Our editorial series on researchers led by UniSA’s search for companies to develop surface processing capabilities in a planned Surface Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (SMCRC), talks to Professor Colin Hall, industry professor at UniSA.
It is no coincidence that a proposal to establish a new Surface Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre comes from an institution, and individuals who are laser focused on working with individual companies and industry to solve real world problems.
Lead researcher behind the proposal, UniSA Industry Professor Colin Hall, has never fitted the mould of a conventional academic, drawn between teaching and personally engaging, but not necessarily immediately relevant research.
Hall cut his teeth working alongside 90 research staff in Adelaide at Scientific Optical Laboratories of Australia (Sola Optical), a division of Laubman & Pank which developed the mass manufacture of CR-39 plastic spectacle lenses in the 1960s – becoming the world’s largest manufacturer of plastic spectacle lenses in the process.
Hall said: “I got into academic when Sola was paring itself down to be sold off – they were getting rid of assets and liabilities that were costing them money.
“A previous boss at Sola was working at the university and he invited me across and I brought some equipment with me as well that was no longer needed at Sola.
“We set up our labs pretty much straight away and went down the path of coatings for any materials, not just for ophthalmics.”
One the first projects Hall worked on was for automotive mirror manufacturer SMR Automotive which wanted to develop intellectual property on electro chromatic mirrors which dimmed when struck by bright headlights at night.
“That’s probably fairly typical of UniSA – it was a CRC that employed me at the university to start with, the Intelligent Manufacturing Systems CRC.”
In fact Hall has been employed working directly for industry for nearly all the twenty years since.
UniSA has a similar pedigree to other great Australian universities that grew out of an original close working relationship with industry – so it is no surprise that Swinburne University of Technology and RMIT University in Victoria are also helping develop the bid for a new Surface Manufacturing CRC. Others involved include Curtin University, Flinders University, University of Wollongong, CSIRO and ANSTO.
To learn more, the researchers have organised an online information session specially for @AuManufacturing readers on Wednesday, 22 November, 10:30 am – 11:45 am ACDT Register here.
Hall said: “That’s probably the DNA of the universities involved – generating knowledge but finding an avenue for it or a way to get it into the community and finding a productive use for it.
“Certainly I am sitting in the Future Industries Institute, which is the most industry and outwardly focussed institute within the university. So we are doubly focused on industry engagement.”
Hall said the main thing companies can get out of involvement in the SMCRC was to get to work with researches to solve problems, or develop new products.
“That’s one thing, another is unlocking the know how and facilities at all the universities involved in the CRC,
“Industry may have trouble knowing it is there and accessing it. The CRC can bridge that gap – it will enable collaboration.”
Hall said that the SMCRC proposal had a good chance of success if it could get industry support and if there was the promise of cash and in kind support from businesses which can see its benefits.
Hall said: We can point to where surface manufacturing has helped industry in every sector.
“Everyone I have talked to says we need this – it certainly hasn’t been a problem finding an overlap between the capabilities researchers have and what industries want.
“It will come down to writing a really good stage one application – we know it is competitive, very competitive, but we will give it a red hot go.”
Launch article – Our editorial series on researchers led by UniSA’s search for companies to develop surface processing capabilities in a planned Surface Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre (SMCRC) here.
Search for industry partners for Surface Manufacturing CRC – series launch
This series is brought to you by UniSA on behalf of the proposed Surface Manufacturing Cooperative Research Centre.
Surface Engineering and Manufacturing optimise material properties, customise products, enhancing their longevity and performance. For SMEs, it’s a gateway to innovation, reducing costs and fostering global competitiveness by delivering superior and tailored solutions. Companies can join us in our Surface Manufacturing CRC bid to shape the future of sustainable and competitive manufacturing in Australia.