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Southern Cross University wins millions of research dollars in federal funding


11 December 2002
Southern Cross University is a partner in five new Co-operative Research Centres (CRCs) that will receive a total of $124 million in federal government funding over seven years, Federal Science Minister Peter McGauran announced yesterday.

There were 125 applications for CRCs nationally in this round, of which 20 were awarded funding. Five of those involved Southern Cross University, along with industry partners.

"This will rank us among the top three universities in Australia, for our size, for involvement in Co-operate Research Centres," Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Peter Baverstock, said.

The announcement increases the number of CRCs the University is involved in from three to five, and provides core funding for the University's research programs for the next seven years.

"It's absolutely outstanding: Southern Cross University is guaranteed external research income from these CRCs of at least $4 million a year for the next seven years, so it gives us a firm basis to work from," Professor Baverstock said.

"We hope to use this to double the funding with further grants," he said.

Vice-Chancellor Professor John Rickard commended all those involved.

"This is a tremendous outcome for Southern Cross University, involving as it does all three Divisions (Business; Health and Applied Sciences; and Arts), three of our Special Research Centres, and all of our campuses," Professor Rickard said.

It was also further evidence of the importance of regional universities' involvement in research, despite talk at a federal level of downgrading regional universities to teaching only.

"The outcome from this round of CRC funding clearly shows regional universities have nationally-significant centres of research excellence, and have a role to play in the national innovation system," Professor Rickard said.

The five CRCs are:

* Innovative Grain Foods: has a focus on developing higher quality grain rather than higher production of grain, involving Professor Robert Henry of the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics. It includes partnership with food product manufacturers such as Weston Foods, the Bread Research Institute, and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) which represents all grain growers. A major thrust is also 'nutriceuticals' or foods as medicine, such as the development of grains beneficial for heart disease and diabetes. To this end, Cellulose Valley is a major player, with Professor Stephen Myers of ACCMER (Australian Centre for Complementary Medicine, Education and Research) heading up the Health and Nutrition program, Professor Henry heading up the Genomics program, Associate Professor Slade Lee heading up the Phenomics program, and a major input by the Centre for Phytochemistry across all programs

* Sugar Industry Innovation: brings together Australia's world-leading research groups in sugarcane research involving molecular biology and chemical engineering, one of Australia's major corporations, CSR Sugar, and one of the world's major agricultural biotechnology companies, DuPont. It will assist the sugarcane industry in becoming a renewable 'biofactory', or developing other products from sugarcane to give it a sustainable competitive edge. It involves the University's Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics;

* Sustainable Tourism: Australia's only scientific research and development facility supporting the sustainability of Australia's tourism industry. One of the focuses is on improving the economic and environmental performance of regional tourism. It involves the School of Tourism, Centre for Regional Tourism Research, School of Environmental Science, and College of Indigenous Australian Peoples (CIAP);

* Molecular Plant Breeding: will help ensure the competitiveness of Australian crop and pasture industries, such as wheat, barley, grasses and clovers, currently worth $18 billion annually, by developing the latest molecular technologies and delivering them through crop and pasture breeding programs. It involves the Centre for Plant Conservation Genetics;

* Desert Knowledge: will help develop sustainable businesses in the desert, including providing new desert land uses and management options, and service-based enterprises that provide remote communities with sustainable infrastructure and service options at lower costs. It aims to reduce dependence on external subsidies and provide a better life for all desert people. It will be a carried out in a partnership between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians. It involves Dr Kurt Seemann in the School of Education at the University's Coffs Harbour campus.

For further information contact: Professor Peter Baverstock, Pro Vice-Chancellor & Vice President (Research), Graduate Research College, Southern Cross University, Ph: (02) 6620 3719, or Judi Body in the College, Ph: (02) 6620 3809, or Sara Crowe in the Media Unit at Southern Cross University, Ph: (02) 6620 3144.