Address at the TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre inauguration

Simon Birmingham: Thank you very much for the welcome and the opportunity to be here today to take a glimpse into the future, because that is very much a case of what we’re seeing, what we’re realising at this inauguration of these incredible facilities, the Deakin and TERI, TERI-Deakin Nanobiotechnology Centre. And to be able to have the honour today of inaugurating the new researcher residence, having yesterday had Prime Ministers Modi and Turnbull jointly inaugurate the research facilities is an incredible event. It’s not incredible because we’re commissioning bricks and mortar, it’s incredible because of the brains, the skills, the knowledge that is embedded within these facilities and the potential that they are going to realise in so many different ways. 

Now, I acknowledge the many different special guests here today from the Australian delegation, my colleagues and friends, Chancellor Stanhope and Vice-Chancellor Jane den Hollander. Thank you both to our hosts today here from TERI and the Indian Government, to Mr Sharma, Professor Adholeya, Dr Mathur, thank you all very much for hosting us and, indeed, to all those leaders, researchers, designers, architect – where are you? Where’s the wonderful architect of this facility who … we had the pleasure of meeting earlier – thank you all for the input that you have made into amazing new infrastructure that will be the driver of incredible new breakthroughs.

Prior to serving in the education portfolios, I had the pleasure of spending a number of years serving in portfolios of environment and water, and these facilities and the research undertaken really brings together, for me, my political background, history, and trajectory across different issues of such importance to conceive of and think about means to further dramatically lift agricultural productivity. One of the, already, success stories of our times, the capacity that the world has shown to be able to increase yields, increase productivity in ways that have increased food security and reliability at a time of such population growth over recent decades, but it conceived that we are now on the cusp of being able to do so in ways that go further in terms of doing so at the same time as reducing the environmental footprint and impact of that agricultural productivity.

Or to see the work being done of how it is we may be able to capture CO2 and reuse in ways that displace the need for CO2 in other ways. And of course, the obvious benefits to shared and global efforts to tackle climate change, but to be able to do so in a means and a manner that doesn’t need to completely disrupt energy sources, markets, development, the roll-out of further energy opportunities, particularly critical to countries like India, but instead can complement that through the capture and reuse of that CO2.

These are truly incredible breakthroughs and, of course, they come from this notion of what it is that we can do through the use of nanobiotechnoloy. Nanotechnology, I’m sure it’s cliché in the world of those who work with nanotechnology, really does allow us to contemplate and to achieve big things out of little things, very little things of course. For those of us who are not scientists to comprehend, to think of the concept of something that is one-billionth of a metre in size is incredible, but that’s what’s capable because of state of the art research facilities like the one that is being opened here today.

It has world-class laboratories, space for up to 100 researchers, and of course PhD students. And I particularly congratulate the scholarship awardees and PhD students who are with us today who are at the cutting edge of contributing to the type of research that will be undertaken here and will build on, of course, research that has already been realised. It allows people of multi-disciplinary backgrounds to come together and harness their skills in different ways to develop not just the knowledge breakthroughs that are required but then also the practical breakthroughs and engineering or design to take concepts and turn them into something that can be of commercial reality and practical use, ultimately whether you are a farmer in regional areas of India or in regional parts of Australia or anywhere else around the world.

This work can help to ensure, through improvements in fungicides and pesticides, that we make sure that our agricultural ecosystems are protected as precious resources in the best way possible. The co-investment and partnership between Deakin University and India’s Energy and Resources Institute is what has made this possible and I congratulate those sitting on the stage here and others who’ve had the foresight and the drive to make this partnership a reality. It is an exemplar from my perspective, and I have no doubt from Prime Ministers Modi and Turnbull, of the way in which our two countries are working together in a collaborative sense to enhance knowledge and for the betterment of all of our peoples.

No single government or organisation or university will bring all of the solutions to our challenges of food security, energy security, and environmental management but it’s through collaboration like this, through the holy trinity as Jane described it, that we can see the types of breakthroughs realised that are required for the future. India is a rising star in research. India is a rising star economically. India is an increasing global powerhouse in a range of ways and Australia is proud to be a friend and partner of India and to work to continue to strengthen that relationship. And this is physical and an intellectual testament to the strength of that relationship.

We as a government have committed to a strong agenda of innovation and science and research and we’re determined that is not just an inward-looking agenda, which is why programs such as our research partnerships with India are so very crucial. I’m proud to say that we are home to some of the world’s top universities, Deakin University stands right amongst them. More than half of our universities are ranked in the top 500 globally, all Australian Universities excel in at least one field of research, and it’s with this knowledge that we can come as confident partners to a relationship with Indian institutions, confident in the capacity we bring, but also confident in the knowledge that we don’t know everything and there’ll be more partnerships that can enhance and build our strengths as well as your strengths.

I extend my sincere congratulations to everybody who has been a part of this process to date, but more importantly my good luck and best wishes to those who are working on the incredible breakthroughs that appear from the explanations I saw from the work that’s been undertaken to be breakthroughs that are within reach. We hope to see that proceed through those stages of knowledge development and innovation, translation into ultimately commercialisation that can deliver the real benefits which will make all of us incredibly proud to look back on days like today and our participation in them.

Thank you so very much and every success for the future.