Rustic appearance belies a fertile vision

HIDDEN away on a quiet property in South Canning Vale, the seed of a bold vision for science and technology in WA is taking root.

Behind a scene of grazing farm animals and a rustic wooden hay shed, the vision and insight of C Y O’Connor has inspired great grandson Professor Roger Dawkins to pursue a unique and exciting development.

And support worth $550,000 from the Federal Government’s business incubator funding will provide the support necessary to begin development of the incubators in the high-tech village.

The vision for the C Y O’Connor Education, Research and Development Employment or ERADE scientific village stretches beyond the bounds of Professor Dawkins’ Melaleuka Stud.

The multi-million dollar development slated for the 14-acre property on the corner of Warton and Nicholson roads is an exciting vision for the future community.

Initial plans for the major development drawn up by architect Simon Andersen include retail and commercial premises, an outdoor amphitheatre and mixed-use residential and commercial structures.

Located in one of the WA’s most rapidly expanding regions, the site for the high-tech village lies just two kilometres from new residential estates in Canning Vale and just 17 kilometres south-east of Perth.

The master plan positions the C Y O’Connor ERADE Village within a larger residential and commercial development.

Professor Dawkins’ Melaleuka Stud, originally a cattle farm, has a long association with scientific research and development.

For many years this site has hosted the laboratories for the Immunogenetics Research Foundation Incorporated, a charitable organisation supporting DNA research.

The centre, part of the University of Western Australia’s Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, has undertaken study into the treatment and under-standing of arthritis, diabetes haemo-chromatosis and psoriasis, tissue rejection and forensic pathology.

The federal funding will allow development to begin on the research incubators, estimated to cost $1.07 million in total, which will provide accommodation for up to 30 start-up enterprises.

The foundation stone for the development will be laid on February 7, at which time the final plans for the development will be released.

“The Dawkins family donated the land the incubators will be occupying,” laboratory manager Dr Joseph Williamson said.

“They donated the land to the foundation, which is providing half the funding and the land.”

The incubators will differ from other technology villages in that the emphasis is on high tech IT and DNA research.

The facilities will allow post-doctorate researchers to utilise the infrastructure to continue development of ideas through to commercial application.

It is hoped that, in the future, the village will include patent lawyers to work with other professionals to take products and ideas to the market.

“The incubators are essentially a stepping stone for companies that haven’t reached the stage of shop front but are past the garage stage,” Dr Williamson said.

“This is a visionary development and, to some extent, it’s fairly unique.

“People who come here normally do a particular project on their sabbatical and bring their family. Before it had been fairly difficult to accommodate.”

The accommodation within the village will allow visiting intellectuals to maximise their time in Perth, delivering bigger returns to the intellectual community here.

The C Y O’Connor ERADE Village has been inspired by the lack of opportunities for bright young researchers in WA and Australia.

Typically, young Australian PhD students travel overseas immediately after completing their PhD to work in prestigious, well-funded laboratories.

Even at this time, two of the IRF’s researchers are about to leave for temporary positions in collaborating laboratories in other parts of the world.

The C Y O’Connor ERADE Village will bring together researchers from a number of fields working on a range of different projects.

The diverse nature of these projects presents exciting opportunities for innovative collaborative developments.

The close relationship between the research and development and the community will allow people to experience first hand the important role of R&D.

“The hope is that the centre will attract post-doctorate people from other places,” Dr Williamson said.

“It will be used by people who have finished their PhD who need the opportunity to develop (their research) to the next step.

“Firstly it will give post-doctorate people an opportunity to work in an environment where they can develop their own project and interact with a lot of other people.”

It’s hoped that the incubators will attract a diverse range of professionals, including engineers and software developers, and the interaction between the different disciplines is expected to produce some of the most exciting work.

A major international corporation already has assessed the site with a view to establishing a research and development facility.

IRF deputy director Dr Silvana Gaudieri said the C Y O’Connor ERADE Village currently was seeking private investment to fund the future stages of the development.

“We also hope that the universities will see fit to be part of this project,” Dr Gaudieri said.

“The incubators are aimed at young investigators, some of whom will come from universities.

“The environment will be conducive to inventive-type ideas.”

Many other technology parks in Australia are inhabited by large pharmaceutical companies that are not interested in sharing ideas or collaboration for competitive reasons. The ERADE Village set up is not unique in an international context and similar developments exist in Cambridge in the UK, with impressive results.

Interaction with the general public living in the community in the future is part of the strategy for the Village.

Education is an important part of any research, and development and public education, including public lectures, will fit into that ethos.

The final goal for the C Y O’Connor ERADE Village is self-sustainability, and this is set out in the funding guidelines from the Federal Government.

But, in part, the success of the village will be measured not just by the work undertaken in the incubators but by the harmony of the community, which includes the future residents of the housing estates that wrap around the village.

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