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First Australian ‘trailblazer’ universities announced


Resources and defence are the first winners in government’s research commercialisation programme

The first two “trailblazer” universities to share in a A$242 million commercialisation programme will be Curtin University and the University of Adelaide, with four more to come.

Curtin will set up a Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Trailblazer with A$50m from the programme. In a statement, the university said that with its own and industry input, the total value of its hub would be around A$200m. The hub’s partners include the University of Queensland, James Cook University and 33 private firms.

Curtin vice-chancellor Harlene Hayne said the hub would create a “cultural shift” in how researchers approached commercialisation. Chris Moran, the university’s deputy vice-chancellor for research, said the hub would “conduct and translate the research needed to link the value chains so desperately needed if Australia is to become a genuine international leader in efficient production of critical minerals, precursors and ultimately metals”.

Under the arrangement, the university will work with industry to improve the commercialisation focus of its teaching and research. The university’s research will provide support to industry partners, and its own research will be further commercialised.

Adelaide defence programme

The University of Adelaide’s programme, delivered in conjunction with the University of New South Wales, will focus on defence research. The universities will put in A$50m, matching the government’s contribution, and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation will provide A$10m, with additional industry funding.

Adelaide said the Defence Trailblazer would create up to 2,500 full-time-equivalent jobs and harness dual-use technologies and research for defence purposes.

“Researchers will pivot to solve complex defence problems alongside industry in both defence and civilian market sectors,” the university said in a statement. It added that 80 per cent of the companies committed to the programme were small and medium-sized.

The main areas of research will be quantum technologies, hypersonics, cyber warfare, robotics, artificial intelligence and space defence. A A$34m seed fund will be established to help prototype new products. The programme will be chaired by an executive from the international defence company Northrop Grumman, with direct input from the Australian Defence Force.

The other four successful bids are expected to be announced in the coming weeks, with two places reserved for regional universities following a programme expansion.

The trailblazer initiative is part of the government’s University Research Commercialisation Action Plan, announced in February.