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ANU and CSIRO join forces on elite innovation hub for agritech

Photo credit: Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT), Australian National University

Professor Owen Atkin is used to solving complex problems.

The Director for the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT) at the Australian National University in Canberra helps foster a collaborative environment for agritech businesses to solve problems of their own.

As Owen explains, it was an age problem which sparked the establishment of CEAT in 2018.

“At the time I was Head of the Division of Plant Sciences. We were at the top of our game, but we needed to do some strategic thinking as a lot of our researchers were on the verge of retirement,” he said.

“We knew one of the strengths of our department was being across the road from a CSIRO base which specialises in agriculture and food.

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Professor Owen Atkins, Director of the Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology. Photo credit: Australian National University

“That led to a conversation with them, and we agreed on a new collaboration which would be industry-facing and leverage our respective expertise.

“With support and funding from the ACT Government, we were able to create a business model which enabled industry to access the interdisciplinary capabilities of the university and address complex problems in the agriculture food space.

“A key part of this collaboration was creating a living example of different types of scientific careers, giving our early researchers and students opportunities to expand their careers.”

So the CEAT Innovation Hub was born.

Boundless opportunities

Breaking down the barriers of university-industry collaboration, the CEAT Innovation Hub provides agritech businesses access to world-leading expertise offered by ANU and CSIRO, as well as state-of-the-art infrastructure and opportunities for networking and professional development.

The Hub is located within walking distance of CSIRO Black Mountain, which is part of the National Agricultural and Environmental Sciences Precinct.

CEAT is welcoming discussion with companies interested in joining, with office, lab and hot desk spaces available for businesses of all sizes.

“This is a unique opportunity to undertake your research and development alongside Australia’s best researchers, working together to secure funding, participate in knowledge exchange and build research impact,” said Owen.

Innovation hub break out room at Australian National University. Photo credit: Centre for Entrepreneurial Agri-Technology (CEAT), Australian National University

“Members aren’t just tenants - they’re part of our community.

“Whether it’s participation in workshops or collaboration with students and researchers, we want it to be a two-way exchange of knowledge and time.

“On top of having access to the knowledge of staff and students, Hub members can utilise some of the advanced equipment we have here on campus and potentially access specialist laboratory space in research schools across the ANU.

“One of the great things about being in Canberra is we often have international delegations visiting the university, which is a fantastic exposure opportunity for our Hub members.”

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Joining a scientific community

The Hub is currently home to five businesses, ranging from small startups to growing national and international enterprises.

Some of their projects include creating fats and oils to make alternative foods more flavourful and sustainable, developing protein components to help with crop improvement, accelerating plantation performance through genomic selection (GS) technology, and enabling farmers to remotely locate their stock with an innovative radio-tracking drone system.

Owen said joining the Hub offers a unique opportunity to be at the forefront of ag innovation.

“Being part of smart communities is where smart ideas come from,” he said. 

“I see the Hub as a frictionless connector between external challenges and internal capability. It's about helping to unpack the nature of external challenges and working out appropriate ways to best connect with teams of different disciplines within the university.

“We want the Hub to be an eclectic group of companies that work together with researchers and students to shape the future of agriculture and address many of the challenges it faces.”

Learn more about how you can join the CEAT Innovation Hub and undertake your R&D alongside Australia’s best researchers here.

Explore, find and connect with a wealth of research projects and innovation opportunities from across Australia’s agrifood innovation system at growag.com. To list a research project, commercialisation opportunity or organisation, please visit growag.com/submit.