A seedling with opportunities to grow
IWAS recently invited to plant a seedling to celebrate National Forestry Planting Day. National Forestry Planting Day, which has been initiated by the Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA), recognises the significant number of seedlings that are planted each year in our forest plantations to support Australia’s forest and wood products industries into the future. AFPA estimates that around 70 million seedlings will be planted in Australia this planting season to grow into tomorrow’s log resource.
Alongside the planting of 70 million seedlings, the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (ABARES) recently reported that in 2015–16 Australia’s log harvest exceeded 30 million cubic metres for the first time.
With the planting of the seedlings, to ensure logs for the future, and Australia’s record log harvest - this got me thinking about what we do with our logs and the products we produce.
The Forest Industry Advisory Council (FIAC) recognised that there is a need to “Discover new and enhanced ways to use wood fibre” and that the emerging bio-economy offers opportunities to use all parts of the tree to create new products.
Transforming Australia’s forest and wood products industry from one that produces traditional wood and timber products to one that, as well as producing traditional products, produces a variety of innovative and new products will require research and collaboration between researchers and industry.
Significant research work
There is already significant research and innovation happening in Australia, but we need to work to bring these ideas together in order to collectively benefit. Building and maintaining relationships between the industry and researchers allows for practical innovation and is key to preserving and growing Australia’s forest and wood products industry.
Alongside the Australian Government’s investments in research by CSIRO and the tertiary education sector, we are proud to directly support forest and wood products research and development through Forest and Wood Products Australia (FWPA). The Australian Government matches eligible research and development expenditure made by FWPA in support of the sector.
Shortly after commencing with this portfolio, I was pleased to announce we would also match payments for eligible research and development expenditures from voluntary contributions to FWPA. The Australian Government is making available $1.382 million in 2017-18 and $1.659 million ongoing from 2018-19 to match industries voluntary contributions.
Last year I announced that the Australian Government is contributing $4 million to support the establishment of a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation to investigate innovation in areas such as forest management, timber processing, wood fibre recovery, advanced manufacturing and the bioeconomy. The institute consists of regional hubs in Launceston, Tasmania and Mount Gambier, South Australia with each receiving $2 million each to fund innovative research. Moreover, in a show of national cooperation in support of the forest and wood products industry, each regional hub will also benefit from a $2 million matching commitment of funds from the Tasmanian and South Australian governments.
The scope of the National Institute’s activities will cover the whole forest industry, looking beyond the ‘traditional’ forest industry, and develop links with the disciplines that use or can potentially use forest products, increasing the demand for such products. It will have a strong focus on industry liaison and research commercialisation.
Once operations begin, later this year, the institute will fund innovation research and explore emerging opportunities. I expect these will be in wood processing, wood fibre recovery, bio-energy and a range of bio-products, particularly those that offer a renewable substitute to more emissions-intensive materials. I say expect, because I intend that the lead role in deciding research priorities will be vested in industry, not government.
As FIAC identified, “the research and development needs of Australia’s forestry industry are diverse and complex”.
In recent years we have seen the evolution of multistorey timber buildings and the use of forestry waste to produce new and innovative chemical compounds. The research that is undertaken today will support the seedlings that are going into the ground this season become products that we possible can’t even envisage today. It’s a positive future.
More details on the research undertaken by FWPA is available on their website at http://www.fwpa.com.au/.
Emerging bio-economy offers opportunities to use all parts of the tree to create new products