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Australasian Biotechnology (backfiles)
ISSN: 1036-7128
Vol. 11, Num. 2, 2001, pp. 2
Untitled Document

Australasian Biotechnology, Vol. 11 No. 2, 2001, pp. 2


Peter Riddles, President

Code Number: au01014

The first important matter to bring to the attention of members is that the ABA continues to be on schedule with implementing the recommendations arising from the Steering Group for the strengthening the role of the ABA. Tony Coulepis will discuss the developments in relation to this matter in the Executive Director’s Report of the Journal.

Since July last year, we have been in a phase of consulting and planning, then we moved to one of crafting an operational plan for the next three years, and now we are in a period of securing support both through our membership and financial support from our stakeholders.

Consequently, the second major development that you would have seen, either through the ABA Communications, Media Releases or on the Biomedoz website, is the support that we have received to-date towards the financing of the Business Plan. My fellow ABA Directors and I welcome the first two funding initiatives.

n Firstly, the outstanding support of the “in principle” pledge from the Federal government for funding of $450,000.00 to the ABA on the condition that the changes outlined in the Steering Group’s recommendations are introduced by July 2001. The Federal Government funding will be in the order of $150,000 per year for 3 years, commencing on the 1/7/01 and is clearly a pivotal development in our growth.

n Secondly, the funding from the Victorian State Government for $80,000. This grant was made available to assist with the completion of the Business Plan and the implementation of activities This includes supporting ABA Staff, leading up to the commencement of the refocussed industry organisation on the 1/7/01. This grant will strengthen and expand our biotechnology initiatives and branch activities in Victoria.

In line with these generous starts from government, we shall commence the phase of delivering benefits to members as outlined in the ABA Business Plan.

It is vital for us to develop further the organisation’s integrity as a biotechnology industry body and give the best advice and input into governments and industry groups that will ultimately benefit the industry and the stakeholders in the longer term. It is therefore important that we maintain a measure of patience as we complete the process of upgrading and expanding the elements of the ABA’s infrastructure and it is equally important that members continue to share our vision and participate in the many new activities and initiatives. In order to secure the support for our organisation, we need to demonstrate that ABA members endorse the new directions and the increased services the organisation will be providing to the biotechnology sector.

A measure of support from ABA members will come from the General Meeting of the members of the ABA that Tony will expand on in his Report. There are essentially two changes that need consideration by ABA members:

  1. a new Constitution that is consistent with current legislation and to define the framework for achieving the objectives against the business plan; and
  2. a name change

The ABA Directors have discussed both issues broadly, and at length, and unanimously and strongly support a new Constitution and company name for functional, practical and legal reasons which are further discussed by the Executive Director in his Report.

In relation to the new ABA name, after much deliberation and research, the Board of ABA Directors would like to recommend to you the name “AusBiotech Ltd” as an appropriate way of representing the new, industry focused Australian biotechnology organisation.

In the context of moving to the next phase of what the we are aiming to achieve with a stronger biotechnology organisation, I thought I should share with you some of my perspectives, keeping in mind that these are not necessarily those of the ABA Board.

Our major objective is the development of a bioindustry base in Australia that is consistent with the social, economic and environmental aspirations of Australians and achieved against a critical mass of world class science and increasing acumen in business development.

While Australia’s dollar is languishing, and has on average decreased in value against world currencies since it was floated, there is an ongoing need for our nation to increase its investment in value adding and using knowledge to drive the economy.

To achieve this Australia needs to continue to define and establish more ambitious strategies for growth in the knowledge-based economies, and particularly biotechnology. This means clear, longer term directions for investments which break the bottlenecks in achieving the goals and opportunities existing in science and technology through infrastructure, tax and access to capital and human resources. Our business plan focuses on these very issues. In addition, any strategy will need to consider the following:

  • National approaches to science and business;
  • A focus on regional growth promoted and networked as appropriate;
  • “Clusters” of science and business encouraged where there is natural growth and supported by appropriate infrastructure;
  • Great national investment and strategies for promoting key technologies such as genomics, bioinformatics, nanotechnology, biological information management and structural biology.

The “Backing Australia’s Ability” initiative has rightly identified some of these issues and strategies as important.

As an example of the impact investment in these technologies at the end of 2001, US$75 billion will have been invested in USA companies in genomics in the three broad areas of support technologies, gene discovery and in applications of genomics. Most of the new jobs in the USA in the past decade have arisen in the new technology sector with the majority of the new exports which have added so much value to the USA economy arising from “new technology” products. While, these three broad areas largely apply to human healthcare biotechnology, they will increasingly apply to other sectors of agriculture, food technology, veterinary and diagnostic technologies as well as devices, all of which are important to Australia’s economic stability. Australia is well placed to secure a similar per capita engagement if we continue with investments in the fundamentals.

The ABA supports and urges governments and industry to invest further in programs such as supercomputers, incubators, the synchrotron, and national centres for adding value to science just as we have historically built dams, roads and rails to provide for economic growth and development. These are the “new” infrastructure that are required to enable IP to be generated, secured and utilised, allowing Australian enterprises to “get there first”.

I have noticed that taxi drivers now will often raise the topic of biotechnology without knowing that I am involved in this industry. This must mean that at least some of the communication strategies are starting to take effect. However, I find in these discussions there is always a genuine and significant interest in the contributions that biotechnology can make while also being aware of the concerns. This is because most Australians understand the role that science could increasingly play in our economy, given our long history of innovation being quite visible, especially the agricultural and mining sectors.

I do not think there is any doubt that Australians want our leaders to make a commitment to these long-term investments.

The clear danger is that key decision-makers in governments may well be distracted by other short-term issues rather than the long term good of the nation.

That is why the recent commitments to ourselves (the ABA) from Federal and State Governments, and the “Backing Australia’s Ability” initiative, are heartening and we shall move forward with expectations that our input, through consultations with our members and biotechnology stakeholders, will be heard and acted upon.

I welcome your views on anything I have mentioned here and would be pleased to discuss them with you and be challenged by your thoughts on these and other biotechnology-related issues.

Copyright 2001 - AusBiotech

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