All posts by Operations

Improving agriculture, together

A new approach to horticultural spraying could be the result of a collaboration between design students from Kyoto Institute of Technology and Swinburne University in Melbourne.

“Yanmar is a manufacturer of farm machinery, and they asked us to solve a big problem for grape-growers,” says Natsumi Takamatsu, a design student at Kyoto.

“What we developed was a sprayer to mitigate the drift of sprayed agricultural chemicals. Really it was the actual viticulturists when we interviewed them and they were saying things like ‘If only I had something like this.’”

“Australia and Japan enjoy the seasons at opposite times of the year so we can conduct field research in the vineyards all year,” says Yoshiro Ono from Kyoto Institute of Technology.

Harnessing the sun and improving agriculture

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries have built a pilot concentrated solar power plant in Yokohama. It uses CSIRO technology now being manufactured by South Australian company Heliostat SA.

“We’re making seven-and-a-half-metre square solar mirrors,” says David Linder-Patton, the CEO of Heliostat SA.

They focus the sun’s energy into a tower receiver that generates heat which can be used in industries such as steel manufacturing, brick processing and mineral refining.

The Mitsubishi plant will test their technology on receivers they have developed and also CSIRO’s suntracking technology and heliostat manufacturing.

“Working with companies the size of Mitsubishi helps us to get to industrial scale a lot quicker than we could do otherwise,” says David.

Making mining safer


In Western Australia’s Pilbara iron ore mines, a fleet of robot trucks are moving more than a billion tonnes of dirt and rock. The giant trucks carry 350 tonnes in every load. They’ve been developed over the past decade in partnership with Komatsu.

“Rio Tinto and Japan’s Komatsu came together to produce not just the robots but a technology that is immensely useful to Rio Tinto.

Putting those things together has produced a fantastic result,” says Tetsuji Ohashi, the CEO of Komatsu.

“Mining in the future is all about moving lots and lots of material more efficiently,” says Michael Gollschewski, the MD of Rio Tinto’s Pilbara mines.

“Today we’ve got controllers sitting in the operation centre in Perth, overseeing 72 autonomous trucks 1500 km away in the Pilbara across three different sites. It’s amazing,” he says. 

Repairing teeth together


Across Japan teeth are being made stronger with chewing gum and other products using an ingredient discovered in Australian dairy milk.

Now an innovative Japanese company is taking the Australian discovery to dental surgeries around the world.

“Our discovery was based on milk, to develop a delivery system of calcium phosphate to make teeth stronger,” says Eric Reynolds, from The University of Melbourne.

Clinical trials of the chewing gum showed that it helps stop tooth decay and helps reverse early stages of tooth decay.

“The Recaldent chewing gum was very successful in Japan and the leading dental supply company in Japan, GC Corporation, then became interested in the technology.”

“We’ve developed materials for repair of tooth decay and damage but now we’re focusing on prevention and protection collaborating with Melbourne University,” says Satoshi Tosaki from GC Corporation.

“One of those products is a cream, in Australia it’s called Tooth Mousse, that’s sold to dentists to strengthen patients’ teeth and that’s now sold in more than 50 countries worldwide,” he says.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with GC because I’ve learnt a lot from them in terms of business. But I think the most gratifying thing is that their products actually help people, and substantially reduce the burden of oral disease,” Eric says.

Fighting disease together

Malaria kills 500,000 people every year. And 90 per cent of those are children. Griffith University researchers are screening hundreds of thousands of compounds supplied by Japanese companies to find the right compound with activity against the malaria parasite.

Japan’s Global Health Innovative Technology Fund is supporting the research as part of their search for new ways to fight malaria.

“GHIT is a fund that invests in partnerships between Japanese and non-Japanese entities,” says BT Slingsby, the Executive Director of GHIT.

“Many of those entities are in Australia including The University of Melbourne, The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute, and Griffith University.”

“Currently we’re working with companies such as Daiichi-Sankyo, Takeda, Mitsubishi Tanabe, and Eisai,” says Griffith University’s Vicky Avery. 

They bring those compounds to us. We then dispense them into plates which contain the parasite we’re trying to kill.  After they’ve been incubated for a period of time we then look to see whether they’ve had an effect in killing the parasites.

“Once one defines a hit, usually it’s the pharmaceutical company that drives forward the further development of that compound to create a drug.

“This collaboration is fantastic in that it has three groups who complement each other,” Vicky says.

The Japanese pharma companies bring expertise in drug discovery and development.  GHIT has managed to pull together significant funding from both global partners as well as the Japanese Government. And Griffith University brings the biology expertise.

Touch of silk to repair ruptured eardrums

A transparent, silk-derived implant that looks like a contact lens and can fix damaged eardrums is giving hope to millions who suffer from recurrent ear infections.

Creators of the device—from the Australian Research Council’s Future Fibres Research Hub and the Perth-based Ear Science Institute Australia (ESIA)—secured funding to start human clinical trials with it in Australia in 2018.

The implant, called ClearDrum, is made from silk protein that forms a see-through scaffold on which cells can grow to close eardrum perforations. Continue reading Touch of silk to repair ruptured eardrums

The dream to get every Australian connected online

A new index on digital inclusion is setting out a path for all Australians to get the vital benefits that come with internet access.

Information and communication technologies have become near-essential for everyday life, but many people in low income, remote and vulnerable communities can’t access them. Continue reading The dream to get every Australian connected online

Seeing medical devices from concept to commercialisation

It’s difficult to get medical devices out of academia and industry and into end-users’ hands. But a South Australian researcher developed a way to do it—and the program is now set to expand nationally, thanks to funding from the Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals Industry Growth Centre.

Devices the program has supported include the U-stand Frame—which helps hospital patients or the elderly stand from a bed with minimal assistance—and a device placed in urinals that gives instant feedback on hydration, to address the impact of heat stress on worker safety. Continue reading Seeing medical devices from concept to commercialisation

Turning off toxic T cells in MS clinical trial

Switching off T cells before they begin to damage the nervous system is the basis of an Australian therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS), which is expected to begin clinical trials by the end of 2017.

Developed by researchers at Victoria University in western Melbourne and the University of Patras in Greece, it brings together peptides, or protein fragments, with a biochemical delivery system already shown to be effective in cancer vaccine clinical trials. Continue reading Turning off toxic T cells in MS clinical trial