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National Institute for Forest Products Innovation launched in Hobart

Anne Ruston

Tasmania’s status as a national leader in forestry practices and innovation has been cemented with the official launch of a new National Institute for Forest Products Innovation hub in Launceston. Source: Timberbiz

The Institute is backed by $4 million funding from the Australian and Tasmanian Governments, which will be matched by industry contributions.

It will be hosted by the School of Architecture and Design at the University of Tasmania’s Launceston campus and led by a panel of industry experts.

Federal Assistant Minister for Agriculture, Senator Anne Ruston, said the new national institute will play a vital role in fostering collaboration, supporting cutting edge research, boosting innovation, maintaining jobs and securing Tasmania’s place as the centre for research into hardwood forestry in Australia.

“The institute will ensure the use of Tasmania’s sustainably managed wood production provides the highest possible return to the local economy and creates new local jobs, as well as developing new ideas and innovations that can be applied more widely,” Minister Ruston said.

Tasmania’s Minister for Resources, Guy Barnett, said the island state had a long history of forest products innovation dating back to the development of the hardwood pulp and paper industry in the 1920s.

“By making the most of local knowledge and our long-established and widely-recognised research and innovation capacity, the institute can build on this outstanding history to once again make us a world-leader in the next generation of wood products,” Minister Barnett said.

An industry-driven regional committee has been established as part of the new institute to determine priority research projects for the forest and wood products industry.

Industry members of the committee are Shawn Britton, Tom Fisk, Suzette Weeding, Andrew Jacobs, James Neville Smith, Des Richardson and Les Walkden. 

The committee will also include Dr Libby Pinkard from the CSIRO, Professor Mark Hunt from the University of Tasmania, and representatives of the Australian and Tasmanian Governments.

The Australian Forest Products Association (AFPA) and Forest Industries Association of Tasmania (FIAT) welcomed the initiative.

“We particularly welcome the establishment of a regional committee to help shape research and development (R&D) priorities for this hub. We want the Institute to help make Australia a world leader in forest product innovation and grasp new opportunities in the emerging bioeconomy,” AFPA CEO, Mr Ross Hampton, said.

Importantly, the Institute’s regional committee has a broad cross section of representatives with a strong link to the national plantation, hardwood and softwood timber processing, paper manufacturing and the emerging bioproducts sectors, which will ensure that the Institute retains its national focus and can leverage industry co-contributions for projects of national significance whilst ensuring regional representation.

“This hub in the University’s School of Architecture and Design is one of two, with the other to be established in Mount Gambier in South Australia, and will play a critical role boosting innovation in research and jobs connected to forest industries,” Mr Hampton said.

“It’s our expectation that the Launceston node will have a primary, but not exclusive focus on research related to hardwood, while the Mount Gambier hub will have a similar focus on softwood.

“We believe the Federal Government is open to considering future nodes with other areas of primary focus, for example farm forestry or biomaterials and AFPA is happy to assist.”

FIAT CEO, Mr Terry Edwards, said Tasmania has had a long history of innovation in forest products R&D and forest management.

“The new Institute hub will drive ways to ensure that Tasmania produces innovative renewable forest products in a carbon constrained global economy, thereby helping support, and looking to expand the 3600 jobs that currently rely on the Tasmanian forest industry. We also welcome the flow-on benefits to the rest of the country,” Mr Edwards said.

“The Institute will ensure that the industry in Tasmania can stay to the forefront of innovation to ensure optimisation of the benefits to be derived from the careful and sustainable management of our forest resources into the future.”