TRANSFORMING Australia’s blue economy is the ambitious aim of a new offshore project to be led by the University of Tasmania.
Billed as the “largest ever Cooperative Research Centre”, the project is expected to bring together expertise in seafood, renewable energy and offshore engineering.
Announced in Launceston by industry, science and technology minister Karen Andrews (as part of the election campaign), the Blue Economy CRC aims to drive an evolution in marine industries.
The $329m research project is a 10-year collaboration between 45 national and international partners from industry, research and government, back by $70m from the Commonwealth.
The Tasmanian government is also a supporting partner.
UTAS vice-chancellor Professor Rufus Black said the Launceston-based Blue Economy CRC would build on Tasmania’s and the university’s strengths.
“This is big blue sky thinking fused with practical, impactful research to answer one of our planet’s most critical questions: how can we sustainably feed and power ourselves from the world’s oceans,” Professor Black said.
“The Blue Economy CRC imagines a future where integrated seafood and renewable energy production systems operate offshore and where the community and industry have confidence they are safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible.”
Professor Black said the project would solidify Northern Tasmania as an important hub for marine engineering and ocean renewable energy.
The Blue Economy CRC head office is to be hosted at the UTAS Launceston campus.
Blue Economy CRC research director, Australian Maritime College Associate Professor Irene Penesis said the program was unique in bringing together aquaculture, renewable energy and offshore engineering.
“Australia has the world’s third largest exclusive economic zone and is positioned adjacent to the largest markets for seafood and energy,” Associate Professor Penesis said.
“But with over 80% classified as offshore, industries must be enabled to move from the coast zone into more exposed operating environments before we can secure this major opportunity for the nation.”
The focus for the first five years of the program is to be developing and testing new offshore aquaculture and renewable energy technologies, which will then be brought together on a single platform to demonstrate the economic and environmental benefits of co-location.
“The offshore research platform will act as a living laboratory where we can vertically integrate renewable energy and aquaculture technologies with other engineering activities, such as autonomous and remotely-operated vehicles, in a proof of concept for how we could operate in the future,” Associate Professor Penesis said.
“It will be the first offshore research platform of its kind in the world and we’re confident that it will deliver ground-breaking research alongside commercially viable new materials, concepts, prototypes and monitoring systems.” Proponents predict the CRC will generate more than $4bn for the national economy.