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MEI Online: General Minerals Engineering: Latest News: September 29th 2010


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:: AMIRA Research is Recognised at the Highest International Academic Levels

In the minds of many academics pure science and applied research are worlds apart, yet an applied research centre at The University of Western Australia last year produced a third of the University’s publications into Nature and Science, all from AMIRA co-funded projects, demonstrating that astute research project design can ensure outcomes that satisfy both academic and industry priorities.

The Centre for Exploration and Targeting (CET) based at UWA, promotes a philosophy that applied research and pure science are two sides of the same coin. CET-AMIRA research projects have achieved a high success rate in their ARC Linkage bids. CET has also won a much coveted ARC Discovery Grant (in 2008) - a grant always associated with pure science research - based on research related to AMIRA-funded projects. Outcomes from the ARC Discovery Grant are already being applied to relevant industry programs, bringing value and deeper scientific understanding back to applied projects. “AMIRA is key to the CET’s success," according to CET Assistant Professor Dr Marco Fiorentini. “As the premier research broker for the minerals industry, AMIRA has the ability to tap into industry to identify challenges needing resolution, and funding to resolve them. We have had an excellent relationship with AMIRA for more than two decades and UWA has been involved in more than $8 million worth of research brokered through them." He said CET, like AMIRA, started with the actual problem in the real world and worked back to identify the fundamental science question needing resolution. This is a paradigm shift from the traditional approach of many pure science researchers who investigate basic processes and then go looking for the application.

Created as a joint venture between UWA, Curtin University of Technology, the exploration industry and the WA Government, the CET is aimed squarely at the mineral industry’s need to increase the discovery rate of new high quality mineral deposits. In essence, the CET is a gateway linking industry with academia, and is therefore a natural partner with AMIRA.

“Since mineral deposits are essentially ‘freaks of nature’, in that they are anomalous expressions of much larger earth processes, if you want to understand them, you have to understand how the planet works," Dr Fiorentini said. “Every question that comes from industry has at its core a fundamental science question."

Walking the balance between industry confidentiality and academically publishable results has not been an issue for CET according to Dr Fiorentini. He said the solution to the specific industry problem was the commercially sensitive aspect of the research, but the fundamental science solution was often not.

“The role of CET is to help create a competitive advantage, not destroy it. Similarly, partner companies have been sensitive to our need to publish. A balance can always be struck."

While the academic success of the CET is underpinned by its international team of leading scientists and researchers, the Centre’s financial success is underpinned by highly astute business practices.

“CET’s business works in two ways. Firstly we encourage academics to realise the value of their research, when it is properly focussed, to industry. Secondly we educate our industry partners on the real cost of research so that the research is fully costed, and the research teams are sustainable," Dr Fiorentini said. “We have learnt to cost out the budget clearly and look for opportunities such as ARC grants, working with AMIRA to link up with the right projects and industry funding to leverage support for pure science as well as higher quality applied outcomes and deliverables for industry. “We see the science that needs to be done, we connect it with industry and then build the funding model to suit the specific project. I think you can unlock funding opportunities by knowing how to leverage them for your industry partners. “It’s fair to say that the CET in alliance with AMIRA has changed the perception of academics towards the high impact of industry-focussed research and the value proposition of fundamental research to industry."

CET is currently a key research partner in the AMIRA P934A WAXI-2 project over West Africa and formerly with many similar projects in the Yilgarn Block of Western Australia.




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