Flinders to focus on marine industries biofouling

Australia’s shipbuilding and marine equipment industries will get a major boost with the announcement of a new ARC Industrial Transformation Training Centre for Biofilm Research and Innovation based at Flinders University in Adelaide.

The $5 million centre will attract almost $7.65 million from industry and research partners and explore the microbiological complexities of biofilms commonly found on shipping vessels.

Biofilms cause billions of dollars a year in loss of infrastructure, contamination and cleaning worldwide.

Flinders University coastal and marine expert Associate Professor Sophie Leterme said freight and naval shipping are vital for trade and defence but are impacted by the biofouling which can increase fuel consumption by 40 percent due to additional hull drag and poor manoeuvrability.

Professor Sophie Leterme said: “As well, the attachment of marine organisms to ships’ hulls facilitates their translocation around the globe, and invasive aquatic species transported in this way can threaten biodiversity and cause real economic damage when they become established in new habitats.

“Our laboratory has been working on the characterisation of biofilms on ship hulls and other marine surfaces for several years, and this new centre will train the next wave of experts to make Australia a leader in developing and commercialising sustainable maritime platforms.”

Defence is forecast to spend $270 billion over this decade, a major boost to Australian advanced manufacturing.

Flinders University Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research Impact Professor John Spoehr said the initiative would be great incentive for innovative R&D, linking scientists, postdoctoral and other students to work closely alongside industries with connections to global markets.

Professor Spoehr said: “This project will combine the disciplines of biology, microbiology and nanotechnology through to chemistry, functional materials, engineering and robotics.

“Researchers will work closely with partner organisations in the defence, manufacturing, water management and marine industry sectors.”

Federal minister for education Jason Clare yesterday unveiled the new ARC Training Centre for Biofilm Research and Innovation with five other Industrial Transformation Training Centres in a $29.3 million investment in innovative research and industry collaboration.

The centres will collectively be supported by an additional $57.2 million in funding from partner industries and universities.

The Flinders University centre will work with industry partners, including the South Australian operations of ASC Pty Ltd, BAE Systems, DSTG and Osmoflo.

Other industry partners include Enware Australia, Sparc Technologies, SA Water, Franmarine Underwater Services, DMTC Molino-Zhang and Associates, Environmental Protection Authority, Australian Society for Microbiology and Australasian Corrosion Association.

Picture: Professor Sophie Leterme

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