Let’s talk about science

December 16, 2021

Embedding science into everyday conversations about jobs, industry, education and policy is key to building a resilient, robust and complex economy.

This was the common theme of a recent GMC Connect panel discussion featuring CSIRO Chief Scientist, Professor Bronwyn Fox, and Deputy Opposition Leader, the Hon Richard Marles MP.

Australian manufacturing and our economic growth generally depend on attracting a growing talent pool to science jobs – and while our research and science outcomes are currently world-leading, we have a poor record of commercialising the results.

Professor Fox highlighted the importance of collaboration in successfully commercialising R&D. She said connecting Australian organisations to potential partners around the world was critical.

She said major opportunities were emerging in hydrogen applications and in commercial aerospace.  While we are still understanding the hydrogen challenges and manufacturing opportunities, such as the complex refuelling process and storage needs, organisations such as Marand and Quickstep were already working in the aerospace sector. The growing market in commercial drones and air mobility had seen Quickstep recently announce a new drones centre of excellence in Waurn Ponds, she said.

Prof Fox shared insights into her most recent project: fully automated carbon fibre component manufacture as part of the $15 million Industry 4.0 Composites test lab in her former role at Swinburne University, in a collaboration with CSIRO.

Member for Corio, Richard Marles, said Australia must be willing to pick our manufacturing strengths and commit resources to developing those strengths. Where could we reasonable expect to lead the world? High tech applications in mining, agriculture and transport technology were among our best opportunities, he said.

He said Australia currently sits at 86th on the Harvard Index of Economic Complexity, a world ranking that places the industrial capabilities and knowhow of a country at the heart of its growth prospects. The index shows Australia’s economy as largely reliant on primary industry.

He said it was vital that we put a high value on careers in science and ensured a more general understanding in the community of concepts. “We need to make science mainstream,” he said. “How many people know about the square kilometre array – which will enable us to see back to the origins of the universe? The biggest science project in the world and it is located in Australia, in WA. We don’t talk about that enough,” he said.