The UNSW research team, from left to right: Christopher Jenkins (HDR), Dr Ebrahim Oromiehie (Senior Technical Officer), Prof. Gangadhara Prusty, Shafaq (HDR), Alexander Air (HDR).

Professor Gangadhara Prusty, Director at the ARC Training Centre for Automated Manufacture of Advanced Composites (AMAC) and Professor at the School for Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering has led a successful bid for a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) grant.

The $70 million grant has been awarded to the Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites Cooperative Research Centre (SoMac CRC) and will be led by UNSW Sydney in partnership with 5 Australian Universities (USyd[GP1] , Deakin, UWA, UQ and RMIT) and the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) as well as 29 key industry partners.

SoMAC CRC- which will be one of the largest centres for composite technology development upon commencement- will enable research and development in localised composite technology to ensure self-sufficiency within Australia by meeting supply chain demands. It is also supported by a further $190 million investment from partnering industry partners.

“Australia has a very real opportunity to make its composites industry digitally enabled and position itself as a world leader through its well-crafted research programs. We are very pleased to have received this grant opportunity from the Cooperative Research Centres program of Australia to pursue this goal” Prof. Prusty said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the SoMAC CRC on Wednesday, 11th May 2022. “It would help Australia transform its established composite technology capabilities into a world-class, highly automated, digitally-enabled industry”.

“This is a government that is investing in the things that ensure the Australian economy can grow. It’s investing in the people, it’s investing in the ideas and in their collaboration because that’s what turns things around, that’s what creates the opportunity,” PM Morrison said.

The grant is a great boost to the composites industry sector and would be used to boost the industry which is already valued at $100 billion. The funding will be allocated over 10 years, focusing on research projects that utilise automation to support emerging industries in Australia- hydrogen economy, aerospace, defence, space vehicles, electric vehicle cars and buses, and green energy.

SoMAC CRC has created an education program, with the aim of training 100 higher degree researchers and industry professionals to upskill and transform the industry. It also aims to diversify its participation and will create leadership positions for women to foster their career progression. This comes from recognising the need for increased positions for women in engineering to promote a diverse future workforce.

Minister for Industries, Angus Taylor said in a statement “Projects like these are vital to strengthening our sovereign manufacturing capability and our plan to continue to grow Australia’s manufacturing sector so that it can be competitive, create jobs and strengthen our economy”.

The Minister of Science and Technology- Melissa Price, announced the grant would bring in an estimated 1,500 new jobs. “This investment is ensuring we are aligning our research and innovation with our areas of focus, like medical products, defence and clean energy; these projects are about manufacturing the products and materials Australians need and the world needs, by making them right here at home”, Minister Price said.

“This was the result of a mammoth effort over many months and will create a great opportunity for our school staff and students to get involved in industry-focused research over the next 10 years” Professor Chun Wang, the Head of the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering said.

A/Professor Garth Pearce and UNSW Canberra Academic Professor Paul Hazell will lead a SoMAC CRC Research Program at UNSW to develop manufacturing processes with integrated digital and artificial intelligence technologies. The program will involve investigators from UNSW Engineering, UNSW Canberra and the broader CRC consortium. The new SoMAC CRC office will be located adjacent to School office on the 1st floor of the Ainsworth Building and will commence from July 2022.