A $4.7 million future fibres Research Hub is to be established at Deakin.

The Federal Minister for Education, the Hon Christopher Pyne MP, has announced that Deakin has been awarded an Australian Research Council (ARC) $4.7 million grant to establish an Industrial Transformation Research Hub (ITRH) in future fibres.

The world class hub will accelerate the transformation of Australia’s manufacturing industry to a vibrant future fibre-oriented sector by working with highly innovative small and medium enterprises and connecting with international research leaders.

One of only four hubs across Australia to be awarded funding, the ITRH will be based at Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) and will focus on developing novel fibre technologies to facilitate more sustainable, advanced manufacturing of fibre materials and products.

Activities will centre on advanced carbon fibres, nanofibres and high performance novel fibres, as well as high-value added applications of fibre materials.

Deakin’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander welcomed the announcement.

“This further validates Deakin’s strategic objectives of developing jobs, investments and business opportunities for the future in both research connections, and teaching and learning,” Professor den Hollander said.

Deakin’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Lee Astheimer added that the announcement recognises Deakin’s world class research and partnerships in advanced fibre science and technology.

“The hub will build on a decade of strong relationships with our partners that has seen the growth of new industries in the Geelong region,” Professor Astheimer said. “It will also provide a fertile environment for training the next-generation of industry savvy research leaders.

“Today, natural fibre production alone adds over $4 billion in gross value to the Australian economy annually. The industry is undergoing a process of transformation, with emerging future fibrous materials and manufacturing technologies creating exciting new business opportunities globally and in Australia.”

Mr David Marino, the CEO of Quickstep Holdings Ltd – one of Deakin’s partners in the Hub – said that he was delighted to have the opportunity to consolidate Quickstep’s relationship with Deakin and other partners in the hub.

“The initiative builds on our 14-year R&D partnership with Deakin and will assist us to continue developing technologies that allow us to be internationally competitive,” Mr Marino said.

“Our partnership with Deakin is allowing us to leverage the world class expertise and resources at Carbon Nexus and meet the exacting standards of our customers, particularly in the automotive and aerospace industries.”

The bid for the ITR Hub was led by Professor Xungai Wang, Director of Deakin’s IFM and globally recognised expert in fibre materials, and draws together six industry partners, along with the CSIRO and six overseas higher education institutions.

“Developing the next generation of materials is very important for Australia and internationally,” said Professor Wang. “The IFM has a major focus on future manufacturing and helping Geelong and Australia to make the transition to high value added advanced manufacturing.”

Deakin’s Australian partners, contributing an additional $3 million towards the Hub, are: HeiQ Australia Pty Ltd, Cytomatrix Pty Ltd, Carbon Revolution Pty Ltd, Quickstep Automotive Pty Ltd, Ear Science Institute Australia Incorporated / Ear Science Centre, Draggin Jeans Pty Ltd and CSIRO.

Overseas collaborators are: Tufts University; the University of Oxford; Massachusetts Institute of Technology; University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland; Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

The Hub will build on the $103M Australian Future Fibre Research and Innovation Centre (AFFRIC), a Federal (Education Investment Fund) and Victorian State (VSA Fund) supported infrastructure collaboration between Deakin, CSIRO and VCAMM that included the establishment of the $34 million Carbon Nexus facility.

Deakin has been active in promoting fibre-related commercial ventures at its Waurn Ponds campus, including innovative carbon fibre wheel manufacturer, Carbon Revolution, advanced composite manufacturer, Quickstep, the world leading short nanofibre manufacturer HeiQ Australia and medical scaffold manufacturer, CytoMatrix. The co-location of these partners on the Waurn Ponds Campus creates real synergy and momentum in seeding the transformation of Australia’s future fibre industries.