[ASC-media] Urgent need for environment biotech researchers

Jenni Metcalfe jenni at econnect.com.au
Tue Nov 29 17:39:06 EST 2005

 Brain drain overseas and to established biotechnologies


The potential for Australia to earn billions from environmental biotechnology is being hampered by a brain drain of environmental researchers overseas and to new technologies. 


Cleaning up chemical waste and water using biotechnology is potentially worth billions of dollars to Australia in domestic and export income. And environmental biotechnology could also be applied to biofuels such as ethanol to improve their efficiency and lower their costs.


These are just some examples of the potential for Australia's growing environmental biotechnology industry, according to the Cooperative Research Centre for Environmental Biotechnology (EBCRC).


"The phenomenal growth of environmental biotechnology overseas in the last few years shows that Australia needs to capitalise on its early start in and expert knowledge of the sector," EBCRC Executive Director Dr Garman says.


The EBCRC has established nine industry partners, seven research centres and two patents within its first two years of operation, proving the sector is both commercially viable and competitive. 


However, Dr David Garman warns that a barrier to the development of this sector in Australia is the lack of skilled researchers. 


 "Like many biotech sectors, we are losing researchers overseas - to higher paid positions and better-funded facilities," he said.  "But we are also concerned about losing researchers at the graduate level to the more popular and well-known biotechnology areas of pharmaceuticals, medical devices, and food and animal genetics." 


EBCRC now has 22 students in postgraduate positions, but has places for 50. EBCRC's industry partners have more jobs than the CRC has scholars graduating.


"The all-round training provided to CRC students makes them better prepared and more valuable to industry than those from other less applied programs," said Dr Garman. "Our students have multidisciplinary skills, and are trained in presentation and media skills and commercialisation."


A Research Showcase, to be opened by the EBCRC's Chairman Mr. Ian Kiernan, is being held on Wednesday 30 November from 9.30am at the Chifley at Lennons in Brisbane. Journalists are welcome to attend this event. Please contact Communications Manager Pepita Maiden for further information 


Further information, fact sheets and photos can be obtained from Pepita Maiden, phone: 0422 989 899, email: p.maiden at ebcrc.com.au.  For further media assistance, contact Jenni Metcalfe phone 0408 551 866, jenni at econnect.com.au 


For interview: Dr David Garman, phone 0408 280 135; Dr Therese Flapper, Ecowise, about industry needs for researchers, phone 0417 028 249; Mr Lee Walker, a EBCRC PhD student working composting of domestic garbage, phone 0419 917 519.

Jenni Metcalfe
Econnect Communication
PO Box 734
South Brisbane Q 4101

Ph. 07 3846 7111; 0408 551 866
jenni at econnect.com.au

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