Recognising that precision measurement capability will be crucial over the next decade, the 2018 Research Infrastructure Investment Plan1 nominated precision measurement as one of several national research infrastructure (NRI) capability areas to be explored through scoping studies. The purpose of the scoping study was to “explore the precision measurement capability needed to position Australia as globally competitive, especially in quantum capabilities and instrumentation.”
In 2020, the Department of Education, Skills and Employment engaged the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF), in collaboration with Microscopy Australia (MicroAU), to undertake an initial scoping study with a focus on:
- describing the existing precision measurement NRI landscape;
- identifying key gaps in current NRI capability;
- securing broad agreement for the focus of a new precision measurement capability; and
- providing a feasible approach to establishing a new precision measurement NRI capability.
This paper is intended to be used to test the need for a national scale precision measurement capability more broadly with the research sector and stakeholders in the 2021 NRI Roadmap process. The paper reflects the outcomes of consultation to date from initial scoping work and does not represent the views of the Australian Government.
Precision measurement plays a central role in the modern world, being key to the efficient and reliable operation of the services, suppliers and communications that society depends upon (e.g. mobile phones, financial transactions, the internet, the Global Navigation Satellite System, magnetic resonance imaging, radar etc). Moreover, industry relies on precision measurement to ensure the products they manufacture meet national and international regulatory and quality control standards.
Metrology, the science of measurement, and the precision measurement instrumentation and infrastructure that underpins it, lies at the heart of all science. Accordingly, precise and accurate measurement underpins the cutting-edge research and technological advances that will enable the industries of the future. For example, sensors (devices that measure inputs from the environment and converts that input into data for interpretation) based on precision measurement technologies (e.g. optical, photonic, infrared, microfluidic, and quantum technologies) have application across diverse industries from defence, resources, and engineering to medical devices, healthcare, chemistry and the life sciences.
The consultation found that realising these industrial opportunities requires establishment of the precision measurement research infrastructure, methodologies, and quality systems that will enable researchers to validate the measurements taken by novel measurement technologies and translate this novel technology into integrated devices. Further there is growing demand for precision measurement capability at the national research infrastructure (NRI) level, beyond what can be offered at the institutional or organisational level.
“Precision measurement is becoming increasingly important with the rapid development of quantum technologies and will become vital over the next decade.”
– 2016 National Research Infrastructure Roadmap2
Scoping Study – Key Findings
The scoping study found that, as a consequence of the central role of precision measurement capability in science, existing precision measurement instrumentation and infrastructure is embedded across Australian NRI. However, there is particular alignment with the National Measurement Institute (NMI), ANFF and MicroAU. Further that a new cross cutting NRI capability, leveraging and building upon existing NRI initiatives, could address the gaps identified in the scoping study and, thereby, meet the needs of research and industry.
Through brief consultation with stakeholders, the scoping study identified the following key gaps in Australia’s current precision measurement capability that hinder the ability of NRI projects and initiatives to support precision measurement research. These findings provide a sound basis for further consultation with the wider research sector. Your input on the key questions raised in this paper will be considered in the development of the 2021 NRI Roadmap.