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Speech at the International Conference on Nanoscience and Nanotechnology — ICONN 2016

Canberra

8 February 2016

I’m pleased to have the honour of opening this year’s conference and I thank the ANU for the opportunity.

I’d like to congratulate Professor Jagadish on being made a Companion of the Order of Australia for his work in physics, engineering and other achievements in academia in this year’s Australia Day Awards.

It’s great to have some of the world’s best scientific minds here in our nation’s capital to share knowledge in a field considered the technology of the future.

Australia is looking to the future with a new resolve to more strongly harness science and innovation for its prosperity.

I see nanotechnology as a vital part of that future, with its amazing breadth of potential applications—from health to ICT, agriculture, energy and defence.

The Australian Government is supporting the work of Australian scientists, investing some $9.7 billion in science, research and innovation in 2015–16.

We’re determined to create an environment where science and innovation will flourish using the National Innovation and Science Agenda as our roadmap.

Over the next four years, the Government is investing $1.1 billion in this agenda, with more than $550 million to support Australian science.

This will help us build our science talent, workforce and critical national research infrastructure.

It will enable us to lift the number of students taking science, technology, engineering and maths subjects and those going on to take up careers in these fields.

A new $200 million Innovation Fund is dedicated to commercialising research, ideas and innovations from CSIRO and other publicly funded research bodies and universities.

We are also seeking to turn more of our world leading health and medical research into commercial gains through a new $250 million Biomedical Translation Fund.

And over the next decade, the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy will receive $1.5 billion.

This recognises the importance of facilities like the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication and the Australian Microscopy and Microanalysis Research Facility, and their role in promoting collaboration.

The Government has also set aside $520 million for the Australian Synchrotron for up to 2025–26 in recognition of its research and collaboration benefits.

Access to a broad range of infrastructure facilities with nanotech applications is allowing our researchers to develop targeted drugs to reduce side effects and increase the efficacy of disease treatments.

It is also helping them explore unique computing and energy alternatives and provide manufacturing solutions for industry.

The Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation’s work through the National Deuteration Facility and the Australian Synchrotron is a good example.

I’m encouraged by this and other efforts that are providing Australia with a strong nanotechnology research base, including:

  • here at the ANU and at other Australian universities

  • the ARC Centre of Excellence in Convergent Bio-Nano Science and Technology

  • the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication

  • The National Measurement Institute’s Nanometrology section, which was involved in the OECD nanomaterial testing program, and

  • private ventures like tech startup Vaxxas’s work to develop a new vaccine delivery technology, Nanopatch; to name a few in this growing sector.

These efforts are generating exciting breakthroughs.

Take, for example, the single-drop DNA test that University of Queensland scientists have invented.

This could accurately and speedily test for viruses, bacteria, fungi or parasites like HIV and malaria.

There’s also University of Melbourne’s pioneering research, led by Professor Frank Caruso, focused on targeted drug delivery by engineering nanoparticles.

Last year, CSIRO nanoscientist Amanda Barnard became the first woman in the world, and the only person in the Southern Hemisphere, to be awarded the Feynman Prize, nanoscience’s highest award.

This recognised her work on diamond nanoparticles, which has contributed to the development of chemotherapy treatment for cancer patients.

International research and industry collaboration is a key focus of the National Innovation and Science Agenda given the knowledge-sharing benefits it offers.

I’m glad that over the next four days, the spirit of international collaboration will be on display here.

I wish you the very best in your deliberations.

On that note, I declare ICONN 2016 open.