UNSW and University of Newcastle team up as clean energy Trailblazer

Brandon How

The University of New South Wales will partner with the University of Newcastle to focus on recycling and clean energy commercialisation with $50 million in Commonwealth funding through the Trailblazer program.

Announced on Wednesday, the federal government will contribute $50 million over four years to leverage $220 million of co-investment from the university and their industry partners. Over 27 members of industry will participate in the initiative, including 23 small businesses.

The University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the University of Newcastle (UoN) will contribute $50 million in cash and $47 million of in-kind investments to the initiative. The remaining $130 million will come from the industry partners.

UNSW Kensington Campus. Photo: UNSW

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the Trailblazer would help drive the economy and wages forward, and that increasing industry and academic collaboration would generate benefits greater than the sum of its parts.

“Our economic plan is supercharging Australia’s research and development, creating more jobs and helping to build a strong economy and a stronger future. We are investing in new clean energy technology to turbo charge our significant investments in hydrogen to create jobs around Australia, particularly in the Hunter,” Mr Morrison said.

The federal government has now announced half of its six Trailblazer programs, with three more still due to be announced. Earlier this year, a shortlist of eight Trailblazer programs was published.

Curtin University was confirmed to be the first Trailblazer for resources and minerals technology in April, with a UniAdelaide and UNSW Trailblazer for defence capability announced the following day.

According to UNSW deputy vice-chancellor Nicholas Fisk, the initiative aims to commercialise at least 63 new products. UNSW estimates that 1600 jobs will be supported by the Trailblazer over the next four years.

Development and commercialisation efforts will be in four priority areas: electrification, energy systems and storage, sustainable fuels and chemicals manufacturing, next generation solar PV and systems, recycling and MICROfactories.

The vice-chancellor and president of UNSW Professor Attila Brungs said that the Trailblazer will build on the university’s reputation for innovation.

“UNSW has a proud track record of commercialising research such as solar panels, energy storage, Green Steel and various MICROfactorie technologies led by 2022 NSW Australian of the Year, ARC Laureate Professor, Veena Sahajwalla. We look forward to working with our partners on the Trailblazer program to deliver further change in the recycling and clean energy innovation landscape,” Professor Brungs said.

University of Newcastle vice-chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky said that the Trailblazer for Recycling and Clean Energy would combine the strengths of the two universities.

The collaboration builds on the NSW state government’s announcement on Saturday that a $15 million Decarbonisation Innovation Hub would be based at UNSW Sydney. Similarly, the university is the academic lead alongside UoN. This grant came from the NSW Environmental Trust.

Activity at the hub will be undertaken by the UoN, UNSW, the University of Wollongong, Western Sydney University, University of Technology Sydney, NSW Department of Primary Industries and industry innovation community Climate KIC.

Even though the hub is based at UNSW, activity under three networks will take place across the state. These networks are Electrification and Energy Systems, Land and Primary Industries, and Power Fuels including Hydrogen.

On Tuesday, Boeing also announced that it would take part in the Defence Trailblazer being run by the University of Adelaide in partnership with UNSW, focusing on undersea autonomy. Work will be undertaken through its prototype development arm, Phantom Works International, which will focus on developing autonomy, simulation, and technical integration of system.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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