Lithium, wheat projects receive ARC funding

Students at the University of Adelaide's North Terrace campus

Two projects led by University of Adelaide researchers have been awarded funding from the Mid-Career Industry Fellowships scheme.

The University of Adelaide has been awarded almost $2 million in Mid-Career Industry Fellowships scheme grants by the Australian Research Council (ARC).

The two successful projects aim to secure the pipeline of lithium to assist the transition to renewable energy, and to unlock the full reproductive potential for hybrid wheat breeding, respectively.

Professor Peter Høj AC, Vice-Chancellor and President, University of Adelaide, congratulated the researchers on securing the funding for their projects.

“This is a fantastic result that will allow our experts, in partnership with industry and government, to undertake important research in two critical areas,” Professor Høj said.

“Renewable energy and food security are two of the most pressing issues facing society today and into the future.

“The University of Adelaide is proud to produce world-leading research that helps to make a difference.”

Associate Professor Carl Spandler, from the School of Physics, Chemistry and Earth Sciences, is leading a project that aims to secure the pipeline of lithium for the transition to renewable energy. The project has received $1,013,416 in funding.

This project aims to fast-track new lithium resource discoveries, both from conventional hard rock deposits in Australia and newly emerging targets such as saline groundwater reservoirs.

It will accelerate the ability to determine how and where lithium ore deposits form in the Australian continent, and develop novel mineral-based exploration tools for rapid and cost-effective discovery of new deposits.

This will be advanced by a strong collaboration between the minerals industry, government and academia, benefitting Australia as a dominant global lithium supplier by realising the potential of its enormous lithium resources.

Dr Ryan Whitford, a plant molecular biologist from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, will head a project that aims to improve wheat’s female receptivity to airborne pollen. The project has received $980,358 in funding.

Globally, wheat is cultivated as an inbred self-fertile crop with yield gains stagnating over the last decades.

This contrasts with unabated yield gains and yield stability achieved for rice and corn through hybrid breeding and cross-pollination.

Wheat hybrids hold potential for a 10 to 22 per cent yield boost, but commercial deployment is restricted due to high seed production costs, a result of wheat’s floral architecture and poor outcrossing characteristics.

Improving wheat’s female receptivity to airborne pollen will reduce costs, which is a major bottleneck to commercial realisation of hybrids globally.

The ARC Mid-Career Industry Fellowship scheme aims to:

  • Strengthen the industry collaboration skills of mid-career researchers
  • Encourage uptake of a wider range of career options for established researchers
  • Supervise and develop future research and nurture their development of collaboration, commercialisation and translation skills; and
  • Deliver significant, actionable outcomes for industry partners and end users.
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