There is international recognition by Governments that future economies will be driven by smart information use, smart devices, smart material use, nanotechnology and biotechnology. There can be no doubt that the molecular and materials structure sciences will underpin these futures. The MMSN will contribute significantly to smart Australian science, and thereby help maximise the returns from a knowledge-based economy.
The MMSN infrastructure program will efficiently accelerate progress in key scientific endeavours, including those identified by the Australian Government (http://www.dest.gov.au/priorities/) as National Research Priority 3: Frontier Technologies for Building and Transforming Australian Industries. The Research Priority 3 specification emphasises the importance of breakthrough science and smart information use, and recognises Australia's strength in fundamental science and key technologies such as biotechnology, advanced materials, and information and communications technology (ICT). The latter is seen as a critical enabling technology in Research Priority 3, which highlights a need to invest in smart information use and data management in contributing to productivity, growth, competitiveness and well being. The goals of the MMSN have resonance in Priority Goal 4 of Research Priority 3; smart information use. The MMSN encapsulates smart and efficient information capture, its distribution, storage and analysis, and resulting knowledge generation.
Knowledge of the three dimensional arrangement of atoms, and the chemical identity of those atoms, in molecules and solid state materials is crucial to understanding their behaviour and harnessing their potential in real-world applications. Such knowledge can deliver profound scientific, technological, social and economic rewards, as recognised in Priority Goals 1 (Breakthrough Science), 2 (Frontier Technologies) and 3 (Advanced Materials) of Research Priority 3. Understanding the biological process that support and shape life and the disease and degenerative process that may threaten life, depends increasingly on a detailed knowledge of bio-molecular structure of proteins, viruses, DNA complexes and enzymes (eg. the SARS protease). Rational medicinal drug design, which produced the first anti-flu drug Relenza (developed by two MMSN participants) and the HIV protease inhibitors, would be impossible without a knowledge of molecular structure. The determination and rationalisation of the relatively small atomic structures comprising micro-magnets, microporous and mesoporous materials, hydrogen storage materials, novel metal oxides, ceramics, superconductors, minerals, 'smart' materials, piezoelectric materials, magneto- and electro-rheostatic materials, photonic devices, information storage devices, molecular switches and sensors, biomimetic materials, and pharmaceutical materials is crucial to their development and utilisation.
The network embraces Priority Goal 5 in using breakthrough technology and the internet to host a collaborative research environment in which Australian distances are no longer of consequence or disadvantage. Building a national collaboratory will promote an innovative scientific culture, creating "structures and processes for encouraging and managing innovation". Network meetings, both real and virtual will stimulate and add vibrancy to the research culture.
The MMSN is broad in scope and seeks to capitalise on still emerging science and technology. It is unquestionably risk taking, but, without doubt, will significantly impact research central to the promise of a smart economy. Further, the bringing together of research teams within the MMSN will catalyse dynamic new collaborations, breaking down existing barriers and opening unexpected frontiers in research.