Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Chief Scientist's vision for WA science and innovation

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Radioastronomy and the Square Kilometre Array is one of five key areas outlined in the draft science policy. Radioastronomy and the Square Kilometre Array is one of five key areas outlined in the draft science policy.

PERTH has the potential to become an international centre for science, creativity and innovation according to WA's recently appointed Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken.

Speaking at a UWA Convocation meeting recently Prof Klinken gave some of the first insights into how he is approaching the job and outlined key science issues and future industries for WA.

He said he was "gobsmacked" when approached by Premier Colin Barnett to take on the role of Chief Scientist but regards it as a privilege and honour.

"It's been a remarkable whirlwind three months to find out what this job entails and how I can make a small contribution to the future of this great state of ours," he said.

He said a draft science policy has outlined five key areas that WA excels in science including:
• Oil/gas and mining
• Radioastronomy and the Square Kilometre Array
• Biodiversity and marine science
• Agriculture, and
• Medical research.

Prof Klinken said WA has done well out of mining in the past, but in effect it was a "no brainer" and it was time to build on that.

"What really excites me is the next generation coming through beyond our current extraction, such as our ability to remotely drive mines machinery and trains. That's cutting-edge technology," he said, citing Rio Tinto's use of remote mine technology.

"We also have the ability to do some fabulous work in offshore oil and gas. Western Australia will be a leading centre on this planet in oil and gas for offshore drilling."

WA Chief Scientist Professor Peter Klinken. Image: Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research


Prof Klinken said WA was a biodiversity hotspot, but was unaware until recently the state is the second hottest spot worldwide for aquatic biodiversity.

"I was told that most of that aquatic biodiversity takes place 20 kilometres west of Rottnest, basically on our doorstep," he said.

Prof Klinken said it is fantastic that researchers are identifying and cataloguing that biodiversity, but claimed that we can do more.

"I believe our biodiversity is a resource that we should be looking to extract value from. It also then allows us to move into new industries," he said.

"This would link up Western Australia potentially with biotechnology, the pharmaceutical industry, clinical trials and so on. There's a wonderful opportunity for this state, I believe."

Prof Klinken said he had a vision for Perth: "I would like to see this place a hub of creativity, where there's a buzz of excitement and enthusiasm and a whole bunch of ideas coming out."

"I just think now is our time, we have a wonderful opportunity to make this city [Perth] something special."

Last modified on Tuesday, 17 March 2015 16:59