Boost for Alcoa’s Green R&D

THE Federal Government has awarded $6.2m in Australia Research Council (ARC) grants to three environmental projects.

The three research projects, all collaborations between Alcoa and leading Australian universities, bring to 18 the number of ARC grants awarded to Alcoa-led projects in the past five years, and are clear recognition of the company’s position as a leader in the field of environmental research in Western Australia.

Alcoa’s Managing Director Wayne Osborn said the company was proud to partner universities under the Australian Research Council grants scheme, in working to find real solutions to serious environmental challenges.

Osborn said Alcoa matched funding received through the ARC program and had invested more than $7 million in cash and in-kind support to the 18 projects, mainly in the area of environmental research.

“The ARC scheme enables our environmental research team to work with some of the best minds in the country to tackle environmental issues which not only affect our local communities in Western Australia, but also Australia-wide,” he said.

“Alcoa’s leadership in the area of environmental restoration over the past 40 years has led to our recognition as a world-leader in environmental research and rehabilitation and these grants enable our researchers to continue to build capacity in this arena.”

Federal Minister for Education, Science and Training Julie Bishop said ARC grants were Australia’s premier grants for publicly-funded research.

“This grant scheme promotes world-class research through collaborative partnerships between industry and universities and encourages research resulting in direct and practical benefits for local industries and communities,” she said.

Two of the Alcoa-led projects awarded 2007 ARC grants support research with The University of Western Australia (UWA) and Murdoch University, to improve the understanding and management of dieback disease in jarrah forests.

Alcoa has long been involved in research to promote the sustainability of jarrah forest and was instrumental in the formation of a specialist research unit into jarrah forest dieback at Murdoch University, the Centre for Phytophthora Science and Management.

“More than 40% of the native plant species in WA are susceptible to dieback, and many in the community will be aware of the impact it is having in our National Parks and Nature Reserves,” Centre Director Associate Professor Giles Hardy said.

“These new ARC projects with Alcoa represent just the sort of collaboration that enables us to develop better detection and control methods and ultimately reduce the impact of this highly destructive disease in our landscapes.”

Vice Chancellor of The University of Western Australia, Professor Alan Robson, said the University was extremely pleased to work with Alcoa on environmental research projects which have the potential for far reaching environmental and community benefits. “The University views cooperative and productive relationships with major industry partners — such as Alcoa — as very important in adding value to the community benefit of many research activities,” Prof Robson said.

ARC Linkage Grants

Linkage Project Grants are a component of the Australian Research Council’s (ARC) National Competitive Grants Scheme.

The National Competitive Grants Scheme is part of the Australian Government’s Backing Australia’s Ability Initiative.

The Linkage Projects scheme supports collaborative research and development projects between higher education organisations and other organisations, including within industry, to enable the application of advanced knowledge to problems.

Typically, research projects funded under the scheme involve risk.

Alcoa has been involved in the ARC grants since 2002, having partnered with various universities, local government shires and industry to help combat environmental issues such as drought, salinity, jarrah dieback and encourage plant rehabilitation.

ARC grants encourage research outcomes with direct practical benefits for local industry and communities. This year Alcoa is partnering UWA and Murdoch Universities on two projects aimed at improving understanding and management of dieback in jarrah forests.

Alcoa is also partnering UWA in a project to that could help improve natural rehabilitation of bauxite residue.

The 2007 projects build on Alcoa’s long standing partnerships with Murdoch University, Curtin University, UWA and the WA Department of Environment and Conservation.

Over the past five years, Alcoa has participated in 18 ARC research projects, focusing on environmental management and sustainability.

Proposals for funding under Linkage Projects must involve a collaborating organisation from outside the higher education sector. The collaborating organisation must make a significant contribution (equal to, or greater than, the ARC funding), in cash and/or in kind, to the project.

Under the Linkage Projects scheme, the ARC offers postgraduate awards and fellowships to provide industry-oriented research training and enable postdoctoral researchers to pursue internationally competitive research opportunities in collaboration with industry.

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