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Science and technology
The objectives of the Council's science and technology program are to demonstrate in India the high quality, sophistication and diversity of Australian science and technology products and services and to promote professional and institutional links between Australia and India in these fields. The science and technology program is by far the broadest of the Council's areas of activity, and covers several areas of particular Council focus, including medicine and public health, agriculture and agribusiness, mining and energy, environmental management, and heritage conservation.
Science and technology exhibition
To demonstrate the quality and sophistication of Australian science and technology products, the Council provided funding for the Innovative Australians exhibition at the National Science Centre in New Delhi in December 1998. This touring exhibition was commissioned by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and developed by Questacon (the Australian National Science and Technology Centre) and IDP Education Australia. Innovative Australians uses touch screen kiosks to present information about a wide range of Australian innovations.
To promote a wider understanding of the sophistication of Australian science and technology products and services in India, the Council provided funding for the Innovative Australians exhibition, held at the National Science Centre in New Delhi from 4 to 20 December 1998. Innovative Australians was commissioned in 1997 by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to provide a touring exhibition of Australian science and technology, and was developed by Questacon (the Australian National Science and Technology Centre) and IDP Education Australia. Innovative Australians uses interactive touch-screen kiosks to present information about 100 Australian innovations representing a wide range of scientific and technological achievement.
In New Delhi, Innovative Australians was launched by the Indian Minister for Human Resources Development, Dr Murli Manohar Joshi, and attracted a wide range of visitors representing present and future generations of Indian decision-makers, scientists and technologists. While other regional science centres in India expressed interest in hosting the exhibition, this was not possible as Innovative Australians had moved on to the next country in its itinerary.
Medicine and public health
The Council continued to support a wide range of projects in medicine and public health during 1998-99, with the overall aims of developing further collaboration between Australia and India in this field and promoting Australian health and medical services in India.
Projects in this area followed on from industry-wide initiatives developed during the 1996 Australia India-New Horizons promotion and subsequent Council-supported health sector initiatives. The Council provided funding to the Australia India Health Industry Network, through Australian Business Health, for a program of seminars in India during November-December 1998 to promote Australian health care products and services, and for an Australian keynote speaker at the seminars. The seminars reinforced Australia's strong commitment to building close and lasting links with the Indian health sector, and helped to foster a range of long-term institutional and business links between the Australian and Indian health sectors.
The Council provided funding to Mr Jim Mackenzie of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service of Victoria to conduct a follow-up audit and evaluation of a previous AIC-funded project: the establishment of a model blood transfusion and quality control system through the Department of Transfusion Medicine at the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai. The earlier project, carried out by Dr Gordon Whyte and Mr Mackenzie, resulted in the Bombay Red Cross Blood Bank regaining operational effectiveness and assisted the Tata Memorial Hospital to develop a generic quality system for improved blood banks, to serve as a model for such facilities in India. Mr Mackenzie's May 1999 visit also developed further institutional links between the Australian and India project partners.
The Council provided funding for Dr Robin Anders of the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute (WEHI) towards costs of a week-long visit to the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in New Delhi and the Central Drug Research Institute in Lucknow in July 1998 to discuss further Australia-India collaboration in the identification and development of potential antigens for a malaria vaccine. The Council subsequently agreed to further funding to WEHI for an Australian consultant to conduct a feasibility study in India in 1999 on a possible testing facility at ICGEB for the production, to internationally recognised standards, of recombinant proteins for clinical testing in the areas of parasite and viral immunology. These two funding decisions were part of a Council initiative to encourage collaboration between the two countries in malaria vaccine research, with a long-term view to the development of an effective vaccine on a commercial basis.
The Council provided additional funding, as agreed late in 1997-98, to Professor Michael Good of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) for an expanded collaborative research project with the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research in Chandigarh in vaccine development for rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease. The additional Council funding enabled researcher Dr Harpreet Vohra of the Chandigarh institute to undertake a twelve-month research fellowship at QIMR and will enable longer-term collaborative links to be developed in this field.
The Council agreed to provide funding to the Australian International Health Institute for the first two stages of a proposed three-stage project to establish and train, in conjunction with the Voluntary Health Association of India, a network of Indian leaders in health promotion. The project will also promote long-term links between Australia and India in primary health care.
The Council provided funding to the Australian Academy of Science for the second year of a program of research exchanges between Australia and India in medical science. The Council also funded the participation of Sir Gustav Nossal, Emeritus Professor at the University of Melbourne, as opening keynote speaker at the Tenth International Congress of Immunology in New Delhi in November 1998, and to lecture on immunology and to discuss further Australia-India collaboration in immunology and vaccinology.
The Council sought to identify potential Australia-India projects in agribusiness and food technology in the light of a report by Mr John Shaw and Mr Greg Davies of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). The report was the result of an AIC-funded feasibility study visit to India in May 1998 to identify suitable areas of collaboration between Australia and India in these fields.
The report concluded that, while there was an encouraging level of interest in India in collaboration with Australia in agribusiness, there was a general lack of awareness of Australia's capabilities in this sector. In addition, the potential for bilateral linkages was limited by the uneven pace and application of the Indian economic reform process. The team identified specific collaborative opportunities with potential commercial application in areas including pest management, grain handling, germplasm exchange, and development of counter-seasonal markets, and recommended that the Council consider sponsoring visits to Australia by selected Indian decision-makers in the agribusiness and food technology sector.
Subsequently, the Council agreed to provide funding to the CSIRO Wool Technology Division to enable Dr Peter Cookson and Dr Tony Pierlot to participate in a seminar in India to promote the use of Australian technology in the processing and marketing of Australian wool in India and to assess the needs of Indian woollen mills in easy fabric care technology.
The Council also provided funding to Dr Rick Willis of the School of Botany at the University of Melbourne towards the costs of a collaborative research project with Professor SS Narwal of Haryana Agricultural University, designed to result in an annotated bibliography of allelopathy (the chemical interaction of plants). The project was designed to draw together the strengths of allelopathy research in India and Australia.
Mining and energy
Professor Chem Nayar of the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology Australia at Curtin University visited Rajasthan, Haryana, New Delhi and Kerala states during 1998 and 1999 as part of a feasibility study on the potential application of various forms of renewable energy to Indian rural health schemes. Professor Nayar's project, for which funding had been agreed by the Council during the 1997-98 financial year, sought to make relevant Indian and international agencies aware of Australian capabilities in remote area renewable energy technology.
The Council also continued to explore possible bilateral projects in mining technology, including a proposed visit to Australia by a delegation of Indian mining and environmental management representatives to examine Australian expertise and regulatory frameworks in sustainable mining practice and mine rehabilitation.
The Council has been working since the Australia India-New Horizons promotion in 1996 on a series of projects to make Australian environmental management expertise better known in India. Towards this objective, the Council provided funding for visits to New Delhi in March 1997 and February 1999 by the Chairman of the Environment Protection Authority of Victoria (EPAV), Dr Brian Robinson, to present Australian viewpoints on environmental issues and to discuss potential areas of bilateral collaboration in the environmental field.
Following Dr Robinson's earlier visit, the Council had supported visits to India in November 1997 and April 1998 by Mr Dennis Monahan of EPAV to carry out a feasibility study for a training facility for Indian industry in environmental monitoring and regulation, in collaboration with the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). After considering Mr Monahan's report on his visits to India and following further consultation with the CII, the Council agreed to provide funding to Monash University for the first year of a project to establish and operate a training facility for Indian industry in environmental management and regulation. Council funding was provided on the understanding that the CII would make a matching contribution and that the project would be self-funding within two to three years.
The Council also allocated funding during the year for the following environmental management activities:
- Dr Frank Stagnitti of Deakin University for the first stage of a bilateral scientific exchange to identify sources of groundwater pollution in Tamil Nadu and to develop modelling and monitoring strategies to minimise the environmental impact of such pollution
- Dr Pichu Rengasamy of the Department of Soil and Water, Waite Institute of the University of Adelaide for further stages of a demonstration and training project in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka of a field kit to test soil degradation and to identify remedial action
- the Health Industry Unit, Australian Business Ltd for a demonstration project to apply Australian water disinfecting technology and training in three villages in Tamil Nadu, in partnership with Hydrotech Pty Ltd, Sadler Enterprises, the KJ Hospital Research and Post-Graduate Centre and Tespa Tools Pvt Ltd.
AusHeritage Ltd, the peak body for Australian cultural heritage organisations, conducted a series of workshops in India during December 1998 with AIC funding support to promote Australian expertise in cultural heritage conservation. On the basis of the workshop outcomes, the Council agreed to the reallocation of an unexpended portion of the AIC project funding toward the costs of a follow-up visit to India by AusHeritage members in mid-1999 to seek to secure cooperative working projects for Australian conservation and heritage service providers.
The Council provided funding to the Australian Conservation Training Institute to conduct a one-week ecotourism planning and management workshop in India during 1988-99, with the Wildlife Institute of India as the principal project partner.
The Council also provided funding to Mr David Demant of Museum Victoria to enable his participation in the Second Science Centre World Congress in Calcutta in January 1999 and to develop and enhance networks between Australian and Indian museums and science centres.