CSIRO promotes closer collaboration with manufacturers

AMGC NSW and ACT director, Michael Sharpe (left), Chair and CEO of Cumberland Manufacturing Centre, John Wayland (centre) and CSIRO chief scientist, Dr Cathy Foley (right) at the event.

CSIRO’s Lindfield site in Sydney hosted manufacturers in an event aimed at introducing collaborative growth opportunities. Manufacturers’ Monthly reports.

Bringing together scientific research and industry was the purpose of a recent event hosted at the CSIRO’s Lindfield site in northern Sydney, with highlights including a speech from the organisation’s chief scientist, Cathy Foley, and a tour of the facility.

Organised by the CSIRO in collaboration with the Cumberland Manufacturing Centre and the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre (AMGC), the late August event was well-attended by representatives from Australian manufacturing companies seeking to learn more about the ways cutting- edge science could be used for industrial purposes.

One of the CSIRO’s largest research centres, the Lindfield site is home to the Lindfield Collaboration Hub, where tenant startups and SMEs use the available facilities to work on innovative projects aimed at developing new products for commercial markets.

Katie Green, CSIRO’s operations manager at the Lindfield Collaboration Hub, said that it was important for scientists to encourage manufacturers to think differently about the way they do business.

Read: Physicist appointed as CSIRO chief scientist

“CSIRO is trying to engage more actively with industry and today is an opportunity to bring together a group of manufacturers to see what facilities and capabilities the Lindfield site has to offer and to complement this with the knowledge and expertise of the staff,” Green said.

“We are hoping that people walk away with something tangible to help their business go forward and to learn about the opportunities for them to change the way they are operating.”

Also in attendance was the deputy and science director of CSIRO’s manufacturing business unit, Dr Cathy Foley, who was recently appointed as the research body’s chief scientist. In her speech to the gathered attendees, Foley made a pitch for closer collaboration with manufacturers.

“The manufacturing sector has been on an upward slope for the past couple of quarters and we would like to think that you as manufacturers can come to CSIRO and find help to build your businesses,” Foley said.

She gave the example of Medical Developments International (MDI), an Australian medical company that manufactures Penthrox, commonly known as the “green whistle”. Once a small company worth around $3 million, Foley said CSIRO helped them scale up to become a globally competitive company currently valued at over $300 million.

Read: Behind the scenes at CSIRO

“Being chief scientist at CSIRO is a dream job for me, because it allows me to engage with all parts of  the sector in Australia,” Foley told the gathered manufacturers and researchers. “The thing that I really like about it is the idea of being able to connect people together.”

A further focus of the event was putting promoting opportunities for Australian manufacturers in India. A former Indian Army commander, Lt. General Arun Sahni, was in attendance at the invitation of John Wayland, chair and CEO of the Cumberland Manufacturing Centre.

Foley said that CSIRO was a globally-focussed organisation that recognised the need to link with international collaborators. “We only do a small part of the global research and a small part of Australia’s research,” she said. “So, we need to collaborate nationally and internationally to be able to find the best solutions and do the best work. I’m looking forward to engaging with the general and I hope to reciprocate the visit and visit them in India.”

Foley also promoted the activities of AMGC, a government- funded body that promotes and supports innovation in Australian manufacturing. Earlier in the afternoon, participants in the event were able to attend a presentation by AMGC’s NSW and ACT director, Michael Sharpe, who spoke about how the nation’s manufacturing focus was transitioning from traditional production-centred processes to pre- and post-production processes such as research and development and services.

Sharpe also sought to dispel the widely-held notion that manufacturing is “dying” in Australia, reminding those assembled that the sector had been undergoing 22 consecutive months growth.

An exciting feature of the event were tours through the CSIRO’s physics and chemical laboratories, guided by researchers directly involved in cutting-edge projects. Representatives from the manufacturing industry were able to view examples of how the latest scientific work could lead the way to the development of new products and new markets.

One of the laboratories has developed a chemiresistor sensor array, which detects and quantifies organic chemicals in water using the high sensitivity and tuneable selectivity of gold nanoparticle films. Applications of the technology include real-time, on-field environmental monitoring, and for medical testing processes.

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