Australian Forests and Timber

Time is ripe to establish National Institute or Forest Products Innovation

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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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