The Cooperative Research Centre for Solving Antimicrobial Resistance in Agribusiness, Food and Environments (CRC SAAFE) was announced in May as one of the three successful Round 23 CRC Program bids. It will receive $34.5 million from the Australian Government and will leverage more than $112 million in cash and in-kind from 53 partners over a 10-year period.
We sat down with Professor Erica Donner, bid lead, interim CEO of CRC SAAFE, and environmental scientist at the University of South Australia, to discuss the importance of having a CRC to tackle what has been termed an existential threat. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) happens when microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, and parasites become resistant to the medicines and chemicals used to control them, thus rendering treatments ineffective.
‘Antimicrobial resistance isn’t just a human health issue. Many industries rely on access to effective antimicrobials and it’s important that our agricultural industries and food and beverage producers manage AMR, so that Australia can maintain its reputation as a premium producer. Managing AMR is also important for the health of Australia’s animals and natural environment,” Professor Donner said.
She explained why the CRC model was the right fit for tackling this issue.
‘Antimicrobial resistance is a multifaceted problem. There was no existing body that brings together human, animal, and environmental health research in the context of AMR. And in building a CRC, we’re making sure that industry can be directly involved in understanding, managing, and mitigating the risks of AMR.
‘AMR is a shared problem. Which means that no single industry can solve AMR alone. For example, the water sector needs to work with the industries that release wastewater to their networks as well as with the industries that they supply water to. As a result, the consortium has grown to include service providers, technology providers, regulators, and end-users.’
Professor Donner also described the education program of CRC SAAFE, which has a multileveled approach.
‘There’s the PhD program, which is important. But we are keen to support vocational training as well. Things like managing antimicrobials in animal feed can be part of TAFE courses or micro-credentials and we will work with industry peak bodies on short courses and workshops. We also want to cross-pollinate different sectors, such as water and horticulture, in these education programs.’
The CRC SAAFE will be engaging with First Nations communities.
‘Our work towards best practice in environmental management aligns strongly with First Nations priorities such as Caring for Country. We’ll be working with other initiatives, such as the NHMRC’s Healthy Environments and Lives (HEAL) Network to support Indigenous leadership and incorporate learnings from Indigenous knowledge systems and water management.’
Professor Donner concluded by illustrating what CRC SAAFE will have achieved at the end of its term in 10 years.
‘We’ll have created a community of practitioners and professionals across many industries who understand the issue of AMR and how it affects them. They will have the tools, technology, and know-how to manage AMR effectively and mitigate the risks in our production systems to ensure that Australia is able to produce premium products.
‘Internationally, AMR is a very active policy space, so we’ve got quite a few government partners in the consortium. We want to get to a position where different industries have the tools and knowledge to self-regulate so they meet the requirements of export markets, which are changing in response to AMR.’
Learn more about CRC SAAFE here.
The Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites Cooperative Research Centre (SoMAC CRC) was announced on 11th May 2022 as one of the three successful bids for Round 23 of the CRC program.
The CRC will focus on automation for composites received $69.9 million in Australian Government funding and will leverage $189.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions from across industry, research, and government over a period of 10 years.
The Centre bid was led by the UNSW Sydney, and we recently spoke with interim chief executive officer Dr Andrew Beehag and bid leader, research director and Director of ARC Training Centre for Automated Manufacture of Advanced Composites (AMAC) Professor Gangadhara Prusty. The CRC Program was no stranger to both; UNSW has a long history with CRCs and was a participant in the Round 1, CRC for Aerospace Structures (later the CRC for Advanced Composite Structures) that was one of the first groups announced in 1991, and in 2019 Professor Prusty led a CRC Project working on dentistry without mercury – glass fibre reinforced flowable dental composite restorative materials.
Composites are manufactured materials that when combining two or more different materials together form overall structures that are less expensive, lighter, stronger, or more durable than traditional materials.
“It’s a diverse industry and a high-tech flagship industry. Composites touch a lot of sectors such as energy, space, defence, automotive, and marine infrastructure. Australia has a real opportunity through collaboration and next level technology to build sovereign capability, increase global competitiveness and uplift the manufacturing sector,” said Dr Beehag.
When asked what excites the team about this research, Prof. Prusty said “The opportunities to work with industries directly. Often the research we do daily is fundamental research and rarely gets translated. Through the CRC Program we have a specific timeframe and at the end of that, we have the product. That’s the beauty of the whole thing. Seeing products getting commercialised and into the market. We will be able to look back and say we were part of that development and helped design that Intellectual Property. “
An important feature of SoMAC’s mission is the involvement of small to medium enterprises (SME’s) and growing that industry to thrive in Australia.
When asked what the plan is for students both Dr Beehag and Professor Prusty simultaneously said “Lots!” Prof. Prusty elaborated: “We have created an education program with the aim of training 100 Higher Degree Researchers, and upskilling industry professionals to transform the industry. It is a priority we have diversity from the get-go and create new career paths in STEM and new opportunities for women within the manufacturing sector. “
Australia is entering a decade of transformation with the arrival of intelligent manufacturing automation and emergence of new high-value industries. SoMAC CRC will address these opportunities and strengthen current industry with digital-export-ready, cost-competitive, high-quality platform capability. The SoMAC CRC’s vision is to transform Australia’s established composite technologies capability into sovereign leadership, creating a world-class, highly automated, digitally enabled, network of designers, manufacturers, and service providers.
To follow their journey and learn more click here
One Basin CRC was confirmed as the third Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) as part of Round 23 of the CRC Program on Thursday 19th May 2022.
Receiving $50m in Australian Government funding as part of the CRC Program and leveraging a further $106.5 million in cash and in-kind contributions from 85 partners, working across five states and territories, over a ten-year period connecting industry, government, research organisations and the community to deliver science-based solutions that contribute to growth and benefit rural communities and the environment to manage climate and water risks in the Murray-Darling Basin.
This industry research collaboration represents the largest of its kind in the Murray-Darling Basin. Speaking with Professor Michael Stewardson interim CEO, who is well accustomed to the CRC Program having been involved in three CRCs during his career. He completed his PhD in the CRC for Catchment Hydrology, which was funded in the second round of the CRC program. He went on to be a Program Leader in this CRC and continued this role in eWater CRC.
When asked what makes him excited about this research project he said: “Well, there is a lot of things. I’ve seen the value the CRC model has in long term benefits. My career has been focussed on doing good research, but also approaching that research with the people who will use it in mind. So, I’m excited at the chance to give other early career researchers and engineers a similar experience. More than that, I see a real opportunity for partnership across regional areas, agriculture, water sectors, technology providers, First Nations, and regional communities to really join forces and engage on some of the significant challenges these regions face. There is keen interest from these different sectors to collaborate. So, I’m excited to help make that happen.”
One Basin CRC’s activities will be concentrated for delivery across four regional Basin hubs located at Loxton, Mildura, Griffith and Goondiwindi. There are three shared opportunities to enable these regions to
1. diversify economic opportunities to build resilience in the face of increasing water scarcity,
2. transition irrigated agriculture for a drier future,
3. design smart connected water infrastructure to maximise efficiency and capacity for meeting multiple demands.
Professor Stewardson said “There’s a wide recognition of the importance of the collaborative approach in the industries that we’re working and a great way of bringing together this size partnership. I’ve seen how the CRC Program can provide that focus on a significant national challenge and make important advances, capability, and practices to technologies of a whole industry. Australia needs a new regional innovation system that breaks down old silos to bridge across water, agriculture and energy sectors and address the known barriers to adoption and commercialisation of new solutions and this is a great way to do it.”
First Nations inclusion and engagement is at the core of One Basic CRC. With First Nations board members, two full-time convenors, and participation through Regional Hubs and research projects, the partnership has fully embedded this involvement in the governance of the CRC.
Benefits of this project will extend beyond agriculture to include growth in the Murray-Darling Basins water, environmental, tourism and technology sectors. And along with economic growth the CRC will also work closely with the recreational fishers to advance their efforts to restore waterways and report on waterway health.
Building the current and future generation’s decision making and leadership capability and capacity will be critical to One Basins success. By integrating research and industry knowledge, and working collaboratively across all partners, One Basin CRC will educate and develop future leaders and workers who are innovative, holistic, collaborative, inclusive and resilient. Over the ten years, approximately 180 undergraduate students will join summer school activities and participate in industry led, regionally based projects. Bringing university students and researchers to the region will broaden the local economy and community with a greater focus on research and implementation.
Professor Stewardson said “It was a privilege to be a member of the leadership team for the One Basin CRC. “I’ve learned a lot through the process. And I think we’ve laid the foundations for a really effective CRC which will look to support transformations in the Murray-Darling Basin and irrigation regions across Australia and internationally.”
To follow One Basin CRC and their research click here