Water Journal : Current Feb 2016
www.awa.asn.au 36 Sustainability research NEW BEGINNINGS While some research and development facilities are closing their doors, steps are being taken to hold on to intellectual property (IP) generated. NATIONAL CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE IN DESALINATION ESTIMATED WRAP-UP JUNE 2016 CEO Neil Palmer is working with research and industry partners to prepare an application for round 17 of the CRC program, as research with the current centre is expected to wrap-up before June. He expects it to focus on impaired resources such as saline groundwater, municipal and agricultural wastewater, seawater, and oil- and gas-produced water. AUSTRALIAN WATER RECYCLING CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE ESTIMATED WRAP-UP SEPTEMBER 2016 Begun with a Federal grant in 2010, the Centre's mandate was to develop industry relevant IP to benefit Australia's water sector. CEO Mark O'Donohue said the water sector's interest in key project outcomes is helping shape the Centre's approach to establishing legacy arrangements for the development and implementation of these program outcomes beyond its final report. NATIONAL WATER COMMISSION CLOSED DECEMBER 2014 With the National Water Commission Act of 2004 repealed, the commission closed its doors. The Productivity Commission has taken over assessing progress towards the National Water Initiative objectives. The Department of the Environment is responsible for providing implementation updates on the National Water Initiative to the Clean Energy Regulator. The Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics is now monitoring water markets and the Bureau of Meteorology is continuing the national urban performance reports. tended toward a cyclical nature. "When there is a water shortage, we see higher priority given to water R&D," he said. "But we are seeing funding from the Federal Government increasingly following industry-led innovation. In the water industry, there is a lag in innovation because it can be conservative. "Our research is often industry led, but it's not Australian industry -- it's Chinese industry. We're finding industry in other countries much more willing to take a risk and invest in R&D, because they see that as the future for their industry. That's not the case at this point in Australia." KEEPING FUNDING FLOWING But even as research funding flows have lessened, many Australian research centres are thriving. In the case of UNSW's Water Research Centre, Waite says diverse research activity has been vital to keeping it growing successfully. "When one area perhaps becomes less topical or well funded, another area is there to perhaps pick up, and step in and take over," he said, adding that there are some key components for successful research centres. "One is good funding from government and industry, and that comes from doing great, wide-ranging research. The other is publication, in both high-quality, peer-reviewed journals and in the more problem-oriented consulting reports that have been a benefit to the industry." The importance of delivering solutions to industry problems is echoed by Professor Zhiguo Yuan, Director of the University of Queensland's Advanced Water Management Centre [AWMC]. "In the last 10 to 15 years, we have been very strongly focusing on the partnership between industry and universities," he said. "Researchers must strongly link their research to the reality and work with the industry to identity the right problems to solve." "[AWMC] has roadshows across Australian capital cities to present our latest research outcomes and ideas, to see which ones interest our industry partners, and also to discuss with our partners what water problems they have," he said. "That interaction has been very beneficial. Based on that sort of communication, we developed a lot of collaborative research projects, between the centre and our partners. "When you work very closely together, any solutions you deliver can find its way to practice, to implementation. That real world implementation of science and technologies is critical because then, from our perspective, we see the impact of our research from the industry." SWIMMING WITH THE TIDE When the Australian Water Association surveyed its members last year, research into sustainable water management was judged as the third most important sector for reform, after asset maintenance, and increasing the operational efficiency. In fact, more than a third identified it as the top priority. But there are reasons to be positive. Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has made it clear that he wants his government to also be known for making innovation and research a top priority [see breakout box, previous page]. And with the Bureau of Meteorology's recent Water in Australia highlighting the extent of Australia's drying trend, a renewed focus on sustainability research is easy to envision. "We are heading into another period of drought, so we may see more pressure to again fund water R&D," UNSW's Professor T David Waite said.
Water Journal November 2015
Current May 2016