Eight university-based innovation hubs shortlisted for $242.7 m research commercialisation program

Eight universities have been shortlisted for support through the federal government’s Trailblazer program, which will create four public-private innovation hubs and aims to improve the nation’s research commercialisation performance.

A total of 21 proposals were made, according to acting education minister Stuart Robert, who said the four successful bids would be announced “in late March”. One of these must be a regional university.

The shortlisted universities named on Friday were invited to submit a detailed business case to support their bid.

Selection criteria are based on a focus of one of the six National Manufacturing Priority sectors and factors including co-funding by industry partners, openness of IP sharing, and incentives for researchers to collaborate with industry.

(The six priority sectors are Resources technology and critical minerals processing; Food and beverage; Medical products; Recycling and clean energy; Defence; and Space.)

“They will also help demonstrate what it takes to build successful and enduring partnerships between university and private sector researchers that prioritise a focus on the national interest,” added Robert.

The program is budgeted at $242.7 million and will provide funding of $50 million over four years to four successful universities, plus a further $8 million each to help them link with the CSIRO and its research infrastructure. Universities will have access to CSIRO test labs.

The Trailblazer program was announced in November 2021, following a Research Commercialisation Taskforce review chaired by Siemens Australia CEO Jeff Connolly.

“Too often… research is just left on the shelf and not taken further down the pipeline towards production here in Australia,” said prime minister Scott Morrison during the program announcement, addressing the Business Council of Australia

“Too often, Australian businesses are missing out on those opportunities to commercialise Australian research and Australian universities and researchers are missing out on opportunities to be rewarded for their work.”

The topic of improving industry-university collaboration and commercialisation is an enduring one. Australia has previously ranked 29th out of 30 OECD nations based on proportion of businesses collaborating with universities. 

The eight shortlisted universities under the Trailblazer program are:

  • University of Queensland, Food and beverage – Accelerating growth in Australia’s Food and Beverage manufacturing
  • Charles Sturt University, Food and beverage – Reshaping Australian Manufacturing: Food and Beverage Commercialisation Hub
  • Deakin University, Recycling and clean energy – Recycling and Renewable Energy Commercialisation Hub (REACH)
  • University of New South Wales, Recycling and clean energy – Australian Trailblazer for Recycling and Clean Energy (ATRaCE)
  • University of Adelaide, Defence – Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC)
  • University of Melbourne, Medical products – Medical Products Trailblazer
  • University of Southern Queensland, Space – Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications and Hypersonics Hub (The iLAuNCH Hub)
  • Curtin University, Resources Technology and critical minerals – Resources Technology Trailblazer

Picture: University of Melbourne

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