16/12/2010 - 00:00

Morgan’s collaborative approach

16/12/2010 - 00:00

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THE Western Australian state government’s newly appointed top advisor on industry and technology has identified four sectors he believes the state must target.

Morgan’s collaborative approach

THE Western Australian state government’s newly appointed top advisor on industry and technology has identified four sectors he believes the state must target.

Company director and venture capital investor Charles Morgan, best known within the offshore oil and gas industry, was last week appointed the chair of WA’s new Technology and Industry Advisory Council.

Mr Morgan has also stated that the council will focus on fostering increased collaboration between the three arms of innovation – academia, industry and government.

He named offshore liquid natural gas, mining, health and environment as the areas where investment is most likely to be successful.

“It’s about building on the areas which are actually done every day in Western Australia, whether it’s finding things, mining things, designing things, shipping and processing things,” Mr Morgan said.

“We have to tailor our investments, we have to be very focused about our investments in science and innovation, and we need to make sure that builds on to what we do.”

Mr Morgan said this tailored approach should include investment across the mining and oil and gas industries, but particularly focus on our biggest export, iron ore.

“It’s about iron ore; 80 per cent of the royalties this state gets in mining are from iron ore. So what should we be good at then? We should be good at things that add value to this extraction industry like automation and robotics,” Mr Morgan told WA Business News.

He also said WA scientists had managed to carve out niches in the competitive medical industry, citing the work of Barry Marshall, Fiona Stanley and Ian Constable as examples of where much had been achieved and more could be invested.

The environment was also an area he identified as a unique opportunity for science innovation, but said there were still some areas that had received little attention.

“Take for instance the offshore Kimberley coast. Talking to many people my understanding is that the basic environmental base-line mapping hasn’t been done yet,” Mr Morgan said.

“It’s not about tree-hugging, it’s actually about knowing what the environment is. For example with a $40 billion project, if you’ve got good environmental data there you don’t have to reinvent the wheel and do it again. If you get environmental approval a month early it’s worth hundreds of millions in net present value.”

Mr Morgan’s appointment comes after a 2009 Centre for International Economics report recommended that the original TIAC and fellow advisory group the Science and Innovation Council be disbanded, forming a new council to better advise government and steer investment.

Mr Morgan was first appointed by then science and innovation minister Troy Buswell to chair an interim board tasked with creating a blueprint for the new council.

The interim board presented their proposal in March, but the formation of the new council was delayed until this month after Mr Buswell’s dismissal and the appointment of new minister Bill Marmion, who has since been replaced by John Day.

The revamped TIAC combines the industry and business focus of the original TIAC with the more academic mindset of the Science Innovation Council to create a body that will help guide investment in innovation, while looking at the broader community benefits that could be achieved.

To that end, the council combines members from academia, government and industry, including former deputy premier Mal Bryce, WA chief scientist Lyn Beazley, Nobel Laureate Barry Marshall and Chevron Gorgon general manager Colin Beckett.

TIAC will now use an assessment framework that gives equal weight to scientific merit, community benefit and potential for profit.

“What are the things the government, with its limited resources, can do to best improve the lives of Western Australians in all sorts of ways; what’s it going to do, what’s it going to cost, and what are we going to get out of it,” Mr Morgan said.

“It’s not all about grant money.”

 

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