$31 million biotech centre to benefit crops, food, energy

Australian crop industries, associated food industries, and emerging industries related to renewable transport fuels and biomaterials will all gain from the new ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Wall Biology.
Photo by Randy Larcombe.

Australian crop industries, associated food industries, and emerging industries related to renewable transport fuels and biomaterials will all gain from the new ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Wall Biology.
Photo by Randy Larcombe.

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Friday, 16 July 2010

Australia's crop and food industries will benefit from a new $31 million biotechnology Centre of Excellence to be headquartered at the University of Adelaide's Waite Campus.

The University has today been awarded $19.25 million in federal funding from the Australian Research Council (ARC), with an additional $12 million of support from partner institutions.

The University's new ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Wall Biology will build an international team of researchers with strong industry links.

Their research will significantly enhance biotechnologies that underpin Australian crop industries valued at more than $8 billion per annum, associated food industries valued at $40 billion per annum, and emerging industries related to renewable transport fuels and biomaterials.

The Centre of Excellence will be led by the University of Adelaide and involves collaboration with the universities of Melbourne and Queensland, and with major research institutions and industry partners in Australia, Scotland, Sweden, Germany and the United States.

The Director of the new Centre of Excellence is Professor Geoff Fincher, who has many years of experience in agricultural and biotechnology research. He will work with senior colleagues Dr Rachel Burton (University of Adelaide), Professor Tony Bacic (University of Melbourne) and Professor Mike Gidley (University of Queensland).

"Plant cell walls contain components that are of major interest for renewable energy production, for the food industry, and for the pulp and paper industries," Professor Fincher says.

"Once the plant has died, most of what is left is material from the cell walls. So there are opportunities to utilise this material in new ways and to add further value to Australia's crop industries.

"The central role of plant cell walls as renewable sources of transport fuels, as new food products, and as a source of raw materials for industrial processes is a huge driver for international research.

"When one considers that about 180 billion tonnes of the cell wall component, cellulose, is renewed on earth every year, it is not surprising that this part of the plant is attracting attention for renewable fuel production. Because humans cannot digest cellulose, the production of cellulosic residues for biofuels does not compete for human food production."

University of Adelaide Vice-Chancellor and President Professor James McWha says the new ARC Centre of Excellence builds on the unique, collaborative research strengths in agriculture and biotechnology at the Waite Campus.

"This world-class centre will be the focal point for the development of new technologies and processes. It will play a key role in enhancing the University's reputation for agricultural research and training, and it will boost our already significant contribution to industry and the community," Professor McWha says.

The University of Adelaide is a key partner in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Particle Physics at the Tera-Scale and the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, which were also announced today.

 

Contact Details

Professor Geoff Fincher
Email: geoff.fincher@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/plant-cell-walls/
Director, ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Cell Walls
Waite Campus
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 7296
Mobile: 0419 821 100


Mr David Ellis
Email: david.ellis@adelaide.edu.au
Website: http://www.adelaide.edu.au/news/
Deputy Director, Media and Corporate Relations
External Relations
The University of Adelaide
Business: +61 8 8313 5414
Mobile: +61 (0)421 612 762