December Director’s message

The summer holiday season has arrived – but for those on the Australian east coast, you’d be forgiven for questioning if summer is actually here.  ‘The Bureau’ (as they were hoping to be called after a rebranding that didn’t quite go to plan) tells us that Christmas Day will be warmer – so, there are reasons to be optimistic.  The dry weather will be welcomed by rural and urban communities along the east coast – communities that have had to deal with repeated floods.  Hopefully 2023 will bring a ‘goldilocks year’ – not too hot, not too warm, not too wet, and not too dry!

For me, much of the past few weeks has been spent thinking about how CEAT can help the ANU forge closer links with companies working in the area of ‘biofactories’.  As regular readers will know, CEAT has helped the ANU develop a long-term collaboration with the Canadian-based Medicago Inc. – a company that tricks plants into producing proteins that when harvested and purified are used as vaccines (including a COVID-19 vaccine).  As we approach the mid-point of our five-year agreement with Medicago, I have been reflecting on some of the fantastic work that has been done by researchers in the ANU node of the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility (APPF) and the ANU School of Computing for Medicago.  The project is an exemplar of how researchers from different disciplines can work together to develop highly novel tools needed by industry. 

Staying with the ‘biofactories’ theme, a few of us from CEAT  and ANU Business Engagement and Commercialisation were lucky enough last week to visit Anna El Tahchy at Nourish Ingredients at their new production and R&D facility in Canberra.  Nourish is a major success story in Canberra, having emerged from CSIRO as a start-up that uses yeast to produce fats–and thus flavour–needed for alternative protein market.  In recent years, Nourish has been a CEAT Innovation Hub member and collaborated with researchers in the Research School of Chemistry at ANU.  The reason for the visit was to discuss areas where the ANU could continue to support companies such as Nourish.  A key priority as we head into the new year, is ensuring that Nourish has access to a pipeline of highly-trained students and staff with the knowledge and skills needed to help the company continue to grow.  We look forward to working with Nourish and others to develop programs that can provide that talent pipeline, starting with some workshops in early 2023 that scope out the need and potential solutions. 

December is also the month that CEAT says farewell to Robin Fieldhouse.  Robin joined CEAT earlier in 2022 as parental cover for Marty Amidy, the lead of CEAT’s Research Translation Initiative.  Robin is moving across the road to help the CSIRO’s UpCell team develop a process technology “for the super-efficient and scalable production of specialised performance proteins in food-appropriate quality, quantity and cost”.  We look forward to UpCell joining Nourish as another Canberra start-up success story.  Our thanks to Robin for his contribution to CEAT. 

Finally, as I noted last month, CEAT is looking to appoint experienced and senior team players with established networks who can help us build engagement between the ANU, industry and government, and help the University translate research to impact. We see this as a unique opportunity for professionals with experience in industry and/or government to apply their knowledge and experience to innovative and transformative projects that solve real world problems. The role is based on campus at ANU, with flexibility to work from anywhere. If this has piqued your interest, please get in touch ([email protected]) with a two-page letter detailing your speciality and how you’d add value. We’d love to talk with you about the range of ways in which we could work together. 

A huge thanks to the CEAT team – it is a privilege to work with such a dedicated and talented team on helping forge closer links between ANU and the agri-food innovation ecosystem.

Best wishes and Merry Christmas.

Thank you.  

Owen Atkin, Director, CEAT

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