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Centre to sharpen WA oil and gas strengths

A WORLD-class research and development centre to sharpen the competitive edge of our high export earning oil and gas and marine industries is operating at Curtin University.

In December, Curtin's Centre for Marine Science and Technology (CMST) qualified for funding under the State Government's Centres of Excellence program to support the establishment of an elite research base.

Research with potential to revolutionise activities in ship design and sea floor surveys will be marketed to the oil, gas and sub sea engineering industries, defence industries and high-speed shipbuilding sector.

CMST will operate from Curtin's Bentley campus and a new site at Jervoise Bay with work focusing on marine acoustics, instrumentation, surface vessel hydrodynamics and underwater technology.

Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) executive director Barry Jones said the multi-billion dollar oil and gas industry needed scientific data, that could stand public scrutiny, to guide it on where and when it could drill and explore.

CMST's about-to-be published research assessing the impact of seismic exploration programmes on marine life off the north west coast would be invaluable for establishing environmental guidelines.

"The greater part of what is WA's most important resources comes from very sensitive marine environments and we have to be able to work in them," Mr Jones said.

Australian Shipbuilders Association chairman and Austal Ships managing director Bob McKinnon said WA shipbuilders - who earned more than half of the nation's billion dollar export earnings - were keen to ensure CMST's research was relevant to them.

"These facilities are world class and it's hopeful the research will add to our smart industry's edge."

CMST director Professor John Penrose said while the centre had been established since 1985, the WA Government's awarding of centre of excellence status brought rewards of increased senior staff to raise the sophistication of its programmes.

This would enrich CMST's contribution to industry and enhance national and global marketing.

A current team of 11 scientists had expertise in naval architecture, biology, physics, electrical engineering and acoustics.

An example of CMST's contribution to industry was cited in the software development for Austal Ships's early ride control systems which promote passenger comfort and prevent sea sickness in high speed craft.

The centre was world-renowned for its expertise in yacht technology and had undertaken performance prediction studies for seven America's Cup challenges.

Other local and international clients included the United Nations, the Australian Defence Science and Technology Organisation, Austal Ships, Crowther Multihulls, Stirling Marine Services and the Department of Transport.

Curtin University will contribute over $3.3 million cash and in-kind support over three years and the State Government will provide $670,000.

Additional funds will come from industry contributions for research and global sales of centre products, such as software packages, stereoscopic video systems and acoustic listening systems.

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