A new national centre of excellence for forestry innovation which could create new industries will be housed in Tasmania if a new University for Tasmania proposal is successful.
UTAS and the Australian Forest Products Association are behind a new proposal which would see a National Institute for Forest Products Innovation centre built at the UTAS Newnham campus.
Under the proposal, the facility would be funded by $100 million from the federal government and $100 million from industry bodies. The proposal still needs to secure federal government funding before moving ahead.
Forestry centres exist in Canada and New Zealand under similar funding concepts like the proposed UTAS one.
AFPA chief executive Ross Hampton said the centre was much needed if Australia wanted to avoid being left behind.
"However, a significant decline over the past 20 years in government investment in forest industries research and development means Australia risks missing out on new industries being created by the global shift to a circular economy," he said.
The centre would work with research networks around Australia to spearhead the development of clean, green and renewable wood-based products.
Wood-based products have grown in importance to the bioplastics industry where it can be used to create biodegradable plastics instead of fossil-fuel-based plastics.
University of Tasmania Vice-Chancellor Professor Rufus Black said investing in a facility like the NIFPI would be an investment in Australia's future.
"Sustainable timber will be a critical piece in the mix that will be required if we are to have a zero-carbon economy," he said.
"Cities of the future will increasingly be built from high-tech timber. Buildings are generally lighter, can be constructed faster and provide carbon sinks with the embodied carbon in the timber.
"What we need is the knowledge to grow sufficient volumes of timber sustainably, in local conditions, and transform that resource into the products we need to deliver a zero-carbon future."
Previously, the federal government committed $1.3 million in the 2021-22 Budget for a feasibility study into an Australia-wide NIFPI facility.
Professor Black said that UTAS was capable and wanted to lead the project, given its track record in the forestry space.
"Sustainability is at the core of our mission and we have demonstrated a strong commitment to the future of forestry with more than 25 years leading national centres in forest industry research," he said.
"Our commitment is to provide the knowledge to support a timber industry that is a critical contributor to meeting the challenges of climate change, protecting biodiversity, and growing a large and vital value-adding industry for Australia."
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The new NIFPI proposal will build on the success of three pilot NIFPI centres - in Launceston, Mount Gambier in South Australia and in Victoria's Gippsland - and be capable of bigger projects.
Students get cracking on proposal
As part of the proposal, architecture students from the University of Tasmania =headed to Canberra to help present their concept for the university's new forestry centre of excellence proposal.
As part of the pitch to the federal government, UTAS architecture students have been busy working away on a conceptual model to show the federal government.
Kiera Hansen, Pei Kai Tan, Phatama Kraivanit, Hamza Iqbal and Dylan Gardener are all part of the team who worked on the model, with two of the students going to Canberra as part of the pitch.
Ms Hansen said that the practical experience they had gained from the project had been invaluable.
"It's nice to be able to work with other people and collaborate yet, because that's what we'll be doing, and of our degrees, we'll be working together on something and it's nice to bounce around ideas," she said.
"It's a nice thing to do, it's a good experience, it's a good way to get your name out."
Architecture and Design Professor Greg Nolan guided the students through the process and has been impressed by their skills.
"[The future] is people who are trained in design, where you training them come up with ideas, but also then have a solid skill base so that they can design something and make it," he said.
Ms Hansen said the opportunity to represent UTAS in Canberra and be part of the pitch was an exciting one.
"I've never been to Canberra, so it'll be a new experience just going there. And then we also considered in the design, the people that will be looking at it, so we're trying to impress them," she said.
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