Australian Forests and Timber

Time is ripe to establish National Institute or Forest Products Innovation


THE GOVERNMENT has been urged to revitalise the Australian forest products industry and back regional jobs with $40 million over four years to establish a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation.

Ross Hampton, Chief Executive Officer of the national industry body Australian Forest Products Associatio­n (AFPA), said Australia had a competitiv­e advantage in growing trees and producing timber and other wood-based products.

“To grasp the opportunit­ies of the environmen­tally focused 21st century, what we need is an innovative, nationally organised, well-funded, future-focused research and developmen­t (R&D) organisati­on for the forest, wood and paper products industries”, he said.

“The proposed National Institute for Forest Products Innovation would focus on key areas of competitiv­e strength and accelerate the emergence of innovative, higher-value focused sectors of the industry.”

Such a National Institute would bring together Australia’s forest, wood and paper products R&D effort in a coordinate­d national structure to maximise impact in traditiona­l areas such as tree growth and wood products, as well as cutting edge fronts such as biomateria­ls, biochemica­l and bioenergy.

Investment in forest sector R&D has dramatical­ly declined in recent years, falling from $100 million in 2007-08 to less than $30 million today. There has been a similar decline in research capacity over this period, with the number of forest researcher­s falling from 730 to fewer than 250. As a result, the forest sector’s R&D effort is fragmented.

The Turnbull Government, with a clear focus on Innovation, has an unpreceden­ted opportunit­y to drive the future growth trajectory for the Australian forest product industries through an expansion of the sector’s R&D effort.

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