A new Australian Research Council (ARC) research hub that will focus on cutting edge public research on future fire risks that can affect critical infrastructure in Australia has been established at the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering.

Professor Guan Yeoh, Director at the Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centre in Fire Retardant Materials and Safety Technologies and Professor at the School will lead the hub with key academic partners from 5 Australian universities, 14 industry partners and 15 peak bodies to help increase the impact of the hub.

A total of $4.9 million grant has been awarded to the ARC Research Hub for Fire Resilience Infrastructure, Assets and Safety Advancements (FRIASA) in Urban, Resources, Energy and Renewables Sectors. The hub was established due to the ongoing fire incidents that have occurred throughout Australia. 

A whooping $1.1 trillion was lost to property damage in the petrochemical and refinery industries between 2016 and 2017 alone. The catastrophic bushfires that plagued the nation between 2019 and 2020 caused an estimated damage of $110 billion, burned 19 million hectares, destroyed 3,094 homes, and killed an estimated 1.2 billion animals.

The hub will focus on many concerns to improve fire safety by developing solutions that will, increase fire resilience in infrastructures, develop mitigation techniques to prevent wildfires, isolate fires when they do occur, create safer work environments in high-risk fire settings and increase the safety of fire rescue operations.

“Frequency of major natural and man-made fires is increasing, which poses new risks to existing and new infrastructure and assets within the urban, resources, energy and renewables sectors” says Professor Guan Yeoh.

Driven by the need to find a means to the ongoing struggles that Australia faces with fires, Professor Yeoh has had a long involvement within the fire protection industry. Apart from being the director of an ARC training centre, he is a sitting member in the Fire Research Advisory Committee and has even assisted in investigations of domestic fires alongside Fire and Rescue NSW

“There is an urgent need to develop an integrated systems approach that tackles key areas of fire prevention, protection, intervention, mitigation, detection, monitoring and fire risk management to increase the fire resilience of infrastructure and assets”.

Using advanced digitisation technologies, the hub will research on creating more effective fire-resilience materials, fire suppression systems and fire detection technologies to prevent fires from occurring and damaging infrastructure.

It is expected that the project will position Australia as an epicentre of knowledge regarding the prevention and management of fires. Through the establishment of the hub, training of students and researchers would stimulate the growth and transformation of the fire protection industry with renewed knowledge, leading to commercialisation pathways in manufacturing and consequently, greater economic development for Australia.