In the 2021-22 Australian Federal Government Budget announced in May this year, a $30,000 incentive was included for universities to create industry internships for their PhD students. Provided a student undertakes a three-month industry internship during the first 18 months of their PhD, their university would receive the incentive payment when the student graduates. While there are positive (e.g. possible influence the direction of a PhD project, to make it more industry aligned; gives more time prior to graduation for the student to build connections with industry) and negative (e.g. uncertainty about which industry area is best for a student; limitations in the students’ knowledge/skill-set) elements to requiring that the internship occur within the first 18 months, the incentive was nonetheless welcomed. In a 2019 career column article published in the journal Nature, Jessica Sagers outlined how internships can provide students with an opportunity to: broaden their career horizons; learn how to adjust to different workplace hierarchies/dynamics; form lasting career connections; and, learn how to tune their personal skills to a workplace. For universities, internships can also lead to research collaborations with industry. And yet, not all PhD supervisors are keen for their students to undertake an internship during their PhD, based on concerns that internships will adversely affect their PhD studies. Aware of these concerns, I was pleased to see a PLoS Biology article last month highlighting the fact that internships do not adversely affect when a PhD student graduates or how many papers they published. At CEAT, our hope is that more ANU students will chose to undertake internships. It is for this reason that we are developing a framework for internships as part of our Innovation Training Initiative.
One of the highlights of August was the International Business Connect (IBC) event hosted by CEAT in collaboration with the Canberra Business Chamber. The hybrid event (networking with embedded short presentations) provided an opportunity for representatives of the business, government and embassy communities to learn about developments in the agri-technology area. Matthew Prior of Agthentic and Tenacious Ventures provided an overview of the Australian agri-tech sector and the opportunity build a $20B agri-tech equipment/services export industry. While in its infancy now, there is fantastic potential to increase export revenue from agricultural products and technology, much like that in the $90B Mining, Equipment, Technology and Services (METS) sector. Matthew is a Board member of the Australian AgriTech Association (AATA) that formed recently to advocate for the formation of an Australian agri-tech ecosystem that exports technology and ideas to the world. Also presenting at the IBC event was Andrew Coppin, another AATA Board member. Andrew gave a great presentation on how his company, FarmBot, has grown from a start-up to a successful business that provides water management systems to thousands of customers. Andrew has also been instrumental in CEAT becoming an investor and Foundation Member of the AATA. We look forward to working with Andrew, Matthew and others to help develop a globally competitive, agri-tech export industry here in Australia.
And talking of water, it was sobering to read sections of the International Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) that was released in August. Entitled ‘Climate Change 2021: The Physical Science Basis’, the report outlines how changes in the timing and location of rainfall, combined with increased frequency and severity of heat waves, are creating further challenges for the management of that most precious of resources – water. To play our part in helping address the impacts of climate change on water management, CEAT is working with the Canberra Innovation Network, ANU Institute of Space, ANU Institute of Water Futures, CSIRO, Charles Sturt University and others to run a new version of the highly successful 2020 H2O Hack event, with this year’s event focusing on how satellite technologies can be used to improve water management across Australia. The event is likely to take place in October this year – so keep an eye on our socials and website for details.
I also wish to congratulate CEAT Innovation Hub members Quantum Brilliance for their success in securing over $13 million seed funding and its founders Andrew Horsley and Marcus Doherty, who made The Australia’s Top 100 Innovator list.
And as always, make sure you read the articles in this month’s newsletter.