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Australia is known globally for the dedication it puts into the research and development of the newest and brightest fields of science and technology, and also, nanotechnology. The country is investing money, time, and their smartest minds into developing nanotechnology so that its various industries, such as agriculture, IT, health, energy, and aeronautics, can benefit from innovations in this field.
Major global industry players in almost all sectors have already benefitted from advances made in Australian nanotechnology, including The Boeing Company and Airbus Deutschland GmbH in the sector of aerospace, Intel and Sony in the IT sector, Merck and Pasteur Institute of France in the healthcare industry and more.
In 2018, the GDP per capita for nanotechnology in Australia was a huge $51,545. The gross domestic product was $1,432,195.2 million, ranking it 13th in the world. These figures demonstrate how Australia is one of the world’s most established players in the nanotechnology industry.
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 that have been 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 that is 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 the use of 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, nanotechnology applications that impact the environment are governed by the Australian Government Department of the Environment, and any other uses of nanomaterials that are not covered by the other governing bodies are managed by Worksafe Australia.
Because of its proactiveness in establishing 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, which had 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. The field of nanotechnology has taken advantage of the infrastructure that is 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, providing 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 secure itself as a leader in nanotechnology. Over a number of years, the state’s government has made considerable contributions to back advances in technology, 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 important innovations in this sector. Companies such as Starpharma Holdings Limited, an ASX 300 company based in Victoria have managed to establish themselves as world leaders in nanotechnology innovations thanks to the supportive, resource-rich, and collaborative environment in Victoria. The region is home to companies both large and small, from those such as Realtek who specialize in producing nano moldings, to those such as Kemix who are well known for their work in significantly advancing the materials used in biotechnology applications, including the production of nanotubes, nanowires, and nanopowders.
Queensland is the second region that is playing a major 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 being 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 are molding the nanotechnology landscape in Queensland.
In addition, there are many world-class universities in the region that offer outstanding programs in nanotechnology education, as well as providing a space for research and collaboration to take place. Institutions that are focussed 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 forward nanotechnology capabilities by training the scientists of tomorrow, as well as bringing together the best minds in collaborative research teams.
The Australian government is known for being highly supportive in research and design in all scientific fields, and 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 these strategies where the government invested billions to support the research and commercialization of nanotechnology. 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.
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 who 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, recent 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 recent survey found that 76% of the public were 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; 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 has been recognized by the Rennie Memorial Medal Award.
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.
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.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr/protecting-the-reef
Nanoscience Solving Coral Reef Problems One Site at a Time. Available at: https://www.reefliferestoration.com/nanoscience
Nanotechnology. Australian Capability Report. Available at: https://nanotech.law.asu.edu/Documents/2009/07/Michael%20Vincent%20Invest%20Australia%20(2008),%20Nanotech%20Report_190_7137.pdf
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.environment.gov.au/marine/gbr/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