14th November 2014

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has declared research the "mother of invention" after an historic visit to QUT.

One of the most tech-savvy world leaders attending the G20 Summit in Brisbane, Mr Modi was given a tour of The Cube, one of the world's largest interactive learning and display spaces.

Mr Modi inspected the two-storey-high digital centrepiece of the Science and Engineering Centre, at QUT's Gardens Point campus, where he heard about ground-breaking research and met local high school students.

Watch a video of Mr Modi's visit here: http://youtu.be/OiPFo7-0DOQ

As Australia's leading research centre in robotic vision, QUT unveiled its latest agricultural robot. AgBot II has the potential to change farming practices around the globe and early next year will start field trials which will see it seed, weed and fertilize crops.

Asked to write a message on the robot, Mr Modi wrote (translated from Gujarati):

"Research is the mother of invention. The development journey of mankind is a continuous stream of research. Science and technology is very important for agriculture.

"Agricultural scientists rely heavily on science and technology. Agricultural progress is very important for the welfare of humanity. I congratulate you for your efforts here and wish you the best."

Generous with his time, Mr Modi, who has more than 7.8 million Twitter followers, happily posed for "selfies" with excited high school students.

Mr Modi explored the diversity of The Cube, from "Chem World" to the spectacular "Virtual Reef" and "The Cube Globe", which visualised trade and investment opportunities between Queensland and India.

He also met the QUT research team spearheading the university's multi-million dollar partnership with the Indian Government to develop iron-rich bananas to help stamp out iron-deficiency anaemia in India, a major cause of maternal death during childbirth.

The joint project has enormous humanitarian potential as iron deficiency is a problem in all developing countries.

The progressive Prime Minister was briefed on a project being jointly led by QUT's Centre for Tropical Crops and Biocommodities and the Institute of Chemical Technology, Mumbai, which aims to create cheaper fuels and chemicals from agricultural waste.

The project expects to reduce risks for companies investing in advanced manufacturing in regional and rural areas and is funded through the Australia-India Strategic Research Fund.

QUT's expertise in the development of drought-resistant chickpeas and other pulses, staple foods in India, was also on the Prime Minister's itinerary. The development of new varieties of pulses such as chickpeas and mung beans should allow Australia and potentially other nations such as India, to be able to farm land currently considered unsuitable for production.

As income levels rise within the Asian region in particular there will be unprecedented demand for protein and this void will be filled by pulses rather than livestock.

QUT Vice-Chancellor Professor Peter Coaldrake and Professor Arun Sharma, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Commercialisation) welcomed Mr Modi to QUT, along with Australian Minister for Agriculture, the Honourable Barnaby Joyce MP.

"It was a huge honour for QUT to welcome Prime Minister Modi to our world-class Science and Engineering Centre," Professor Coaldrake said.

"QUT is proud of its very strong ties with India, in particular our joint major research projects in the areas of agricultural innovation and food security. These are ground-breaking research projects that could be crucial to the future of food production in India, Australia and globally."

High-res photos of Prime Minister Modi's visit to QUT are available here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/104605572@N02/sets/72157648875518320/

Contact: Janne Rayner, QUT media 3138 3026 or 0478 408 263/Rose Trapnell 3138 2361 or 0407 585 901 media@qut.edu.au

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