Agilent opens A$25m technology centre in Melbourne innovation precinct

19 Sep 2013

US-based Agilent Technologies has opened a A$25 million Spectroscopy Technology Innovation Centre in Melbourne to shorten the time to market for its scientific measurement technology that was originally developed in Australia and has become an industry worth more than A$1 billion.

The new centre, at Monash University’s Technology Precinct, enhances Australia’s reputation for innovation and its history of collaboration between science, government and business.

Its state-of-the-art facilities for researchers and clients are an effort to expand the applications of atomic absorption spectroscopy, a chemical-analysis technology that can be used to measure the quality of air, food and water, as well as analyse medicines, mining samples and other materials. 

“We have the most creative team in the world, a team of really innovative people,” said Philip Binns, Vice President of Spectroscopy Products at Agilent. 

“This new infrastructure will provide us with everything we need to innovate and be successful for the future,” Mr Binns said in an Agilent video on the new research facility. 

The centre is the latest step in a long history of spectroscopy collaboration between Australian scientists and Silicon Valley technology companies. 

Sir Alan Walsh, of the Australian Government’s peak science body, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), built the first atomic absorption spectrometer in 1954. Early models were used to solve problems in medical treatment, agriculture and mining, according to CSIRO. 

In the late 1950s, CSIRO first commissioned Australian company Techtron to build components for the device. In 1967, Melbourne’s Techtron merged with US-based Varian, which was acquired by Agilent in 2009. 

Since the first atomic absorption spectrometer was developed, the Melbourne team’s related innovations have generated more than A$3 billion in sales, Agilent said. 

“The new research centre at Agilent carries on the tradition which was begun at Techtron; using an Australian invention, developing it in Australia, and exploiting it from Australia,” said Dr John Willis, a CSIRO scientist who worked on the original technology more than 50 years ago. 

 Agilent Technologies specialises in measurement devices and technology in the areas of chemical analysis, life sciences, diagnostics, electronics and communications. The company's 20,500 employees serve customers in more than 100 countries, including Australia. Listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Agilent had revenues of $6.9 billion in fiscal 2012.