Chinese invest in Flinders research

Seaweed from Shutterstock

Flinders University is to receive $450,000 over three years from a major Chinese corporation to further the University’s research into the potential conversion of seaweed into a range of high value products including foods, cosmetics and medicinal compounds.

Minister for Science and Information Economy Grace Portolesi today officially opened the world class marine biotechnology laboratory on seaweeds at Flinders University.

The research agreement between Flinders and the Gather Great Ocean Group (GGOG) of China was signed today at the opening ceremony.

Ms Portolesi said the research and technological advancements stemming from the laboratory will help contribute to the State’s advanced manufacturing capacity.

“This research partnership will help to position South Australia as a key player in macroalgae research, an industry estimated to be worth more than $2 billion in the Asia-Pacific currently,” she said.

“The level of international interest highlights the extremely high quality of research that South Australia has to offer.

“Flinders University has a proud record of research and this collaboration shows the important role South Australian researchers play both internationally and locally.

“South Australia’s research and development capabilities truly are world class.

“This collaboration also shows the potential to harness our research capacity, applying this research to commercialise products that will hopefully generate new export opportunities, revenue and jobs.”

The Flinders University – GGOG Advanced Macroalgae Biotechnology Joint Laboratory initiative is a collaboration between the Flinders Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development, and GGOG, based in Qingdao, Shandong Province.

Director of the Flinders University Centre for Marine Bioproducts Development, Professor Wei Zhang, said the new macroalgae research lab would develop sustainable technologies to convert beach-cast seaweed in South Australia into a range of high-value products, including functional foods, cosmetics, medicinal compounds and improved eco-friendly agricultural chemicals.

“The southern waters of South Australia have a huge diversity of macroalgae types that are a rich source of food and chemicals,” Professor Zhang said.

“This sustainable natural resource, which is unique to Southern Australian waters, provides a global competitive advantage for South Australia,” he said.

“Each year storms wash up these seaweeds along our shorelines by the millions of tonnes, so our aim is to sustainably convert some of this biomass into high-value products to meet global market demand, helping the existing industry move up the value chain.”

Professor Zhang said this industry collaboration with Flinders would identify seaweed species with commercial potential and apply novel energy-efficient and sustainable advanced manufacturing technologies to increase product diversity, volume and yields for local and export markets.

He said the environmentally-friendly manufacturing technologies developed by the laboratory would strengthen SA’s research and development capabilities in the marine biotechnology space. The laboratory is expected to attract significant international investment and help create new industry and new jobs in regional South Australia.

GGOG, China’s second largest seaweed processing company, learned about Flinders University’s technological capabilities in sustainable algae bioprocessing through an international algae biotechnology conference organised by Flinders University in July 2012 at the Adelaide Convention Centre.

The Chief Scientist for South Australia Professor Don Bursill said the environmentally-friendly manufacturing technologies developed by the laboratory would strengthen SA’s research and development capabilities in the marine biotechnology space.

“This partnership demonstrates Flinders strengths in the commercialisation of technology and is a terrific example of the University  research sector, government and industry working together to create new export streams, revenue and jobs for South Australia in the state priority area of advanced manufacturing,” Professor Bursill said.

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