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Benefits of trans-Tasman scientific co-operation

Hon Dr Michael Cullen
Minister of Finance

21 February 2006 Media Statement

Synchrotron visit underlines benefits of trans-Tasman scientific co-operation

Finance Minister Michael Cullen said his visit to the Australian synchrotron project today underlined the importance of science in the government's plans to transform the New Zealand economy.

New Zealand is one of the foundation investors in the synchrotron which is due to open in early 2007.

“I enjoyed seeing the synchrotron at this advanced stage of the construction as it gave me a chance to understand the role that our companies and scientists are playing in the commissioning of the facility," said Dr Cullen.

A New Zealand consortium made up of crown research institutes and universities in partnership with the government is investing over $9m in the project. This will ensure preferential access and IP rights for New Zealand scientists.

“Our investment reinforces the government's commitment to ensure our scientists are equipped with the state-of-the-art infrastructure they need to maximise the potential of research," said Dr Cullen.

"Our involvement is also another example of the strong ties between New Zealand and Australia and will undoubtedly further strengthen trans-Tasman science links.

"It is especially pleasing to see that two NZ companies, CMS Alphatech and Buckley Systems, have won contracts valued at over $6m for supplying two hundred magnets to the synchrotron," Dr Cullen concluded.

The visit coincides with Dr Cullen’s annual meeting with his Australian counterpart, Treasurer Peter Costello.



A synchrotron is a large machine (about the size of a football field) that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. As the electrons are deflected through magnetic fields they create extremely bright light.

The light is channelled down beamlines to experimental workstations where it is used for research.

Synchrotron light is advancing research and development in fields as diverse as:

- biosciences (protein crystallography and cell biology);

- medical research (microbiology, disease mechanisms);

- high resolution imaging and cancer radiation therapy);

- environmental sciences (toxicology, atmospheric research, clean combustion and cleaner industrial production technologies);

- agriculture (plant genomics, soil studies, animal and plant imaging);

- minerals exploration (rapid analysis of drill core samples, comprehensive characterisation of ores for ease of mineral processing);

- advanced materials (nanostructured materials, intelligent polymers, ceramics, light metals and alloys, electronic and magnetic materials);

- engineering (imaging of industrial processes in real time, high resolution imaging of cracks and defects in structures, the operation of catalysts in large chemical engineering processes);

- forensics (identification of suspects from extremely small and dilute samples).

The total cost of construction of the Australian Synchrotron is in excess of A$200 million. The total New Zealand foundation investment is A$5m capital and A$750,000pa operating expenditure over five years.

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