


David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director of the Innovative Manufacturing CRC.

TRANSFORMING INDUSTRY Embracing deep tech is transforming Australia’s manufacturing sector. Manufacturing in Australia has faced big challenges, as well as embraced big opportunities, in recent decades as globalisation impacts supply chains, competition ramps up internationally, and consumer markets expand and demand new, innovative products. Despite the challenges, the sector is an important part of the Australian economy, employing around one million people — the seventh biggest employing industry — and accounting for 11 per cent of annual export earnings. The Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) runs from 2015 to 2022 and aims to accelerate Australian manufacturing into the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0), helping companies transform into high-value, high-knowledge-based businesses that will flourish in the digital economy. “Australia’s manufacturing sector is seeing a new generation of high-tech advanced manufacturers emerge,” says David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director of IMCRC. “We hope to strengthen them and the sector to be resilient to future disruptions and ensure Australia has national capabilities that are also world relevant.” Manufacturing has been hit hard by free-trade deals and competition from low-wage economies in recent decades, but globalisation goes both ways, he says. “We’re now seeing companies embracing innovation in every aspect of their business, undertaking extensive research, adopting advanced manufacturing techniques and

looking overseas for growth.” IMCRC works closely with local manufacturers to co-fund industry-led research collaborations that help companies explore innovative business models and new technologies, adopt additive manufacturing and advanced materials, apply automation and robotics to improve processing and use sensors and data analytics to streamline production and boost reliability. To date, IMCRC has more than 30 research projects approved in all primary industry sectors across Australia. “Our role is more than just co-funding manufacturing research projects that help catalyse the uptake of Industry 4.0 technologies, although that’s part of it,” says Chuter. Most businesses in Australia’s manufacturing sector are small and medium enterprises with revenue below $10 million and employing fewer than 20 people. IMCRC’s Industrial Transformation Program helps SMEs become advanced manufacturers to support the wider cause of manufacturing transformation. The program offers SMEs education and advocacy resources to help them rethink their business operations and adopt a new approach to manufacturing, constantly enhance and improve their processes and embrace advanced digital technologies to drive value for business and consumers. IMCRC has developed a business diagnostic tool called futuremap®. Since

the 2018 launch, the CRC has run more than 50 futuremap® workshops across Australia, guiding hundreds of local manufacturers through identifying areas of improvement in their business.

UPGRADING MATTRESS MANUFACTURING David Kaplan, Founder and Managing Director of Melbourne-based manufacturer Sleep Corp, attended a futuremap® workshop before embarking on an Industry 4.0 research project with Swinburne University, co-funded by IMCRC. “We’re embracing Industry 4.0 systems so that Sleep Corp can continue as a proud Australian-owned and made manufacturer on the world stage, delivering exceptional products as efficiently and as cost-effectively as possible,” he says. Sleep Corp was founded in 1980 and produces the Protect-A-Bed brand of mattress protectors sold in Australia and New Zealand, as well as other top-of-bed consumer and commercial-grade ranges. Since January 2019, the company has been working with Swinburne University to develop a novel Virtual Manufacturing System (VMS) to fully automate their manufacturing plant. The VMS will connect robotics-based machinery to a digital twin, so product manufacture is faster and more flexible, and can quickly adapt to meet customer requirements while remaining cost competitive. Collaborate Innovate |



Adapting to angry summers From her bush block in the Blue Mountains, Bianca Nogrady considers how researchers will tackle the ‘new normal’ for severe bushfire weather. On February 7, 2009, several bushfires in Victoria burned through 450,000 hectares over two days, destroying more than 2000 homes, killing 173 people plus an estimated one million wild and domestic animals. Between September 2019 and March 2020, hundreds of bushfires burned through almost 19 million hectares across Australia, destroying more than 2500 homes, killing more than one billion birds, animals and insects, and driving many species to the brink of extinction. But the death toll was lower, at 33 people. Every one of those lives lost was a tragedy that devastated families, friends, colleagues and communities. But given the unprecedented scale, ferocity and duration of this season’s fires, the fact that comparatively few lives were lost suggests that since Black Saturday, we have made profound changes to the way we predict, understand and respond to bushfires. Many of those changes have come about because of the collaborative research undertaken by the Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre. “We strongly believe the work of the CRC has been instrumental in reducing the death toll out of these fires,” says Dr Richard Thornton, Chief Executive Officer of the Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC (BNH CRC). The relatively low death toll from the 2019–2020 bushfire season is astonishing to many people working with bushfires, especially given that there were several days during the season when conditions were as catastrophic as those experienced during the 2009 Black Saturday fires.

22 Collaborate Innovate |


One of the areas of change is communication: how, where, why and to whom emergency warnings are delivered, and the content and wording of those warnings. Communication has been an active area of research from the early days of the original Bushfire CRC, which was established in 2003 and morphed into a focal program of the current BNH CRC from 2013. Associate Professor Amisha Mehta, a risk and crisis communications expert at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) Business School, has been working with the BNH CRC on risk communication during bushfires and other natural hazards. She says the wording of risk and emergency warnings is a delicate balancing act between trust and encouraging individual responsibility. “In our co-designed messages, we have enhanced trust but at the expense of reducing people’s perception of personal responsibility,” says Mehta. “So we learn from that and talk about ways to maintain trust and enhance or build people’s ability or confidence in being able to take the actions needed.” Extensive research on how people respond to emergency warnings and risk messages has led to some bushfire and emergency agencies changing the wording of their message headings. The three tiers of ‘Advice’, ‘Watch and Act’ and ‘Emergency Warning’ are classifications




Images: Getty Images

The scene of total devastation that faced firefighters during the cataclysmic Australian summer of 2019-2020.


From top: Firefighters on the job responding to a front. Left: The BNH CRC team gathering information from a bushfire-damaged region. Below left: An injured koala from the 2019–2020 bushfires, one of millions of native wildlife injured during the catastrophic summer in Australia.

Images: Getty Images; BNH CRC

firmly embedded into the way emergency management organisations work since the Black Saturday bushfires. However, those headings don’t necessarily reflect the way individuals think in a bushfire situation. Instead, some agencies are switching to what Mehta describes as more ‘community-minded’ language. “Instead of ‘emergency warning’, the lead is ‘leave now’, or ‘leave immediately’, or ‘shelter in place’, so it’s the behaviour that is captured in the heading,” she says. After those headings comes more detailed information about the location and type of hazard, timing and other aspects. For example, the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services have amended their headings to ‘Advice: monitor conditions’, ‘Watch and Act: conditions are changing’, and ‘Emergency: you are in danger’. Mehta and her colleagues’ research also showed that adding a reason for the warning helped the message get across. “If you add a rationale, such as ‘leaving now is your safest option’, even though it makes the message longer, it enhances residents’ self-efficacy, so it makes them feel more confident in taking the behaviour.”


Another active area of CRC-led research is when and to whom those messages should be sent.

24 Collaborate Innovate |

Bushfire predictions have taken a quantum leap forward in recent years with the development of a variety of computerised modelling systems that can predict bushfire risk from as far out as one year ahead of a season to an hour-by-hour update on where a bushfire is likely to spread or its embers land. Two products helping fire agencies calculate risk are Phoenix and SABRE Fire. Ben Twomey is a fire behaviour analyst and executive manager of advanced capability in the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, and he works with both these fire modelling systems. “Part of the reason for the comparatively low number of deaths this season is the prediction capability and our ability to get people out of the way of fires that we know are going to be catastrophically bad,” he says. Phoenix is a fire simulator program developed by the Bushfire CRC and the University of Melbourne. It characterises fire spread across the landscape based on forecast weather — temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction — fuel maps, topography of the landscape, wind modification by the landscape, vegetation, the fire history of an area and other factors such as roads, fire breaks and rivers. When that data is put into the system, along with weather inputs to account for factors like the effect of pyrocumulonimbus, the output is a map forecasting where that fire is likely to



There are some wildcards in fire behaviour modelling and pyroconvective fire behaviour is one of those. This refers to the enormous weather systems that can develop above intense fires — so-called ‘fire thunderstorms’ — and drastically alter weather and fire behaviour. “It’s like putting a chimney on top of the fire and getting a nice big draw around the edge – it goes berserk,” says Twomey. Research by the BNH CRC has worked out the minimum heat required for these pyrocumulonimbus systems to develop in various environments, which should help better forecast these events and allow for their incorporation into fire behaviour modelling. This research will be part of the next generation of fire spread models, which includes weather modelling conducted by the Bureau of Meteorology, as well as in more real-time models being developed with CSIRO and capable of being used in control centres just like Phoenix. Even with all the best predicting, forecasting and messaging, people and properties are still being caught in bushfires. Understanding how and why that happens is the question Dr Josh Whittaker from the University of Wollongong and the BNH CRC is trying to answer. After fires have passed through, Whittaker and colleagues visit those communities and interview residents about their awareness of bushfire risk, what planning and preparations they had done before the fire, what information and warnings they received and how they responded. “Those findings are fed back into fire services to help them better communicate with communities and better prepare them

Image: On-Air — Fotolia

spread to in the next hours and days. But as anyone who has ever tried to plan a picnic knows, the weather forecast is a probabilistic prediction; it offers a likelihood — not a certainty — of the weather being a certain way. To account for that element of uncertainty, there’s SABRE Fire. “We don’t know those inputs with a great deal of certainty and we’d rather be broadly right than precisely wrong,” says Twomey. SABRE Fire calculates a range of scenarios by varying some of the inputs at random, like a much higher wind speed or much lower humidity, “so when we talk about worst case scenarios, theoretically it’s already built in”.

Flooding in the Brisbane suburbs

DROUGHTS AND FLOODING RAINS Australian writer and poet Dorothea Mackellar wrote of ‘droughts and flooding rains’ and the past year has been the epitome of these contrasts. The hundreds of fires scorching the drought-ravaged country were only finally extinguished by rainfall so intense it triggered flood warnings up and down the east coast of Australia. Some of that water was collected in dams, some restored formerly dry rivers to full flow, but some of it also sluiced through stormwater infrastructure and out to sea. For the Cooperative Research Centre for Water Sensitive Cities (CRCWSC), the question is: how can Australia adapt its water infrastructure to improve resilience in both droughts and flooding rains. “The water industry has long recognised that urban challenges such as population growth and climate change are demanding different types of water solutions,” says Dr Briony Rogers, Chief Research Officer with the CRCWSC and an academic at Monash University. That means moving away from inefficient ‘linear’ solutions — big pipes in and big pipes out. Instead, they’re looking at sociotechnical solutions. “A water sensitive city is thinking about all the things we want from our water system in the urban fabric and trying to develop ways we can meet those different objectives so the community is getting the best value,” she says.

There’s a big focus on nature-based solutions. For example, instead of waste or stormwater being transported through pipes over large distances, why not use that water in cities to irrigate trees and green spaces. This makes cities more resilient to flooding and also helps drought- and heat-proof urban spaces. “On the one hand we want to be conservative with our water use — we don’t want to waste water — but on the other hand we want to be irrigating our green space because when there’s moisture in the soil it cools the local landscape,” says Rogers. Another solution is to look at how existing urban open spaces, such as school sports fields, could be used as temporary catchments to hold back flood waters, rather than relying solely on large-scale centralised infrastructure. Rogers says many of these sociotechnical solutions don’t require massive infrastructure change, but a more decentralised, people-focused, whole-of-city, cross-sectoral approach. “It’s recognising that technology and infrastructure are important but that people have an important part to play in resilience,” she says. “Integrated planning requires collaboration across different parts of industry and government and with the community. I think the goodwill is there but building that into our processes is challenging.” — Bianca Nogrady

Collaborate Innovate |



Mapping the Australian bushfires during their devastating peak in the 2019-2020 summer.

for bushfire in the future,” says Whittaker. Having worked on many fires since the devastating Black Saturday bushfires, Whittaker says there is always a wide range of preparedness levels in the community. “There always seem to be people who have done little or nothing to prepare and therefore have difficult experiences in fires,” he says. “Through to the other end of the spectrum, where people are very well prepared and are either able to safely leave, as is their plan, or remain to defend their farms or houses.” Understanding those decisions is critical to helping shape messaging and awareness campaigns about bushfire preparedness. Whittaker says one interesting finding is how many people in bushfire-exposed areas are unaware they are even at risk One change he has seen over time is greater focus and understanding of the ‘leave early’ message during bushfires. There’s also greater awareness of the high level of planning and preparation that is required by anyone thinking of staying to

defend their property. And it seems the most important message is being heard: don’t leave anything to the last minute.


There is a mountain of research to be done after this bushfire season, which will help researchers understand what contributed to the severity of this season and how well predictions, preparedness and response systems worked. But there is also the question of how Australia’s experience of bushfires will change in the future. There is also population growth and how that changes the relationship between humans and the bush. There is the question of settlement strategies and decisions by local and state governments, and what role the insurance industry will play in that. There are new technologies that will present opportunities and challenges, when it comes to preparedness and response to bushfires. And finally, there is perhaps the greatest challenge of all: climate change.

Grasp the opportunity UTS is a partner in 10 cooperative research centres. From energy productivity, to digital health and the future of food, UTS is working with industry and government to solve the real-world problems that matter today. Connect to our research for a better world. UTS CRICOS 00099F

UTS 23393


Launched in September 2019, the SmartSat CRC is working towards the capability of tracking fire fronts in real time.

Satellites and AI to help fight bushfires Australia’s $245 million SmartSat CRC was launched in September 2019 and immediately kickstarted a practical test of its potential contribution to communities. Australia’s devastating 2019-2020 bushfires focused attention on every aspect of bushfire management: prediction, warning, response and recovery. The SmartSat CRC is concentrating on one particular problem area. A persistent challenge for firefighters is tracking a fire front in real time, says University of Queensland researcher, Professor Stuart Phinn, one of SmartSat CRC’s program leaders. To direct firefighting resources, emergency managers need high spatial resolution images that can be updated “every couple of minutes”, says Phinn, who is program director for the SmartSat CRC’s Next Generation Earth Observation Data Services program. “You can do that from drones, but you can’t fly drones or aircraft through smoke and cloud all of the time.” The answer may lie in space-based sensors. The SmartSat CRC could integrate new modes and AI-enhanced algorithms on existing and future Earth observation satellites to provide an increasingly accurate, real-time picture of a bushfire.


This is a tough ask; visual sensors or thermal imagers operating at the wavelengths used specifically to look for fires are attenuated slightly by smoke and heavily by cloud. Synthetic Aperture Radar is an advanced technology that captures images at 500 times the resolution of everyday radar. It sees through cloud but isn’t sensitive to temperature, although it might detect differences between burnt and unburnt trees to help map burning areas.

AI-enabled fusion of the two types of sensor data could deliver a coherent picture if the right algorithms and operating system are in place aboard a satellite. One of the SmartSat CRC’s primary focus areas is to map bushfires and other natural disasters. Phinn’s research integrates the CRC’s three main programs — Communications, Intelligent Platforms and Earth Observation. “In some cases, we need to upload information from the ground to augment or update the models and algorithms in the satellite. That’s Program 1,” he says. “Essentially, you’d have a capable storage and processing facility aboard the platform itself: that’s Program 2. And then Program 3 is using the right data and the right processing approach, which is the Earth observation and data analytics side of it, combined with intelligent platforms and algorithms to give us intelligent products and services,” he says.

FUNDING THE DREAM These are early days for the CRC and a number of projects and proposals along

these lines will emerge as the university and industry partners, including Nova Systems, BAE Systems and Airbus, kick off their research. And a link is also developing with the Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC with project leader Dr Marta Yebra, who is working at the Australian National University on remote sensing of bushfire fuel conditions. Mapping fire fronts from space in real-time is achievable, says Phinn. “We know which algorithms we’d put on these platforms and how to refine them. As the algorithms get better, we’re gradually improving the mapping and monitoring we do. There’s no way we’d have had funding to do that before this CRC.” — Gregor Ferguson Collaborate Innovate |


Image: © Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Defence

The SmartSat CRC is already proving its worth.

FOOD WASTE PhD student Ruby Chan is working with the Fight Food Waste CRC to develop innovative food packaging.

Business as usual with the way we waste food has serious consequences for the climate and the economy. Fran Molloy reports.

It’s time for a foodwaste fight

28 Collaborate Innovate |

Australia’s agriculture industry produces some of the freshest and healthiest food in the world. Workers in the agrifood industry spend long hours preparing soils, planting seeds, watering and fertilising crops, and carefully harvesting and transporting foods to market. But nearly half of all the food we produce goes to waste. “Food waste is a really huge issue, wasting about $20 billion every year in Australia alone. It’s also the third biggest emitter of greenhouse gases,” says Dr Steven Lapidge, CEO of the Fight Food Waste CRC. The Fight Food Waste CRC began in 2018 and has 50 industry and 10 research partners bringing $63 million cash and $57 million in-kind contributions over the 10-year term. The CRC will reduce food waste throughout the supply chain, transform unavoidable waste into high-value products and run programs to deliver a national behaviour change program. In developed countries such as Australia, around half of food waste occurs in households, with the rest occurring across the supply chain, from agriculture, to post-harvest, to processing, delivery, distribution and food services. More than 70 per cent of Australians want to reduce food waste, says Lapidge. “We are following up our first big study around household food waste behaviour with an economic study to work out how much food people throw away each year and what that costs the average household.”

F RO M S ECO N D - B EST TO A BRAND NEW MARKET One food waste win is happening in the potato industry, where around 40 per cent of premium potatoes destined for supermarket shelves are ‘graded out’ for flaws such as size, shape or blemishes. Lapidge says the CRC is working on a large market opportunity as Australia currently imports 20,000 tonnes of potato starch for commercial use and could


“Residual waste streams can even be turned into bioplastics or biofuels,” says Lapidge.


Images: Sylvie Tittel / Unsplash


easily divert waste potatoes to develop a starch industry. “Through the CRC, four of our largest commercial potato growers have come together to develop alternative value chains for the graded-out potatoes that currently go to low-value uses such as composting, animal feed and even landfill,” he says. Lapidge explains that most individual growers would struggle to develop a large-scale potato starch production facility on their own, but working together through a CRC makes this and other alternatives feasible. These second-best potatoes could be turned into potato starch, but may have even better value as nutraceuticals or prebiotics, which have a higher value. Another similar project underway with Swinburne University and Swiss Wellness involves diverting wine industry waste — grape marc — into valuable products. “Grape seed extract is one of the most popular products in the nutraceutical market and has got well demonstrated benefits as an antioxidant, yet we import all our grape seed extract from overseas,” says Lapidge. He says the CRC’s Transform program diverts waste from horticultural production — such as grape seeds or potatoes that don’t make the grade — into nutraceuticals and other products, which saves money but also generates new high-value income streams.

Researcher Ruby Chan joined the Fight Food Waste CRC as a PhD student through RMIT and she is already exploring innovative ways to use packaging more effectively to prevent waste. While undertaking a Master’s degree in design innovation and technology at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), Chan designed single-use tableware and food containers from plant-based polymers and repurposed agricultural fibres such as corn husks, which are fully compostable after use. The innovation holds an Australian patent. “There’s a real tug-of-war going on around sustainability and packaging,” says Chan, adding that Australia has committed to sustainable packaging targets in 2025, and has also joined a global target to halve food waste by 2030. “Packaging — including plastic packaging — has an important role to play in reducing food waste,” she says. While consumers often have a knee-jerk reaction against packaging, the greenhouse gas emissions from producing and distributing food are often higher than the impact of appropriate packaging solutions, adds Chan. She says there’s a packaging impact see-saw where increased packaging results in less food waste, but you have to balance out the environmental impact. “When you get everything right [appropriate design and amount of packaging] then the packaging impacts are less than if the food was to go to waste. “We need to educate the wider community to differentiate between types of packaging and understand their use and role in product protection, and also how to dispose of them properly.” Chan is scoping out her research at present, exploring the different packaging types found in supermarkets. “This includes resealable packaging, modified atmosphere packaging for meats and even packaging that regulates the exchange of gases to keep vegetables fresh,” she says, adding that access to a wide range of industries through the CRC makes it the ideal place to do this research.

Reducing waste through a circular food economy FOOD AGILITY CRC The Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and Lendlease are part of a Food Agility CRC project using technology to develop a prototype community composting system, and establish Australia’s first sustainable food city at Yarrabilba in southeast Queensland. Residents are rewarded with ‘green credits’, to be exchanged for food-based goods and services. This urban agriculture model can be applied in other cities and towns.

Reducing waste with vertical urban indoor farms FUTURE FOOD SYSTEMS CRC The Australian Centre for Robotic Vision at QUT is developing automated protected cropping technologies in partnership with vertical farming entrepreneurs Greenbio Group. The vertical hydroponics facility in Brisbane supports 25,000 plants, using less than half the water and a quarter of the space of traditional hydroponic systems. Vertical farms also have less post-harvest spoilage and waste.

Collaborate Innovate |



The Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) is working with medical and industry partners to revolutionise some reconstruction surgery techniques.

Better for you Sarah Keenihan discovers how digital health, improved data integration and innovative manufacturing are making Australians healthier.


“You can’t do digital health without industry,” says Shaw. “Working in the CRC environment helps us to be more nimble, more agile, and to focus on innovation without being bogged down. But we’re still powered by academic expertise.”


Assisted aged care is a health area ready for innovation through technology. With partners Aged and Community Services Australia and the Aged Care Guild, the Digital Health CRC recently created the Living Better Lab to trial technologies to improve delivery of aged care services. Enhancing the health of Australians living outside our main cities is another key focus for the CRC. “It’s a question of equity”, says Professor Suzanne Robinson, Flagship Director for the Rural and Remote team. Relatively low access to health services partially explains why Australians living in rural and remote areas have shorter lives and higher levels of disease and injury. “We’re working to apply digital technology

to help all Australians access health services,” says Robinson. “The CRC provides the right environment to pilot ideas for managing health outside urban centres.” The Digital Health CRC is working with the WA Country Health Service to expand technology application through their telehealth platforms. Long-distance sharing of digital images and patient records between urban and rural Exploring the viability of kangaroo tendons in human patients.

The University of Southern Queensland is a research-intensive regional university with a focus on developing innovative solutions to real world problems. USQ’s research performance is built on the foundations of long-standing relationships with industry, business and end-users to ensure that our research delivers impact to the communities that we serve.

Images: Bone Ligament Tendon / Allegra Orthopaedics

COVID-19 has accelerated Australia’s demand for digital health delivery. But even before this change, Professor Tim Shaw was pressing for greater integration of everyday technologies into healthcare. “It’s crazy we don’t use simple technologies for better health management,” says Shaw, who is Director of Research and Workforce Capacity at the Digital Health CRC. “There are simple technologies we can apply, and most of these already exist .” The Digital Health CRC is working with industry partners — such as healthcare solutions company HMS — to deliver personalised healthcare messages for patients with chronic heart conditions. They are developing interactive voice response systems for this purpose and also plan on utilising text messages and emails. More broadly, the CRC aims to improve the use of data for informed decision-making by doctors, and refine services and models of care in general practice and hospitals. “Data can empower teams on the floor,” says Shaw. “We want to equip clinicians with access to useful information.” The Digital Health CRC has 80 industry partners, including 16 universities.


Image: WA Country Health Service

doctors, and expanded use of artificial intelligence, may bridge health gaps between city and country dwellers.


It’s not just data that can transform Australia’s health; new materials are also being developed. Orthopaedic care is a good example, where clinicians seek effective solutions to fix faulty bones and joints. Torn or ruptured ligaments are a big part of this problem. Orthopaedic surgeon Nick Hartnell estimates a global annual market of around $14 billion for replacement parts, taking into account procedures to knees, shoulders and ankles. Hartnell devised a uniquely Australian solution: kangaroo tendons. As head of startup Bone Ligament Tendon Pty Ltd, he’s working as part of a $6.9 million Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) project to explore the viability of roo tendons to form donor ligaments in human patients. Allegra Orthopaedics and the University of Sydney are also partners. “It could be as fast as two to three years to get to market,” says Hartnell. “We’re making really good progress already.” In Australia, rates of surgical reconstruction of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — a fibrous band that stabilises the knee joint — have increased during the past decade.


The Emergency Telehealth Service command centre in Western Australia.

“There’s no question the numbers of operations are going up and more of them are in young patients and women,” says Hartnell. He says the standard approach for ACL repair is to take a piece of tendon from another part of the human body — usually the hamstring — and replace the faulty one within the knee. But ligament failure is quite common using this method. Enter kangaroo tendon, which is strong, long and easily available. “We collect tendons from animals that have already been culled for the human and pet meat markets,” says Hartnell. The tendons are then treated in the lab to prepare for insertion. To counter the risk of detachment from the bone, replacement roo ligaments are secured within recipient knees using 3D-printed ceramic biodegradable screws.

$185 billion What Australia’s government spends on health each year.

“The patient’s own bone grows into innovative screws and the original materials dissolve away over time,” explains David Chuter, CEO and Managing Director at IMCRC. “There’s lots of interest in the commercialisation of these screws for other orthopaedic uses as well.” It’s a good example of how an innovation can have benefits beyond what it was originally designed for. “Patients, the healthcare system, state governments and even insurance companies may all see the benefits of this innovation in the long run,” says Chuter. “Manufacturing like this is rapidly moving towards being an enabler for many industries.” You never know where technology will take you.

8.7 million The calculated number of Australians aged 65 and over by the year 2056, growing from current levels of around 15% to reach 22% of total population.


The number of operations to repair ACLs in Australia per year, with direct annual hospital costs of more than $140 million.

Collaborate Innovate |



Going offshore The Blue Economy CRC’s futuristic vision combines integrated sustainable offshore seafood with renewable energy production.

Images: Blue Economy CRC, Shutterstock; QUT, Shane Stagner / Unsplash


Floating wind turbines are one of many sources of renewable energy. Integration of floating solar, wave and tidal energy devices is also possible. Capturing renewable energy offshore would mean immediate savings in diesel generation and could power vessels, drones and desalination systems.


An attenuation barrier dampens the effect of large waves that could disrupt the facility. As a floating, offshore breakwater, the barrier could also be integrated with wave energy devices to absorb energy and convert it to electricity.

32 Collaborate Innovate |


Large-scale kelp cultivation helps bioremediation of discharged nutrients from fish, effectively cleaning the water at the source. Such a large volume of seaweed is an effective carbon sink and can dampen wave disturbance, as well as being harvested for food or pharmaceuticals. This is just one way of using natural processes to aid in aquaculture, rather than having to engineer a solution.


Australia has the third-largest exclusive economic zone in the world and it’s mostly open ocean. “We are well positioned to take a lead role in the blue economy on a global scale,’’ says Professor Irene Penesis, interim research director at the Blue Economy CRC. The CRC seeks to meet growing demand for sustainable seafood and other marine products, plus low-carbon energy, through the development of innovative offshore facilities that produce both. This utilises expertise from aquaculture, renewable energy and offshore engineering sectors, and drives investment in the blue economy.

“Offshore engineering will be central to this emergence, leveraging decades of experience drawn from the shipping, defence, oil and gas industries,’’ says Penesis. “They’ve got years of experience in the design, installation and operation of maritime infrastructure in very exposed, offshore environments safely. “Bringing these sectors together will facilitate innovations to reduce the costs of sustainable seafood production and demonstrate commercial prospects for offshore renewable energy with future export potential.’’ — Cherese Sonkkila


Specially adapted cages for offshore environments will be designed to support intensive fin fish production such as salmon and kingfish. Floating artificial reefs could also be used, allowing for the production of abalone, lobsters and oysters.


Repurposing of existing offshore floating structures — such as this oil and gas accommodation barge — provides a central hub for offshore operations. Because supply-chain logistics are trickier offshore, this hub could act as a base for seafood processing, cold storage, exporting food, and producing energy to reduce costs and operational complexity.

R O B O - FA R M E R S

Remote operated vehicles, autonomous underwater vehicles or drones could automate processes such as equipment maintenance, monitoring fish and mapping the seabed.

Collaborate Innovate |



Battery Power Nadine Cranenburgh investigates the next-gen of stored-energy technology.

Peak-proof renewable energy, advanced manufacturing growth and a long-lasting phone charge have one thing in common: battery innovation. The CRC for Future Battery Industries (FBICRC) and the CRC-P for Advanced Hybrid Batteries are charging up to take Australia’s homegrown industry to the next level. Investment bank UBS predicts the worldwide market for batteries will grow to $US134-$US426 billion ($AU199-$AU636 billion) by 2030 — driven by increased demand for renewable energy storage, government-mandated uptake of electric vehicles and consumer electronics sales. Another key factor is the decreasing cost of lithium-ion batteries, which has plummeted by 85 per cent during the past decade. Australia exports battery minerals such as lithium, nickel and cobalt. But according to the CEO of FBICRC, Stedman Ellis, the nation has the opportunity to capitalise on our mineral wealth, homegrown research and technical expertise to establish local R&D, manufacturing and recycling facilities. “We have the minerals the world needs to support demand over the next 10-20 years,” says Ellis. “The challenge, and opportunity, is to move downstream and become a price-maker and not a price-taker.” The FBICRC, based at Curtin University in Western Australia, received $25 million in Federal Government funding in April 2019. Additionally, 58 partners from industry, academia and government have pledged $110 million of support during the FBICRC’s six-year lifespan.

Image: Sonja de Sterke / QUT


The Banyo Pilot Plant at the Queensland University of Technology.

34 Collaborate Innovate |

Market researcher Mordor Intelligence predicts North America and the Asia-Pacific region will be hotspots for the global battery market over the next five years, with the United States, India and China playing important roles. Ellis says that while it will be difficult for Australia to compete in the bulk production market, local manufacturers could find a niche in specialised industries such as defence. There is also an opportunity to establish recycling and re-use facilities to meet domestic needs and those of the Asia-Pacific region. Australia could also find a competitive edge in the safe, environmentally responsible production of high-quality materials. For example, a high proportion of the cobalt used in battery production is mined in the Congo, Africa, where workers are poorly protected from safety hazards. FBICRC estimates battery industries will deliver a $2.5 billion benefit to the Australian economy during the next 15 years. To quantify the employment, economic and investment

Image: Deakin University

Image: Anthony Weate / QUT


Commercial lithium-ion batteries produced by QUT.

outcomes, FBICRC has commissioned a project led by the Perth USAsia Centre and the University of Western Australia to determine how we can best leverage the regional requirements and opportunities through international partnerships, business development and government policy design. The CSIRO will also map the current skills and capabilities of Australia’s battery industries as a baseline to measure future growth.


The goal of the FBICRC is to tackle industryidentified gaps in the battery value chain, from mining and processing through to battery manufacturing and recycling. Progress has already been made on the next step after mining, with the first fully automated lithium hydroxide manufacturing facility outside China launching operations in Kwinana, an outer suburb of Perth. Wesfarmers-owned Kidman Resources plans to build a second plant in the same industrial area, but has delayed its final investment decision until early 2021. Two of FBICRC’s flagship projects address gaps further down the value chain: beddingdown the precursors for local manufacture of cathodes and a national battery-testing facility to verify the operation of Australian-made and imported cells. Professor Peter Talbot, FBICRC Program Manager, says Australia’s battery minerals could be processed locally to make the precursors for battery manufacture [cathodes, anodes and electrolytes] rather than being exported. “Australia has had a strong cohort of battery scientists for many years, but they have had to work overseas because we didn’t have that industry [locally],” he says. To demonstrate our domestic capability for battery manufacture, Talbot established a demonstration facility at Banyo Pilot Plant at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) — the first in Australia to take raw materials and process them into finished, commercial batteries. “It’s not just about showing it’s possible,

it’s about helping industry get up to speed,” says Talbot. The National Battery Testing Facility will be designed to test the real-life operation of a wide range of battery cells, from familiar cylindrical lithium-ion cells through to grid-scale vanadium redox flow batteries. It will be co-located with QUT’s hydrogen pilot plant and store solar energy in a microgrid to avoid destabilising the wider electricity network. The energy stored in the batteries being tested will be used to power an electrolyser, which produces green hydrogen.


While lithium-ion batteries dominate the current market, they have limitations. The $3 million CRC-P for Advanced Hybrid Batteries is working to modify the properties of batteries to reduce cost and increase efficiency and capacity. It is led by manufacturing company Calix Global, in collaboration with Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) and BAT-TRI Hub research centre, as well as chemical manufacturer Boron Molecular. IFM Research Fellow Dr Robert Kerr says hybrid lithium-ion batteries replace the graphite anode in conventional lithium-ion cells with higher-powered lithium titanate (LTO) with various cathode materials. “It still operates under very similar principles, but you can achieve higher power density.” Calix will experimentally produce nano-active cathode materials for hybrid batteries at its BATMn flash calcination reactor in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, which can produce up to 250kg per hour. The company is currently prototyping a lithium manganese oxide cathode which has potential applications in electric vehicles, energy storage and portable electronics. Calix is also working with the FBICRC to investigate more efficient extraction of lithium from spodumene ore. “Calix will investigate whether flash calcination technology could be exploited to improve recovery rates and economics of lithium beneficiation and processing,” says Dr Matt Boot-Handford, R&D Manager for Batteries and Catalysts at Calix.

IFM Research Fellow Dr Robert Kerr.

B EYO N D LITHIUM Professor Peter Talbot, FBICRC Program Manager, says Australia has identified alternative options to lithium-ion batteries. For example, WA-based Australian Vanadium recently supplied a 320kWh vanadium redox flow battery (VRFB) to store solar energy on a dairy farm in Meredith, Victoria. The battery was manufactured in the US with vanadium ore mined in Australia and locally processed into an electrolyte solution. VRFBs, developed by chemists at the University of New South Wales, use large tanks of liquid electrolyte to store energy. They are a safer and more recyclable alternative to lithium-ion batteries for renewable energy storage, particularly in remote or regional areas where space is not an issue. Lithium-sulfur batteries, sodium-ion and sodium-air batteries could also be future alternatives, particularly in high temperature or hazardous environments. “Materials in sodium batteries are abundant, cheap and benign,” says IFM Research Fellow Dr Robert Kerr.

Collaborate Innovate |



THINKING BEYOND THE BARRIERS TO INNOVATION Two CRCs give their insights into wrapping up research programs with optimal impact. Gregor Ferguson reports.

The EOS Space Systems research centre.

36 Collaborate Innovate |

takeaways in the D2D Lessons Learned Review Report. This approach made transitioning IP from the lab to the market much easier, says Mazumdar, and created viable businesses able to develop the CRC’s IP.

CHALLENGES OF RESEARCH-HEAVY COLLABORATION Mazumdar’s experience differs from that of David Ball, CEO of the Space Environment Research CRC (SERC), that will shut down later this year after passing a couple of delayed milestones which have extended its five-year funding term. Ball understood SERC’s five-year CRC funding agreement might be problematic for a researchintensive CRC extending the leading edge of Space Situational Awareness (SSA). “We’re not making widgets here,” he says. “It is research and things sometimes take longer to achieve.” SERC’s commercialisation was slowed by several unforeseen problems: damage caused by a US supplier delayed delivery of a crucial mirror assembly by

more than four months; a satellite carrying a hosted payload for SERC failed; and then a second payload integrator delayed the launch from New Zealand of a replacement SERC satellite payload until this year. SERC’s space experiments using that payload will deliver the final package of IP. The end of those experiments will trigger its final shutdown. Ball says he doesn’t want to leave ‘shelfware’ behind when SERC closes, and there’s a good chance the industry and research participants in the CRC, which include EOS Space Systems and Lockheed Martin, plus universities, will snap up the IP. SERC is making a major contribution to SSA technology, especially in adaptive optics, software and high-power lasers. This is a cornerstone of the new Australian Space Agency’s technology agenda. Defence has ongoing projects in these areas, as do some of SERC’s industry participants, but Ball won’t be drawn on their plans to commercialise the CRC’s IP. “Our partners are very keen to continue their involvement

Former CEO of D2D CRC Dr Sanjay Mazumdar. from an academic and industry point of view,” he says. Importantly, both D2D CRC and SERC identified and solved some complex, enduring problems. From the outset, they tapped into markets that value their IP sufficiently to create new income streams to continue developing and exploiting their IP after the CRCs shut down. SERC’s five-year funding agreement could have benefitted from an allowance for the technical delays inherent in space research, acknowledges Ball. This would have sped up the development of proven IP and made commercialisation planning smoother. Future CRCs can benefit from looking at the successes and setbacks of both organisations.

Image: Francis Bennet

Consider commercialisation right from the start and set up your research program quickly. That’s the advice from Dr Sanjay Mazumdar, former CEO of the Data to Decisions (D2D) CRC that shut down in June 2019, after five years. The information technology sector evolves rapidly, so Mazumdar focused the D2D CRC on developing flexible intellectual property (IP) commercialisation models that delivered timely results and provided for funding and ongoing development beyond its five-year life. “We needed to hit the ground running,” says Mazumdar, who’d previously worked for BAE Systems Australia and Motorola, and has now moved to KPMG. The D2D CRC considered different commercialisation pathways before establishing two ‘spin-in’ companies. These were wholly owned subsidiaries of the CRC, which incubated them and their IP and then spun them out shortly before the CRC closed. CRC participants are now part of a trust with equity in these spin-offs; this is one of the

Market Wrap-Ups


The Soil CRC (CRC for High Performance Soils) brings together scientists, industry and farmers to find practical solutions for Australia’s underperforming soils. It aims to help farmers increase their productivity and profitability.


The Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC) is an independent, not-for-profit Cooperative Research Centre that helps Australian businesses increase their global relevance though industry-led innovation in manufacturing products, processes and services.



Armed with a collaborative, innovative and dynamic research culture, we are dedicated to the delivery of high-quality, high-impact research that tackles the big challenges facing our society. Learn more:

The University of Melbourne is consistently among the world’s leading universities, with researchers at the forefront of discoveries in fields as diverse as human rights law, Indigenous linguistics and medical genomics.

CRICOS No. 00233E

CRC ORE is a Cooperative Research Centre focused on Optimising Resource Extraction. It delivers value to Australia by improving mine productivity, commercial return and environmental outcomes.


Research with impact Our discoveries help to shape a better world Griffith’s world-first digital body twin research is harnessing the power of thought, using neural patterns to trigger muscle movement for those with spinal cord injuries. The research at Griffith’s Advanced Design and Prototyping Technologies Institute (ADaPT) is stimulating new muscle movement using personalised biomedical devices. Thanks to ADaPT, the future of medicine will be tailored to the individual.

Dr Dinesh Palipana

Next Big Thing


Increased diversity in the boardroom is critical to innovation, says CRC Association CEO Tony Peacock. The most common undergraduate degree for ASX 50 CEOs is science. However, when it comes to the boardroom, Australia lacks technical literacy, according to a recent member survey by the Australian Institute of Company Directors. Although three-quarters of members said their organisation had an innovation vision, more than half said innovation rarely, if ever, featured on their board’s agenda. Also, worryingly, only around one-third of members felt their board possessed the right skills and expertise to properly consider modern technology, and only 3 per cent of directors had personal expertise in science and technology. While having scientists on boards is certainly a step in the right direction, technical expertise is not the only form of diversity a board would benefit from. Australia also has a problem when it comes to gender diversity on boards, with less than one-third of people on ASX 200 boards being women. The CRC Association commissioned Women on Boards to conduct a survey on CRC board diversity. Among other things, it showed women’s representation had only slightly improved throughout the decade. The session at Collaborate Innovate 2019, where the results were presented, prompted a question from a talented CRC program manager, to the effect of, “How does a young researcher ever get onto a board?” I found the answer from the stage — which was essentially to go and do a $10,000 course — unsatisfying. So did the individual who asked the question, noting that their employer was unlikely to send anyone who was not already a senior manager on a course at that level. This year, the CRC Association has responded with its new board diversity initiative, ‘Towards Diverse Boards: Pathways to Directorship’. We have partnered with the Governance Institute of Australia to offer 20 people from groups currently under-represented on boards to undertake the Institute’s Certificate in Governance Practice or Certificate in Governance for Not-for-Profits. The Certificates will be completed online and are heavily subsidised to reduce the barrier to entry. But we know access to formal education is not enough to facilitate change. While the participants are studying, we’ve organised some incredible coaches on various aspects of best practice: the Minister for Industry, Science and Technology, The Hon Karen Andrews MP; head of the Australian Space Agency, Dr Megan Clark; former president of the World Federation of Engineering Organisations, Dr Marlene Kanga; CEO of the Governance Institute of Australia, Megan Motto; former chief scientist of South Australia, Dr Leanna Read; and the chair of the CRC Association, Belinda Robinson. We’re also partnering with Dr Ruby Campbell, managing partner and founder of ProVeritas Group and author of Scientists in Every Boardroom: Harnessing the Power of STEMM Leaders in an Irrational World. In order to spread the message further, every Towards Diverse Boards participant will receive a complimentary copy of Scientists in Every Boardroom, as will every Collaborate Innovate 2021 conference attendee. I hope they will find it useful and that it serves to remind them of their role in encouraging more scientists and other kinds of diversity on boards. After all, research shows us that diversity pays off.

38 Collaborate Innovate |




Autism CRC Blue Economy CRC

Australian National University

Brien Holden Vision Institute

Central Queensland University

Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC CRC for Alertness Safety and Productivity CRC for Cancer Therapeutics

Charles Darwin University Charles Sturt University Curtin University


Deakin University

CRC for Developing Northern Australia

Edith Cowan University

CRC for High Performance Soils

Elementary Law Pty Ltd

CRC for Honey Bee Products CRC for Optimising Resources Extraction CRC for Water Sensitive Cities

FAL Lawyers Flinders University

Cyber Security CRC

Griffith University

Digital Health CRC

La Trobe University

iMove CRC

Macquarie University

Innovative Manufacturing CRC (IMCRC)

Monash University

Fight Food Waste CRC

Murdoch University

Food Agility CRC

Queensland University of Technology

Future Battery Industries CRC

RMIT University

Future Food Systems CRC

University of Adelaide

Future Fuels CRC

University of Canberra


University of Melbourne

Rail Manufacturing CRC

University of Newcastle

SmartSat CRC

University of New England

Space Environment Management CRC

University of New South Wales


University of Queensland University of South Australia

Agrimix Pastures Pty Ltd

University of Sydney

Australian Pork Research Institute Ltd

University of Tasmania

CRC for Oral Health

University of Technology Sydney

FCM Travel

University of Western Australia


University of Southern Queensland


Swinburne University


Western Sydney University

RoZetta Technology

PRODUCED BY REFRACTION MEDIA Karen Taylor-Brown Publisher Heather Catchpole Editor-in-Chief Gemma Chilton Managing Editor Cassie Steel Digital Editor Kym Gleeson National Integration Manager Gavin Dennett Sub-editor Cherese Sonkkila Assistant Editor Cover: L-R: Glen Wong, Brendan James, Harry Pan, Cheryl Mangan, Alexander Conway.

CRC ASSOCIATION Tony Peacock CEO Jordan Gardner Engagement and Policy Manager Amelia Hart Communications Officer FOR MEMBERSHIP INQUIRIES 02 6260 3988 2/13 Napier Cl, Deakin ACT 2600 ISSN 2203-4919

ABOUT Collaborate Innovate is a magazine for science, business and industry, focused on Australian discovery and innovation, produced on behalf of the Cooperative Research Centres Association by Refraction Media, a STEM-specialist content company. The Cooperative Research Centres Program was established by the Australian Government in 1990 to improve the effectiveness of Australia’s research effort through bringing together researchers in the public and private sectors with end users. The CRC Program links researchers with industry and government, with a focus on research application. The publishers acknowledge the Traditional Owners of the country throughout Australia and recognise their continuing connection to land, waters and culture. This product is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Licence. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the editors or publishers. Cover: Autism CRC team photographed for Collaborate Innovate by CF Photography. Printed in Australia by IVE. This issue went to press April 22, 2020.

FOR ADVERTISING AND EDITORIAL INQUIRIES, CONTACT Karen Taylor-Brown 0414 218 575 CONTACT US PO Box 38, Strawberry Hills, NSW 2012

Collaborate Innovate |



The Australian Government’s CRC Program supports industry-led collaborations between industry, researchers and the community. The focus is on research and development that solves industry identified problems and leads to commercial uses. The CRC Program is delivered by AusIndustry in the Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources. It is open to all industry sectors and research disciplines with grants awarded through competitive funding rounds. The CRC Program has two funding streams: • CRC grants – supporting medium to long term industry-led collaborations (up to 10 years), funding up to 50 per cent of eligible grant project costs. • CRC Project grants – supporting short term, industry-led collaborative research, funding up to $3 million for projects up to three years in duration.

“Outcomes from HEARing CRC research have been commercialised and used clinically, and have returned more than $12 million in royalties and other income.”


“This project allowed a number of organisations with diverse skills to come together and share their knowledge to look at some advanced technology in a completely different way. A project of this type would have been impossible without the funding provided by the CRC-P Program.” CMG OPERATIONS

Where can I find more information? For further details on CRC and CRC Project funding rounds and how to apply, visit or call 13 28 46.

Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.