Nano collaboration

06/11/2007 - 22:00

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A new centre for nanochemistry research linking Curtin University, the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University has been launched, four years after the concept was proposed.

A new centre for nanochemistry research linking Curtin University, the University of Western Australia and Murdoch University has been launched, four years after the concept was proposed.

The WA Nanochemistry Research Institute, based at Curtin, will connect the research functions of each university and provide a banner for collaboration on projects.

It is being supported by $12 million in funding from the state government.

WANRI’s newly appointed executive director, Dr Eric Bakker, said the insitute’s aim was to be a federal centre of excellence in nanochemistry, involving some cooperation with other Australian universities.

Dr Bakker said that, with the federal government’s tertiary education funding favouring universities with a strong research focus, WANRI would give its participating institutions a higher profile.

“We have to now identify the key structures that work together and use this as a base for going further at a federal level,” he said.

Dr Bakker, who was most recently based in the US, said the institute would create a brand to attract researchers to WA.

Under WANRI, each of the universities will retain their separate research specialisations.

UWA’s Centre for Strategic Nano-fabrication, which opened last month, has a focus on nanotechnology with pharmaceutical applications in medicine and toxicology, as well as forensics.

Curtin’s Nanochemistry Research Institute, which provided a pilot model for WANRI, has a core focus on surface chemistry research, including the study of molecular-level scaling, which has applications for the mining industry.

Its other research areas include energy, nano-forensics and chemical sensors, with the latter being used in clinical diagnostics.

In nanotechnology, Murdoch University has chosen to concentrate on education more that the research focus of the other two institutions.

Dr Bakker said that, although WANRI would be based at Curtin, it would be a joint venture.

“It’s very important that all three universities are equally represented,” he told WA Business News. 

While there is existing collaboration on research projects, Dr Bakker said WANRI would encourage further cross-institutional engagement.

“We are trying to ensure there is not too much parallel duplication of effort,” he said.

WANRI’s funding, which began in 2006, will amount to $12 million over five years. The institute is also hoping to source funding from the private sector, particularly the mining industry, which has affiliations with all three universities. 

Dr Bakker said he hoped the mining industry would support WANRI both financially and in its research goals, in order for the institute to work on more sophisticated technology.

“I would like industry to come to us with the really important, difficult problems, resulting in long-term partnerships,” he said. “What we hope that WANRI will do is increase our visibility.”

WANRI will be governed by an executive committee with representatives from all three universities.

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