UNSW Sydney has led a consortium of university and industry partners in securing a $70 million grant awarded to the Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites Cooperative Research Centre (SoMAC CRC) to advance Australia’s next-generation manufacturing industry.

Minister for Science and Technology Melissa Price announced the grant today, which has been awarded under the Australian Government’s Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) program.

SoMAC CRC - a partnership between six leading Australian universities, Australia's Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and 29 industry partners - will use the grant to progress the nation’s capabilities in manufacturing and high-value industries such as green energy production, space vehicles manufacturing and civil and marine infrastructure.

UNSW Engineering’s Professor Gangadhara Prusty led the successful bid and said the funding – which will be allocated over 10 years – will help the partners establish new research projects focused on intelligent automation, new-generation digital exports and promoting rapid product development across Australia’s diverse composites industry.

“The composites industry has a fast-growing, $100 billion international market. This grant will support projects that will benefit a wide range of our flagship sovereign industries including space, defence, energy and infrastructure,” Prof. Prusty said.

Composites refer to manufacturing materials that are formed by combining two or more materials together to form overall structures that are less expensive, lighter, stronger or more durable when compared with common materials. Modern aircraft, automobiles, defence vehicles and high-pressure energy storage are examples of structures relying on advanced manufacturing and engineering of composites.

SoMAC CRC’s research programs will also develop circular economy technology, incorporating the recycling approaches and reusable material systems in demand from industry and consumers internationally.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research & Enterprise at UNSW Sydney, said Australia has a unique opportunity to embrace automation and emerging onshore industries in the next decade via collaborative investment in manufacturing and engineering.

“Australia’s composites industry is dominated by small-medium organisations, therefore collaborative approaches such as the SoMAC CRC are vital to build broad industry capability, as well as to provide the development environment to bring industry together in major projects.

“We are seeing Australia contemplate massive investment into the hydrogen economy, take a clear step forward in space, and rebuild its automotive presence in electric buses and cars. Composites are essential for these and other major industries to be competitive and position Australia at the forefront of global technology.”