UNSW Sydney academics have secured two of the eight Industry Laureate Fellowships announced by the Australian Research Council (ARC). The new scheme brings industry together with Australia’s outstanding researchers to translate innovative ideas into outcomes that benefit industry partners, end-users and the Australian economy. The eight Fellows will share $27 million to lead research projects over five years.

Professor Nicholas Fisk, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, said these fellowships are like hen’s teeth with only a 7 per cent success rate nationally. UNSW’s strong result in the first funding round of this new program robustly validates the University’s focus on working with industry to translate research into tangible outcomes. Indeed, across the three new classes of ARC industry fellowships (early, middle and senior career) announced this last fortnight, UNSW came in second in the country, securing $11.9 million which is 16 per cent of the national total.

“No one is more deserving than these two leaders in the fields whose work will be of real benefit to the nation and society more broadly. We are very proud of Alexander and Veena for winning these highly competitive grants and know they will nurture collaboration while contributing their valuable commercialisation and translation skills.”

New silicon quantum computing technology

Scientia Professor Alexander Hamilton from UNSW Science has been awarded close to $3.8 million for the project ‘Unleashing the combined power of electrons and holes for quantum computing’.

“Large-scale quantum computers promise unprecedented power with applications ranging from searching large databases for images and video to optimising traffic routing, cryptography, and simulating advanced new materials and drug designs,” Professor Hamilton said.

Read more: UNSW researchers awarded more than $2.3m to build research infrastructure

The Fellowship will partner with Diraq, a UNSW spin-off company based at the Kensington campus. Diraq is developing a revolutionary new silicon quantum computing technology to solve key issues in the race to scale from small-scale prototypes to industrially relevant quantum computers.

“The project will integrate semiconducting electrons and holes into a single platform, link with industrial partners, and reinforce Australia's leadership position in quantum computing technologies,” Professor Hamilton said.

Transforming electronic waste into green metals

Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director of the UNSW Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMART@UNSW), the ARC Research Hub for Microrecycling of Battery and Consumer Wastes and the NESP Sustainable Communities and Waste Hub, has received $3.5 million for the project ‘Recycling innovations to transform electronic waste into green metals’.

The project will develop novel approaches to use waste as a resource – enabling the recovery of valuable metal alloys, rare earth elements and other critical materials which have high market values. This approach will provide the foundation for the recovery of high-value materials to boost supply networks for local manufacturing, and open export market opportunities for new technology and its recovered materials.

Read more: ARC Microrecycling Research Hub opens at UNSW Sydney

“I am delighted we have been able to secure this ARC Laureate Fellowship with our industry partners, who along with me and the UNSW SMaRT Centre team are committed to advancing our microrecycling technologies to produce from waste some of the green metals needed in the world’s decarbonisation efforts,” Professor Sahajwalla said.

“The materials needed to achieve future manufacturing needs, and in particular the components for electrification, are limited in supply and very costly – including to the environment. Yet huge amounts of these much-needed materials are being discarded in mountains of electronic and solar PV waste.

“Our ARC Industry Laureate Green Metals program will develop new technologies to recover the inherently valuable metals in complex waste streams not currently recycled. These technologies will be scalable and transportable, able to be used at rural and regional sites, not just in urban areas.”

Building skills and networks

ARC Chief Executive Officer Ms Judi Zielke PSM said Industry Laureate Fellowships will help build skills and networks across universities and industry to conduct groundbreaking, internationally competitive research while achieving tangible outcomes.

“Complementing the early and mid-career Industry Fellowship schemes, these outstanding laureate researchers bring experience and leadership to industry challenges,” Ms Zielke said. 

“I look forward to seeing how these researchers translate their skills and knowledge into real-world outcomes for industry partners and the Australian community — from speeding up decarbonisation with green hydrogen, to the manufacture of material that will transform internet speeds.

“Australia can only benefit from the collaboration between researchers and industry.”