A $329 million research project is working to answer the question of how Australia and the world can sustainably produce food and energy from our largest resource.
Last week, Minister for Industry, Innovation and Science Karen Andrews launched the Blue Economy Cooperative Research Centre (CRC), which will receive $70 million over the next decade from the Federal Government.
The CRC, based at the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College in Launceston, will bring together 45 local and global partners from industry, academia and the public sector in fields including offshore engineering and renewable energy, marine ecology, aquaculture and sustainable offshore development.
Tasmanian senator Richard Colbeck said the CRC would create 100 high-level engineering, science and research jobs for the state. The project had already secured more than $250 million in cash and in-kind investments by partners before this most recent grant.
“As an island state with strong research capacity, we are globally competitive when it comes to marine-based industries,” Colbeck said in a statement.
Tapping into the sea
The CRC’s research director, Associate Professor Irene Penesis, leads University of Tasmania’s Marine Renewable Energy Research Group. Her research has focused on marine engineering applications for renewable energy devices, including wave and tidal energy.
According to Penesis, Australia has the world’s third largest exclusive economic zone, and is positioned adjacent to the largest markets for seafood and energy.
She added that offshore industries need to be supported to move from coast zones into more operating environments before Australia can tap into the economic benefits. The Australian Maritime College expects that over its 10-year operating life, the Blue Economy CRC will generate more than $4 billion for the national economy.
In its first five years, the CRC will develop and test offshore renewable energy and aquaculture technologies, with an aim to combine them into a single platform. Penesis said the offshore research platform will be a world-first ‘living laboratory’ that will vertically integrate renewable energy and aquaculture with other technologies, including autonomous and remotely operated vehicles.
“We’re confident that it will deliver groundbreaking research alongside commercially viable new materials, concepts, prototypes and monitoring systems – all informed by best practice and delivered in an environmentally sustainable way,” she said in a statement.
According to Professor Stewart Frusher from University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, the CRC will develop new environmental guidelines and policies as part of its research program.
“This CRC provides a unique opportunity to simultaneously support policy development, environmental monitoring and management while securing sustainable and ethical industry expansion,” he added.