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A note from Dr Ian Griffiths, ANFF CEO

The Victorian Lead Scientist has presented a report on the impact of spending in research within Victoria over a 20-year period.

Produced by ACOLA, the document titled Stimulating the Science and Research Ecosystem Creates Jobs and Investment shows the value to the Victorian economy of fully supporting the State’s thriving research ecosystem. Read the report here.

The report manages the difficult task of demonstrating the impact of research in building economies that will thrive in times of opportunity, and be resilient in times of difficulty.

It’s abundantly clear from ACOLA’s work that money invested in our research communities provides benefits to the population both economically and otherwise. There is never a bad time to invest in science, research and innovation, but if we are to recover and thrive through COVID, it is clear that supporting our innovators is more essential now than ever before.

There’s an easy line to draw between this report’s findings and the conversations around national resilience that are now underway. As the report lays out, ‚ÄúKnowledge-based economies enable society to be flexible to new needs‚Äù – to take this further, to ensure our national resilience we must ensuring we have an innovative economy.

As the ACOLA team rightly highlight, the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication (MCN) is a fantastic example of what happens when you provide a sandpit for researchers and engineers to play in.

The MCN is ANFF’s flagship facility and our headquarters – it’s a purpose-built open-access research environment that provides researchers with the equipment and expertise required for them to realise their projects. It holds advanced fabrication capabilities that are either unique in Australia or the world. In a typical year, the Centre provides hundreds of people with assistance, through access to more than 100 capabilities in a cleanroom environment.

ANFF has 21 sites like this across the country, and together we help thousands of researchers accumulate hundreds of thousands of hours of tool time every year. Each one of these researchers is working on one or more project, and each one of these projects could be the work that unlocks new technologies, prevents the next pandemic, or leads to a business that provides hundreds of people with employment.

From our privileged position at the interface of academia and industry, we see that the points made by ACOLA are as true in Victoria as they are across Australia, and we see the formulation of the technologies that will drive our nation forward in the years to come.

In Wollongong, our colleagues are developing bioprinting technologies that are reforming the medical sector – Australia is world-leading in the area, and we’re underpinning these steps forward through our involvement in the TRICEP initiative. This team traditionally focuses on 3D printing biological material, but as soon as COVID hit, they were able to transition there manufacturing capability to produce face shields to help local medical staff, and this flexibility is part of what ACOLA are hinting at.

We’re witnessing the generation of an entirely new industry as Sydney places itself at the centre of the Quantum Computing revolution. There, we’re helping ASX listed companies and fundamental researchers as they close in on qubits that will change the world. When these technologies mature, in addition to creating onshore manufacturing opportunities they will ensure our national security through unbreakable cybersecurity and boost our businesses by providing computing power that’s never been seen before.

And looking back to our decade of operations in Victoria, we’ve helped as technologies start as inklings, and grow into products that we are now using ourselves – this includes Calumino’s temperature sensor that monitors visitors to the MCN for fevers. We helped develop the technology and now it is helping to protect us against the spread of COVID.

Projects like these are exciting from a national perspective, not just ours, and we’re lucky in ANFF to be helping hundreds of people as they build the products of the future.

This is why we’re stepping up our involvement in building businesses and reducing the hurdles to development by taking a more active role in facilitating the formulation of companies.

We’re establishing protective pathways for IP to spinout, assisting licencing agreements, we’re forging new international and national agreements with like-minded organisations to help our clients to engage with the people they need to let their future products thrive, and we’re continuing to build an international focal point of fabrication expertise.

So enjoy the report, and if there’s anything you think we might be able to help with, make sure you get in touch.

Read the report here.