September Director’s message

Last week, Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Cathy Foley, released a paper highlighting the opportunity to create tens of thousands of jobs in Australia’s emerging technology industries in the coming decade. To fully exploit this opportunity, Dr Foley says Australia will need to develop a workforce that combines knowledge of STEM with skills from the humanities and social sciences. The paper emphasises the importance of investing in both ends of the science, research and innovation pipeline and advocates for an increase in the value and time period of investments.

These comments align with ideas discussed at several CEAT events this year – ideas that include the need to provide more students with industry training opportunities, and for new forms of research investment (akin to moon-shot, mission-style investments) to enable long-term, intergenerational challenges to be addressed. 

As regular readers may recall, CEAT and the wider ANU community have been working with other universities to develop a proposal for a National Mission that would transform the productivity and resilience of Australia’s cropping sector. It was with this in mind that I visited Perth earlier in September to discuss the proposal with partners at the University of Western Australia and leadership from CSIRO. While the path to making the National Mission proposal a reality is uncertain, it is clear that Australia needs a new form of investment in research – research that is interdisciplinary, outcome-focused, long term (10+ years), and which has the principles of co-design at its core. Professor Julie Lee – Founding Director of the UWA Centre for Human and Cultural Values and Director of the UWA Business School – participated in discussions about how a crop-focused national mission might operate. Professor Lee highlighted the importance of linking STEM and social science research, a view that mirrors the ideas outlined by Dr Foley. CEAT remains committed to the proposal for a National Mission and will continue to advocate for such initiatives in the months ahead. 

While in Perth, I had the pleasure of meeting with the Director of the South West WA Drought Adoption and Innovation Hub, Mark Holland. Mark also works at the Grower Group Alliance – a state-wide network of grower groups with a membership of over 4000 farm enterprises. I used the meeting with Mark to learn more about the challenges facing grower communities in south western WA and to explore the types of research needed to help grower communities adapt to a changing climate. In contrast to many regions of the world where the severity of climate change varies from year to year, south western WA is a region where climate change is resulting in predictable and ongoing shifts in the seasonal distribution of rainfall – shifts that are having profound impacts on the ability of farmers to grow crops. As such, the region provides an opportunity to understand what environmentally sustainable and profitable farming systems might look like in the future.

I am looking forward to heading to Auckland next month to attend the 2035 Oceania Agri-Food-Tech Summit. I have enjoyed working with Peter Wren-Hilton over the past months to help prepare for the Summit, including CEAT hosting one of the pre-Summit workshops earlier this year.  My main role at the Summit will be facilitating the first session on ‘Identifying opportunities to develop a net-zero food production system’ in which Dr Victoria Hatton (Director, Sustainability and Climate at PwC NZ) will be the plenary speaker. Dr Hatton’s speech will be followed by a panel discussion with Professor Michelle Colgrave (Future Protein Lead, CSIRO) and Nick Hazel (Founder, v2food). The session will explore challenges and opportunities in meeting net zero emissions in agriculture; ranging from the production, management and processing of livestock through to innovations in non-meat protein products. If you are interested in attending the Summit, tickets are still available (buy your ticket before midnight 30 September (NZDT) and use the promotional code NZTE2035 to save $200 off the registration).

Finally, we are expanding the CEAT Innovation Hub, opening up more space for agri-tech businesses who want to experience the unique benefits of being co-located with ANU’s world-class researchers, and state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment. You can find more information about joining the Hub here.

Best wishes. And make sure you read our CEAT newsletter!

Thank you.

Owen Atkin, Director, CEAT

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