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Global deal fuels QUT's world-changing research

Queensland University of Technology has joined forces with the world's largest agribusiness company, Syngenta, to develop technologies that will provide an economical, green fuel alternative for cars.

Queensland Premier Anna Bligh today announced the multi-million dollar deal between QUT, qutbluebox, Syngenta and Farmacule Bioindustries, supported by the Queensland Government, that will see the establishment of the "Syngenta Centre for Sugarcane Biofuel Development" at QUT.

QUT's world-renowned research scientist, Professor James Dale, has pioneered groundbreaking genetic technology that has the ability to economically convert plant waste into valuable sugars, which can then be used to produce ethanol and all without compromising the sugar potential of the cane.

As part of this project, he will now lead an international team of researchers to develop, to commercial scale, sugarcane that can yield cost-effective bioethanol from cellulose.

"This collaboration brings together the dynamic new technologies as well as the expertise and infrastructure to tackle the challenge of cellulosic ethanol from cane," Professor Dale said. "It has the potential to substantially decrease the cost of bioethanol production and significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

He said cellulosic ethanol could replace 30 per cent of vehicle petroleum globally and provide a massive 80 per cent saving in greenhouse gases compared with conventional petrol.

Syngenta has identified biofuels as a major business opportunity, making the company, which last year reported US$8.1 billion sales, the global partner of choice for QUT in cellulosic ethanol development. While the research partnership is planned for three years initially, it is expected to lead to an expanded 10-year collaboration.

QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake said the landmark deal, brokered by QUT's commercialisation company, qutbluebox, would provide the university with a significant global stake in the crucial field of biofuels research.

"This collaboration is a major step in QUT's research in sustainable resources and is the next step in the series that commenced with QUT's investment in Farmacule," Professor Coaldrake said.

"The collaboration complements QUT's acquisition of the research arm of the Sugar Research Limited in 2005, which in turn was the catalyst for securing State and Federal Government funding of $6.5 million for the Mackay pilot plant."

Syngenta will relocate four leading scientists to QUT's Gardens Point campus, with full access to resources and expertise in other Syngenta operations. Initially, the centre will employ a further six scientists and additional support staff.

"The centre will bring together a unique suite of resources including a worldwide robust intellectual property position in the production of bioethanol from cellulose, using self-processing plants," Professor Dale said.

"The project will span gene discovery through to commercial scale demonstration with sugarcane, production of the target crop, while using facilities from lab scale to pilot plant production."


Contact: Sandra Hutchinson
Queensland University of Technology

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