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New research centre set to boost Australia’s maritime industries

23 August 2022

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

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

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 the 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.

"It's important that we focus on creating longevity in this area to support Australia's continuous ship building program," Dr Scardino explains.

"We need to ensure that we have an ongoing sovereign pipeline of biofilm specialists to tackle this issue into the future," he says.

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.

BRIC will receive $5 million over five years through the Australian Research Council's Industrial Transformation Training Centres scheme, with industry and research partners contributing another $7.65 million.