Federal government to spend AU$5.95m on joint research with China

The Australian government has announced six research centres in partnership with China in a bid to strengthen innovation and science links between the two countries.

Australia and China have strengthened ties overnight, announcing six new Joint Research Centres to address challenges both countries face in the marine science, food and agribusiness, and mining equipment technology and services sectors.

At a cost of AU$5.95 million, the six centres will be funded for three years under the Australia-China Science and Research Fund (ACSRF), which supports strategic science, technology, and innovation collaboration considered of mutual benefit to both countries.

The Joint Research Centres are virtual centres which link Australian and Chinese research institutions, with the government hoping to achieve outcomes beyond that which can be achieved with individual research projects.

"These grants, totalling AU$5.95 million, support the objectives of the National Innovation and Science Agenda, and help Australian research institutions build links with China -- a growing science power and important collaborative partner for Australia in science and research," Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Christopher Pyne said.

"This will build Australia's research capacity, forge strategic alliances, and increase commercialisation and application of research outcomes, boosting innovation and international competitiveness."

Joint Research Centres will also receive co-investment from the Chinese government through the partnering Chinese institution, Pyne said.

Recipients of the Joint Research Centres grant are: University of Adelaide and the Shanghai Jiao Tong University to develop new cereal grains with long term health benefits; University of Melbourne and Chinese Agricultural University to investigate healthy soils for sustainable food production; Swinburne University of Technology and First Institute of Oceanography of the State Oceanic Administrations to develop a new generation of models to forecast and describe ocean and wave climatology; the Australian Institute of Marine Science and Institute of Oceanology, Chinese Academy of Sciences to explore the translation of data into management solutions for coastal pollution and ecosystem safety; the University of South Australia and Central South University to develop in-line chemical and mineral sensing for sustainable mineral processing; and Monash University and Soochow University, which are researching dairy industry manufacturing process efficiencies and new high-value products.

Previously, Pyne said Shanghai was being positioned by the Chinese government as a global centre for technology, innovation, and entrepreneurship when he announced Shanghai as the desired location for one of its five startup landing pads across the globe.

He said a landing pad in Shanghai would further strengthen Australia's trade relationship with China, and the city's history of commerce and entrepreneurship makes it a good entry point to the huge Chinese market.

The AU$11 million startup landing pad initiative was designed to help Australian entrepreneurs bring their ideas to market and build high-growth and high-return enterprises, and forms part of the government's AU$1.1 billion National Innovation and Science Agenda.

In addition to Shanghai, the first pad kicked off in Silicon Valley at RocketSpace, which has been working with tech startups and corporate innovation professionals since 2011. The second space will be in Tel Aviv and the remaining two are expected to be positioned in Europe and in another city in Asia.

Earlier this week, Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk signed an agreement with the Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology, the government agency responsible for steering China's science and technology development.

Under the agreement, Queensland entrepreneurs and researchers will take part in placements within China's science and technology incubators, at a rate of eight per year, for the next three years.

"We know innovation can lead to big economic growth," Palaszczuk said. "Through mentoring, local business links, access to world-class facilities, and some of China's leading business and science experts, incubators are the perfect environment to prototype, test, attract investment, and commercialise innovative ideas."