THERE are times when a window of opportunity appears only once in a generation.
In the case of Western Australia’s electronic science research and development potential, the light is fading rapidly.
Internecine jealousies between our local universities, the CSIRO and other research institutions are putting WA at risk of taking a lead in this crucial future proof science endeavour.
A case in point is the excellent, world-class program at Edith Cowan University, lead by Professor Kamran Eshraghian. A world leader in electron science and nano technology, he helped create Silicon Valley in the US. His vision of Perth becoming the new ‘electron valley’, and a beacon worldwide for leading edge research and development in this area, is at risk. He is, in fact, being feted by other countries and States, and the offers may be too good to refuse.
Leaders such as Professor Merv Lynch at Curtin University have recognised this and have recommended a genuinely cooperative approach between research bodies in this State, particularly in the e-science area.
A decision is to be made soon as to the outcome of applications for the $21 million Western Australian Major Research Facility.
A decision to choose one of the initial 40 applicants is to be made soon. All are excellent science proposals, ranging through environmental, geological, information science and e-science. Unfortunately the State is not in a position to choose more than one, at this stage.
The present policy is also averse to encouraging the linking of the e-science proposals, including those from ECU and Curtin, probably due to the State’s limited budget.
With a Federal election imminent it is unlikely the Federal Government would favour WA exclusively, to increase the funding for an expanded WAMRF to occur. Also, the WAMRF is presently a uniquely WA-based research centre.
The choosing of the winning bid is, therefore, an onerous task.
A solution is possible.
As WA possesses local industry players both individually and corporately who are able to both invest and attract capital, a body should be formed to represent a particularly WA-centric industry and e-science council.
This would be charged to co-invest in an e-science research institution either with the Government’s major research facility (or facilities) and/or separately with the institutions.
The traditional division between research institutions and industry in the Australian environment has meant missed opportunities for Australia’s intellectual capital development and, therefore, common wealth.
We need this model to be considered as a matter of urgency.Ken Grogan