The NSW government has moved to improve the networking capabilities of the state's research centres by pledging $1.45 million over four years to the creation of high-bandwidth networks.
Under the terms of the plan, funding will be allocated to research centres that are negotiating funding partnerships to alleviate their IT shortfall, Health Minister Craig Knowles said today.
While there was no shortage of optical fibre throughout metropolitan Sydney and "medium haul" routes in NSW, a report from late last year showed there were gaps in the Hunter, Menangle, Westmead, Artarmon and Concord areas, homes to research centres like the Hunter Medical Research Institute in Newcastle and the research hub centred located Westmead.
"These gaps would increasingly limit research opportunities," Knowles said.
He said that there were added benefits in linking regional research institutes with specialist resources, such as the AC3 supercomputers at the Australian Technology Park in inner-city Sydney.
Professor John Rostas, executive director of the Hunter Medical Research Institute and chair of the committee that submitted the report to the state government, said high bandwidth was an issue for all research institutes.
"But the surprising thing was that not all the gaps were in regional Australia -- there are significant gaps in the Sydney basin as well," Rostas said. "So there are huge gains to be made."
Rostas said that part of the committee's aim was to ascertain what could usefully be done to plug the gaps with a relatively small amount of money.
"The fear was that with such a small amount, that would still leave 90 per cent of the need unmet," he said. "But it turned out there was a surprising amount of optical fibre network around -- there was just a little bit of connectivity missing."
One achievement of the report, he said, was that it showed where the connections could be made without necessitating vast expenditure.
The initiative, dubbed Converging Technologies, is part of the NSW government's $68 million BioFirst strategy.