Context - Aims

Linking key nodes across the country, ARNTE will bring geographically separate groups from a wide range of disciplines into a critical mass of cell and tissue engineering research. ARNTE will deliver benefits to Australia in terms of improved medical care, employment opportunities and global recognition. Notably, the ARNTE research activities align well with the 2004 National Research Priorities for ‘Promoting and Maintaining Good Health’ and for ‘Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries’. The aims of the Network are as follows:

To identify appropriate expertise. The multidisciplinary nature of this emerging discipline means that no one group has a complete suite of relevant expertise, making it essential to facilitate complementary skill sets. ARNTE involves all of the core enabling skills and technologies. Furthermore, ARNTE can call on expertise in a range of areas as diverse as mathematical modeling, proteomics, molecular biology, clinical practice and fabrication technology, likely to be key drivers for advancing the field in a non-incremental, synergistic fashion. ARNTE will be the means by which researchers can quickly identify and locate the expertise and resources they need for a specific project. In addition, ARNTE will continually scan and probe the research and commercial environments for new and relevant facilities, technologies and expertise.

To develop training and mentoring programs. ARNTE will be involved in developing a new generation of tissue engineers, trained by high quality, tailored education programs. Students will be integrated into projects involving international and local high calibre researchers, and have access to expertise and equipment across institutional and geographic borders. Together with young post-doctoral researchers, students will participate in formal national and international exchange programs coordinated and facilitated by ARNTE. ARNTE will also be involved in the development of seminars and workshops aimed at enhancing industry awareness of available technology and expertise, and will provide on-going professional development in association with educational institutions and professional bodies. ARNTE is comprised of well-established researchers with impressive track records, as well as researchers who are in the early, formative stages of their careers (Young Investigators; Early Career Researchers).

The results of a survey of our members is shown above. Early Career Researchers are defined by the Australian Research Council as those who are within five years of the start of their research careers/awarding of their research doctorate. Young Investigators are those who received their PhD after 1 January 1988.
ARNTE will function as a research community that actively promotes collaboration and effective mentoring. Through ARNTE, younger researchers will help set the goals and priorities for future Australian tissue engineering research.

To provide communication systems and tools such as a skills database. An electronic bulletin board has already been established for use by ARNTE members. It is available here. The searchable skills database has been implemented and can be accessed using this link. ARNTE has already sponsored several successful meetings, workshops and teleconferences across the country, and has brought together the core participants for two sets of round-table discussions.

To bring together proficiencies in innovative ways. ARNTE will strengthen existing collaborative links and develop new ones, to support the deep level of communication and understanding required for success. In particular, ARNTE will facilitate innovation in tissue engineering research by bringing together researchers who will approach challenges from different perspectives. Building on this platform, ARNTE will facilitate the development of innovative collaborative grant proposals from within its constituency. These activities will enhance the scope and focus of Australian tissue engineering research.

To create linkages. The broad scope of this endeavour requires significant collaborations outside traditional discipline boundaries, which will be instigated and developed by ARNTE. ARNTE will identify and nurture new and exciting links and facilitate the formation of focused multidisciplinary teams. Areas as diverse as art, public awareness studies, and nanotechnology will be tapped. Globally, ARNTE has an extensive network of overseas collaborators prepared to offer their expertise on a reciprocal basis. ARNTE also has the enthusiastic support of global networks such as Tissue Engineering Society International, enabling it to play a significant role internationally. These activities will encourage national and international collaboration between tissue engineering researchers, particularly between researchers from different disciplines, geographic locations and organisations.

To inform the broader community. ARNTE recognises that the intensity and range of its activities have the potential to impact significantly on the Australian community, and that its responsibilities extend beyond the boundaries of scientific research. Informed debate is a pre-requisite for the acceptance of these new therapies by the Australian public. In turn, researchers need to be aware of, and respond to, public concerns. ARNTE will address these issues through a number of activities:

  • Analysis of the ethical issues involved in developing new tissue engineering techniques and in extending the application of existing techniques (e.g. transgenic developments, artificial organs, xenotransplantation etc.);
  • Fostering of public awareness of TE and generating discussion of the social and ethical implications of developments in TE;
  • Ethical evaluation of policies and regulations relating to research, access to tissues, or clinical application of new tissue engineering developments
  • Evaluation of the need for legislation and the risks associated with legislating or of not doing so.

To generate focused research programs. The structure of ARNTE is designed to stimulate new research by cross-fertilisation of ideas. For the first time in Australia, there will be a powerful grouping of researchers from all the relevant sciences including physical, chemical, biological and medical sciences to tackle, at the fundamental level, the challenges associated with tissue engineering. Open ended and free-ranging brainstorming sessions will be used to evolve creative new research programs. More focused meetings will be held to refine projects and generate ideas to address the major technological barriers identified. The creation of new ideas in these sessions will be followed by the establishment of research programs by Participants.
The nature of the research area is multidisciplinary in the sense that contribution is required from more than one skill group to achieve the best outcome. ARNTE will provide a means of surmounting the barriers that tissue engineering currently encounters when a research outcome is sought. These constraints frequently disappear when researchers from another skill area are exposed to the apparent difficulty. This problem solving aspect of ARNTE will be achieved in the first instance by informal direct contacts between ARNTE members. Where problems are seen as particularly intractable and a serious barrier to progress, formal workshops will be convened.
Advances in Australian tissue engineering research will require secure, adequate and long-term funding. Innovative research, which may involve risk taking, is unlikely to thrive when funding is tenuous, limited and short-term. ARNTE will generate focused research programs aimed at securing sufficient funding to make significant research impacts.

  • Due to their expertise and track record, ARNTE participants are responsible for the effective application of substantial research funds, from both government and non-government sources – more than $9 million in 2003-04
  • Further scientific progress will depend on the ability of ARNTE participants to obtain additional funds. Currently, limited funding is available after 2005, however we expect that additional funding will be awarded for future grant proposals. At present, the majority of funding from 2005 to 2008 shown comes from international sources with longer- term projects.
Funding Source Funding
($ M AUD)
  2-03002 2003-04 2004-05 2005-06 2006-07 2007-08
ARC 2.374 3.566 4.288 3.134 0.552 0.377
NHMRC 0.485 0.756 6.038 0.524 0.250 0.250
University 0.155 1.728 0.912 0.000 0.000 0.000
Government 0.018 2.685 0.000 0.000 0.000 0.000
Other 1.452 2.917 6.427 5.750 5.750 5.750

Total funding obtained by ARNTE members from a range of sources: ARC Australian Research Council; NHMRC National Health Medical Research Council; Other includes private and international sources.

To manage duplication of effort. ARNTE will routinely audit current and planned research activities, as well as capabilities and infrastructure. The information obtained from this mapping process will enable ARNTE members to develop integrated activities to maximise resource utilisation. Regular contacts between researchers through ARNTE will also help to consolidate and integrate research programs. Through intimate involvement with professional societies and local initiatives, ARNTE will contribute to the integration of tissue engineering themes at meetings, workshops and symposia across the country, to maximise the benefits to local organizers and attendees by providing a coherent and consistent view of tissue engineering activity across the country.

To encourage competition where appropriate. To achieve accelerated progress more than one approach is advisable to insure against vulnerability to research roadblocks that may be specific to one methodology. For important research goals, ARNTE will encourage multiple research strategies where the strategies offer alternative pathways for achieving a research goal. The existence of the network will enable competing approaches to be identified and pursued.

To foster novel commercial opportunities. Successful commercialisation occurs when an unmet need in the marketplace is satisfied by an idea or strategy. Many good ideas fail to progress past the boundaries of academia because of a failure of the inventor to communicate the idea effectively to a potential commercial partner. In other cases, commercial entities who require help on a specific issue, or are in need of a new idea to enable innovation, are unaware of who to communicate with or how to engage a researcher based in an academic or research institute. ARNTE will greatly increase the number of contacts that have the potential to address these commercial needs. Many ARNTE members have established commercial contacts and these will be used to create a database that will be available to ARNTE participants. Conversely, ARNTE will be able to supply commercial entities with academic experts in relevant discipline areas. ARNTE members are actively involved in industry associations such as Ausbiotech. ARNTE is also currently discussing with state governments how their industry development departments will participate in the Network, and how ARNTE can help facilitate the launching of new tissue engineering companies. Once ARNTE has established its presence, it will become the natural focus for commercial activity in tissue engineering in Australia and the pool of industry and academic contacts in the relevant databases will be expanded as ARNTE grows.