Automation and Robotics Precinct open, infrastructure delayed

Brandon How

Test beds at the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct are open for business but work on supporting infrastructure work is still ongoing.

In July 2020, the Western Australian state government set aside $20 million through the WA Recovery Plan to finance the construction of the precinct. All three test beds became available to rent in January, following Covid-related delays in construction.

The entry road to the precinct and service extensions will be complete in August. Test bed users currently use an unsealed limestone road that is shared with the adjacent limestone quarry.

Construction on the site’s Common-User Facility is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks after development approval is received. As the facility is only expected to be complete in about a year and a half, an interim building will be available from mid-year. The facility was originally expected to be complete by early 2023.

Render of the Australian Automation and Robotics Precinct Image: DevelopmentWA

Test bed one is 3ha of flat and sandy terrain surrounded by a ringlock fence. The similar 6ha test bed two is surrounded by sand bunding. Test bed three has an area of 1ha and presents an urban streetscape environment.

The precinct is targeting the resources, defence, agriculture, space, logistics, advanced manufacturing, construction, and tertiary education sectors. DevelopmentWA says they are in final discussions with several organisations including in the mining, university, engineering, manufacturing, and drone operating sectors, to occupy the precinct’s four leasehold lots.

Located in Neerabup, a rural locality in the North of Perth, the precinct occupies a 51ha space. The option to expand the site by a further 43ha is available, but there are currently no plans to do so. It is also adjacent to the Meridian Park industrial estate.

The precinct is being delivered collaboratively between DevelopmentWA and the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science, and Innovation. The Western Australian state government also said that the precinct will work with universities and industry research sectors to offer Doctoral top-up scholarships when projects align with state economic goals.

According to DevelopmentWA, the Pilbara region in Western Australia is home to 75 per cent of the world’s operating autonomous trucks and the world’s longest autonomous trains hauling iron ore.

Work on the precinct began in October 2021 although early access to the test bed area originally planned for July 2021. At the time, Western Australia’s then-Innovation and ICT Minister Don Punch said that the precinct would cement the state’s position as a leader in robotics and automation.

“Western Australia is a recognised world leader in the field of automation for the mining sector, and this new facility will see this same success mirrored across a range of industries,” Mr Punch said.

“This builds on the $100 million Investment Attraction and New Industries Fund announced in the recent State Budget to support and accelerate a range of emerging industries to diversify our economy and deliver the WA jobs of the future.”

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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