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NZ maintains access to Australian Synchrotron

Hon Steven Joyce
Minister of Science & Innovation
2 April 2013 Media Statement
NZ maintains access to Australian Synchrotron

New Zealand will continue to invest in the Australian Synchrotron research facility to provide access for New Zealand scientists, says Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce.

New Zealand will contribute A$5 million over four years towards the operating costs of the Australian Synchrotron, which is the largest piece of scientific infrastructure in the Southern hemisphere. The Synchrotron provides scientists with an intense light that can be used to study the structure and composition of materials.

“This continued investment ensures that New Zealand scientists will get preferential access to leading-edge research technology. Synchrotron science has applications across a wide range of scientific disciplines highly relevant to New Zealand,” Mr Joyce says.

“For example, Massey University has used the synchrotron to determine the structural basis for the differing strength of sheep and beef leather. This has the potential to increase returns from the sheep industry by about $150 million per annum.”

“New Zealand’s involvement in the facility is an excellent example of Trans-Tasman cooperation and international scientific collaboration.”

The government and New Zealand research sector previously contributed $6.27 million (A$5m) towards building the facility and over the last five years has contributed $4.39m (A$3.5m) towards its running costs. This investment helped to ensure that New Zealand scientists had preferred access to the facility since it opened.

“Since opening in 2009, the Australian Synchrotron’s performance has been on a par with the best in world, and New Zealand scientists have been making the most of this opportunity. Nearly 20 per cent of the research published in 2011 arising from the use of the Australian Synchrotron was based on New Zealand-led research.”

The government will contribute up to 53 per cent ($2.95m) of New Zealand’s operational funding committed for the three-year period from July 2013, with the remainder coming from shareholders of the New Zealand Synchrotron Group, who are all New Zealand research organisations.


New Zealand’s investment in the Australian Synchrotron - Q and A

What is a synchrotron?

A synchrotron is a source of highly intense light ranging from infra-red to hard x-rays used for a wide variety of research purposes. Synchrotron science offers a powerful experimental tool to study the structure and composition of materials, with applications across a wide range of scientific disciplines relevant to New Zealand. The Australian Synchrotron adjacent to Monash University in Melbourne is the only southern hemisphere synchrotron facility and is the largest stand-alone piece of scientific infrastructure in the southern hemisphere.

How does this investment compare with our previous investment?
Previously New Zealand invested A$8.5 million to build and operate the facility. Of this amount, A$5 million was contributed towards capital costs (i.e. contribution to designing and constructing the synchrotron). The A$5 million going forward is for operating costs only. This represents an increase of 43% over the total operating contribution paid up to June 2012 of A$3.54 million.

Why are we investing in this facility?

It provides significant benefits to New Zealand researchers and ultimately the New Zealand economy. Synchrotron science offers valuable experimental techniques that appreciably enhance research productivity and outputs in areas that are highly relevant to New Zealand.

There are already a number of potential commercial opportunities that are being developed as a result of the work undertaken by New Zealand researchers at the Australian Synchrotron.

What are the benefits to date?

Since commencing full operations in 2009 the Australian Synchrotron’s performance has been on a par with the best in the world.

Other examples of projects which have benefited from the facility include:
• Callaghan Innovation (previously Industrial Research Ltd) has undertaken work to analyse mechanisms to control corrosion of pipelines. The work involves collaboration with business and has significant potential to prevent costly oil and gas pipeline corrosion failure.
• Victoria University has determined the crystalline phases of nanoparticles of precious metals chemically bound to the surface of natural and synthetic fibres. This work has the potential to change the properties of textiles and plastics.
• The University of Auckland has used the synchrotron to determine the structures of pili proteins in bacteria responsible for a range of diseases. The findings have results in high impact publications and new international collaborations. In future these findings may be useful for those developing new drugs and vaccines.

What is the NZ Synchrotron Group (NZSG)?

The NZSG is a company which was formed to provide the vehicle for New Zealand’s participation in the Australian Synchrotron. A wide range of New Zealand research institutions are shareholders in the NZSG, and are contributing to the new operational investment in the Australian Synchrotron.

ENDS

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