This article was updated on the 6th March, 2023.
Australia is known globally for its dedication to the research and development of the newest and brightest fields of science and technology, including nanotechnology. The country is investing money, time, and its smartest minds into developing next-generation nanotechnologies so that its various industries, such as agriculture, IT, health, energy, and aeronautics, can benefit from innovations in this field.
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On the world stage, Australia is ahead of many of its peers in terms of its nanotechnology expertise. In 2014, the respectable Nature Index placed Australia 12th in the world.
In 2021, it jumped to 8th place, placing it above technology hubs such as Switzerland and Singapore. It is also the only country in the world, apart from China, to have more than one institution appear in Nature Index’s fastest-rising list for nanoscience and nanotechnology in 2020-21.
An Attractive Location for Nanotechnology Research
Known worldwide for its strengths in its robust research and design infrastructure, alongside its enterprising population, supportive government, and stringent IP protection, Australia has become an attractive location to develop nanotechnology, advancing it and finding new applications for it.
Companies based in Australia are emerging as some of the world’s best, with Australia-based Starpharma Holdings recently being named one of the world’s top 20 nanotechnology companies.
With such a strong scientific support base and government funding, nanotechnology research and development is thriving in Australia. This lively environment for nanotechnology is supported by the seven governing bodies established to regulate work relating to nanotechnology, as well as manage the commercial use of the emerging technologies coming out of the vast amount of research occurring in the country.
Each body has been created to regulate a particular area. The National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme (NICNAS) has been established to regulate the use of nanomaterials in cosmetics and consumer goods such as paints, inks, and dyes. The Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) oversees nanotechnologies in the food sector, and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) manages how nanotechnology is used in therapeutic goods and medical devices.
The regulation of the use of nanotechnology within the agriculture sector is governed by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA), and Worksafe Australia regulates how nanomaterials are used in the workplace. Finally, the Australian Government Department of the Environment governs nanotechnology applications that impact the environment. Any other uses of nanomaterials that are not covered by the other governing bodies are managed by Worksafe Australia.
Additionally, recent research has been published that has produced valuable insights concerning how risk governance should be managed in Australia for emerging nanotechnology research. This work is helping to further the expertise of the Australian nanotechnology sector by guiding the development of relevant and necessary systematic methodologies to manage risk governance in this field.
Finally, there is also the Australian National Facility (ANFF), established in 2007, which seems to overcome the challenges faced by research and design in the field of micro and nanofabrication. The organization facilitates companies working in this sector, giving them much-needed access to vital equipment with the goal of helping to further the country’s scientific and economic future.
Due to its proactiveness in establishing the regulation of nanotechnology, Australia has a well-formed definition of nanomaterials, which is helpful to researchers working to establish new applications for these materials.
Research and Design
Even before nanotechnology, the scientific sector in Australia was established as a highly innovative community that supported its scientists and workforce in developing the skills and knowledge to perform cutting-edge research. For example, the country is recognized for being advanced in its clean energy projects, which have successfully helped the country meet a significant milestone in 2021: Australia’s use of renewable energy reached 32.5% of Australia’s total electricity generation. The field of nanotechnology has taken advantage of the infrastructure already in place to allow the country to make significant scientific breakthroughs in nanotechnology.
A network of more than 75 nanotechnology research organizations, as well as over 80 nanotechnology companies, are established in Australia. The country also has a strong academic hub of 40 research-active universities, roughly half of which are active in research concerning nanomaterials and nanotechnology. Therefore, Australia has a strong network to support a growing number of nanotechnology projects
Noteworthy Nanotechnology Regions in Australia
Within Australia, there are two main regions that have become hubs of activity in terms of nanotechnology work and research. The first of these territories is the state of Victoria, in Australia’s southeast region.
Victoria is Australia’s second-largest economy after New South Wales. This advantageous economic position has helped Victoria become a nanotechnology leader. Over several years, the state’s government has made considerable contributions to back technological advances, along with five other key areas of investment, to excel in the research and development occurring in these fields. This has had a positive impact on the rate of growth that nanotechnology has experienced in this region.
As a result, many cutting-edge nanotechnology companies have emerged in Victoria, giving birth to multiple innovations in this sector. Companies such as Starpharma Holdings Limited, an ASX 300 company based in Victoria, have established themselves as world leaders in nanotechnology innovations thanks to Victoria's supportive, resource-rich, and collaborative environment.
The region is home to large and small companies, from Realtek, specializing in producing nano moldings, to Kemix which is well-known for its work in significantly advancing the materials used in biotechnology applications, including the production of nanotubes, nanowires, and nanopowders.
Victoria is also home to the Melbourne Centre for Nanofabrication, a leader in nanofabrication technology and innovation, and an Australian National Fabrication Facility member. The mission of the Centre is to drive innovation in the field by providing open-access design supported by cutting-edge facilities and a high level of expertise.
Queensland is the second region that is playing a significant role in furthering the nanotechnology industry in Australia. Located in the northeast of the country, Queensland also represents a strong economic region within Australia, with around 19% of the country’s GDP generated by this state. While its primary industries include tourism, mining, and farming, technology has also become a major focus in recent years.
The Government of Queensland is dedicated to supporting growth in scientific research, having invested large sums of money into this sector in the last decade. While the focus on scientific research has been motivated to boost the performance of its traditional industries, the Queensland government has also recognized the advantages that investing in new technology could bring.
For this reason, investment has been split over both funding traditional and new technologies, which has seen nanotechnology emerging as a particularly thriving area. More recent investment has focused on this specific area of research and development, leading to important collaborations and growth in skills and knowledge.
Just like in Victoria, this investment has led to the establishment of numerous companies that have become significant in the nanotechnology space. Companies such as Very Small Particle Co. Ltd (VSPC) are leading the way in developing manufacturing processes of metal oxides at the nanoscale, as well as PicaMS who develop new materials through nano-characterization and physical modeling is molding the nanotechnology landscape in Queensland. Graphene Manufacturing Group (GMM) is also located in Queensland, a company leading the way in leveraging nanomaterial graphene in energy-saving and energy-storage applications.
In addition, there are many world-class universities in the region that offer outstanding programs in nanotechnology education, as well as provide a space for research and collaboration to take place. The University of Brisbane, for example, is considered to be one of the country’s highest-performing institutions in nanotechnology and nanoscience; it also appeared in the leading global institutions table for 2021.
Institutions that are focused on nanoscience include the University of Queensland, Griffith University, Queensland University of Technology (QUT), the University of Southern Queensland, Central Queensland University, and Bond University. Together, these institutions are helping to push nanotechnology capabilities forward by training the scientists of tomorrow and bringing together the best minds in collaborative research teams.
The Australian government is known for being highly supportive of research and design in all scientific fields. Recent years have seen it put a lot of money into nanotechnology specifically. Since the beginning of the nanotechnology boom, Australia has pumped money into the industry. In 2004, it was ranked 8th in the world in terms of research and development investment into nanotechnology, having invested AUD 8.4 billion between 2004 and 2005.
The country has a history of initiating long-term, multi-million dollar schemes to support nanotechnology projects. The “Backing Australia’s Ability” is one example of this strategy where the government invested billions to support nanotechnology research and commercialization.
State and territory governments and the private sector also provide significant levels of funding. Government agencies and international research institutes also have a strong record of investing in nanotechnology projects in Australia.
The country has also invested a considerable amount in the establishment of numerous world-class institutions focused on developing nanotechnology, such as the Sydney Nanoscience Hub at the University of Sydney, which cost $150 million.
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The Impact of the Great Barrier Reef on Nanotechnology
The Great Barrier Reef is the largest of the world’s reef systems and is of great ecological and economic importance. It is home to hundreds of species of marine life, including over 1,500 species of fish and 30 species of whales, dolphins, and porpoises. In addition, it serves as one of Australia’s major economic drivers, generating AU$5-6 billion annually.
However, the reef is facing many significant threats. Global warming has led to increased water temperatures, resulting in coral bleaching, which has impacted over half of the reef’s coral. Pollution is another major threat to the future of the reef, with pesticide run-off detrimentally impacting the health of the species that live on the reef.
Due to the Great Barrier Reef’s importance, the Australian government has taken significant action to prevent further damage to the reef as well as to help it recover. In 2018, the government announced that it would be investing AU$393 million over the next five years into new research projects to help scientists gain a deeper understanding of the reef so that they can develop new and effective interventions.
As a result, nanotechnology will see a major boost in investment as recent opinion has put nanotechnology at the forefront of coral reef restoration; for example, research has demonstrated the use of nanoparticles in encouraging the rapid growth of new coral. Funding will support the continued exploration of how nanotechnology can be applied to protecting the Great Barrier Reef, which will likely see innovations emerge in the coming years.
Enhanced Public Awareness
Analysis of the Australian population has found an enhanced public awareness of what nanotechnology is and how we may benefit from it. A survey found that 76% of the public was aware of nanotechnology, and 85% were ‘excited’ or ‘hopeful’ about the outcomes of the science. These findings demonstrate that there is a high level of support and acceptance for nanotechnology in Australia.
Recent Noteworthy Projects
The result of a fantastic research and design infrastructure, significant funding, and an accepting population has generated numerous noteworthy nanotechnology projects, including work being conducted at the Microsoft Quantum Laboratory at Sydney University.
This includes the recognized work of Professor Saleh Sukkarieh, Sidney Nano’s nanorobotics project leader; the development of the trusted provider of firmware solutions for quantum computing technologies, Q-Ctrl; and Dr. Liz New’s work on molecular imaging and medical chemical sensors that the Rennie Memorial Medal Award has recognized.
Future Directions in the Nanotechnology Market
Australia has seen early success in the nanotechnology market, a success which is likely to continue to gain momentum as the country aims to reap the benefits that nanotechnology will bring. It is probable that given the dedication to investment, as well as the vast number of well-renowned nanotechnology companies and institutions, Australia will further cement its position as a leader in nanotechnology. In particular, Australia can be expected to be dominant in quantum computing, nanotube commercialization, and translating nanomaterials into economic benefits.
It should be noted that following Australia’s 2022 federal election, there may be changes to government nanotechnology funding, the impact of which is yet to be revealed.
Get in touch with us if your company is making a significant impact on the Australian nanotechnology market, we would love to hear from you.
References and Further Reading
Australia. Available at: https://statnano.com/country/australia
Genomics and nanotechnology to benefit from $393m research funding boost. Available at https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/may/15/genomics-and-nanotechnology-to-benefit-from-393m-research-funding-boost
Great Barrier Reef Facts. Available at: https://greatbarrierreef.org/about-the-reef/great-barrier-reef-facts/
Managing and protecting the Great Barrier Reef. Available at: https://www.dcceew.gov.au/parks-heritage/great-barrier-reef/protecting
Nanoscience Solving Coral Reef Problems One Site at a Time. Available at: https://www.intellireefs.com/
Nanotechnology. Australian Capability Report. [online]
Nanotechnology in Queensland, Australia: Market Report. Available at: https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3471
Nanotechnology Regulation in Australia. Available at: https://www.science.org.au/curious/technology-future/nanotechnology-regulation-australia
Nanotechnology in Victoria, Australia: Market Report. Available at: https://www.azonano.com/article.aspx?ArticleID=3472
National Nanotechnology Research Strategy. Available at: https://www.science.org.au/files/userfiles/support/reports-and-plans/2015/nanotech-research-strategy.pdf
Science and the Great Barrier Reef. Available at: https://www.dcceew.gov.au/parks-heritage/great-barrier-reef/publications/factsheet-science-and-great-barrier-reef
Small changes mean big opportunities: AINST becomes Sydney Nano. Available at: https://sydney.edu.au/news-opinion/news/2017/11/27/small-changes-mean-big-opportunities--ainst-becomes-sydney-nano.html
About ANFF [online]. ANFF. Available at: https://www.anff.org.au/about-anff
Australia - Country Commercial Guide [online]. International trade Administration. Available at: https://www.trade.gov/country-commercial-guides/australia-clean-technology
Kalantar-Zadeh, K. and Lee, T.R. (2022) “ACS applied Nano Materials Australia Forum,” ACS Applied Nano Materials, 5(9), pp. 12049–12050. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1021/acsanm.2c03752.
Malakar, Y., Lacey, J. and Bertsch, P.M. (2022) “Towards responsible science and technology: How nanotechnology research and development is shaping risk governance practices in Australia,” Humanities and Social Sciences Communications, 9(1). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-021-01028-w.
Nanotechnology Market Size worth USD 60.86 Billion Globally with Excellent Compound Annual Growth Rate of 36% by 2029, Size, Share, Trends, Demand, and Revenue Outlook [online]. PR Newswire.
Plackett, B. (2022) “Teamwork drives Australia’s success in Nanoscience,” Nature [Preprint]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1038/d41586-022-02157-1.
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