By PENNY FANNIN
Saturday 11 November 2000
A centre devoted to research into neuro-degenerative diseases and brain-cell development has been awarded $13.34 million by the Victorian Government.
The Victorian neuro-science consortium was the best-funded of 14 science-based projects awarded $54 million in infrastructure funding by the Department of State and Regional Development yesterday.
The government granted more than half the funding, about $37.5 million, to health and medical research.
State and Regional Development Minister John Brumby said his department received 120 submissions for $374 million of funding. Applications had come from many disciplines but those that succeeded tended to involve collaboration between organisations, he said.
Jane Niall, the executive director of the government's science, technology and innovation division, said many applications came from IT and biotechnology sectors. Although the energy and environment sectors also applied for funds they were not successful, she said.
Announcing the grants at Monash University, Mr Brumby said science, technology and innovation would drive economic growth this century and the 14 projects funded should generate $225 million.
"Support for these projects will strengthen Victoria's position as the knowledge capital of the knowledge nation. We are really at the dawn of the biotechnology revolution," he said.
Mr Brumby said a recent review of Victorian biotechnology showed that, for the first time, Victoria had overtaken New South Wales as the state with the most biotechnology companies, having 32 per cent to NSW's 29 per cent. He said 50 per cent of new biotechnology companies were starting in Victoria.
"If there's one issue that's so important for how our nation positions, how we're seen in the world, it's the whole innovation in science and R&D agenda," Mr Brumby said.
Director of the University of Melbourne Centre for Neuro-science , Ed Byrne, said the neuro-science infrastructure grant would create a "neuro-science mecca" in Victoria, uniting Melbourne's neuro-scientists and boosting their research.
"We are coming into the decade of the brain where the likelihood of major breakthroughs in Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease or MS (multiple sclerosis) is high," Professor Byrne said. "If we can contribute to one or two of those, as well as thousands of people being helped worldwide, the capital generated for this country will be absolutely enormous."
The funding was part of the $310 million that the government announced in 1999 for support and development of Victorian science, technology and innovation. About $50 million of that funding is currently unallocated, but Mr Brumby said some of it would go towards a second round of infrastructure grants in 2001.
Some major grant recipients were:
Victorian neuro-science consortium: $13.34 million.
Alfred medical research and education precinct: $8 million.
Bundoora plant biosciences facility: $7.8 million.
Murdoch Children's Research Institute: $4.9 million.
Victorian bio-informatics consortium: $4.89 million.
Victorian microarray technology consortium: $4.42 million.
Emerging food process technologies centre: $3.07 million.