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New research centre set to boost maritime R&D

Defence is partnering with industry and academia to establish a world-leading research facility in maritime biofilms, with a focus on innovative biofouling control solutions.

The Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre for Biofilm Research and Innovation (BRIC) will be based at Flinders University in Adelaide and bring together five universities and eight industry partners including Defence, to combat the issue of biofouling on shipping vessels and other marine infrastructure.

The BRIC will receive $5 million over five years through the ARC’s Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, with industry and research partners contributing another $7.65 million.

According to senior Defence researcher and biofouling expert Dr Andrew Scardino, the total cost of biofouling is notoriously difficult to quantify however would easily exceed tens of millions of dollars for Defence per annum.

“Biofilms settle on immersed surfaces within minutes, rapidly degrading capability which can result in extreme economic and environmental consequences,” he said.

Biofilms (an assemblage of microorganisms that can grow on submerged surfaces) can cause significant problems for many industries, from compromising the efficiency of water treatment processes or damaging maritime platforms, to increasing the spread of marine pests, interfering with the functioning of sensors and autonomous vehicles, or creating additional drag and increasing full consumption and emissions for shipping vessels. Once biofilms are established, they are almost impossible to eradicate, leading to biofouling.

Identifying novel solutions to control biofouling will provide economic, environmental, and health benefits across a range of industries.

In addition to increasing knowledge and understanding of biofilms, and developing tools to better control them, BRIC will support Higher Degree Research (HDR) candidates and postdoctoral researchers specialising in related fields.

Dr Scardino, who will take on the role of Deputy Director, Industry within the BRIC, says that the involvement of government, industry and academia in the centre will be key to its success, with each sector contributing specialist knowledge and expertise.

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