Minister praises UOW’s “world-class” innovation facility
The Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research, Senator Chris Evans today (25 October) described the University of Wollongong’s Innovation Campus as one of Australia’s leading centres of innovation.
Senator Evans was speaking at the official opening of the second stage of the Australian Institute for Innovation Materials (AIIM) Building at the Innovation Campus, which he described as “world-class”.
He was clearly impressed after inspecting some of the high-tech laboratories in the new building.
AIIM’s new Processes and Devices Facility is a federally-funded $47 million facility for researchers to develop their processes and devices and test them for real-world applications.
The Minister said the work being carried out at AIIM was playing an important role in bridging the gap between research and industry, and would generate significant economic activity and employment opportunities for the Illawarra region.
“This building adds another component to the Innovation Campus and its world-leading research,” Senator Evans said. “This campus is turning into one of the best innovation centres in Australia … and is world competitive.”
Senator Evans said he was impressed with the industry partnerships forged by AIIM researchers, and the international attention it was generating.
“It is not just pure research, but very much engaged with industry … so we will see multiple benefits,” he said. “And it is attracting researchers from around the world to Wollongong to help lead a variety of efforts in research … that will allow us to connect with industry and lead to manufacturing of a range of products that will help enhance our capacities in manufacturing, in science, in research and medicine. This is a great development for Wollongong and recognition that the University is becoming a world-class facility.
“What you’re seeing here is development of something quite special. The scope and breadth of the research being done here now and the breadth of the capabilities is really putting Wollongong on the map as somewhere where world-class research is occurring.
“And we’re getting interest from China and India and their leading scientific organisations.”
AIIM is home to UOW’s flagship research groups – the Intelligent Polymer Research Institute led by Professor Gordon Wallace, the Institute for Superconducting and Electronic Materials led by Professor Shi Xue Dou, and the newly-formed UOW Electron Microscopy Centre led by Professor Elena Pereloma.
The new building is connected to the first AIIM building, and accommodates about 150 staff and postgraduate students including chemists, engineers, physicists, biologists and materials scientists.
Speaking at today’s official opening ceremony, UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings thanked Senator Evans and the financial support chiefly funded through a $43.8m grant from the Federal Government’s Education Investment Fund as part of the Nation-building Economics Stimulus Plan.
Professor Wellings said it was appropriate that the building had been financed through the economic stimulus program.
“AIIM’s researchers are carrying out important nation-building work in a range of fields, from energy generation and storage including next generation solar cells, new battery technologies for more efficient electric vehicles and thermoelectric modules for converting waste energy into electricity, through to advanced medical bionics,” Professor Wellings said.
“In short, they are dealing with some of the great challenges of the 21st century, searching for materials breakthroughs that will improve the productivity of existing industries and help to create new ones.
“So this is an exciting time for our researchers, and an exciting time for the University of Wollongong.”
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research) Professor Judy Raper said there were currently no other facilities available in Australia to produce multi-functional materials at the scale and quantity required to bridge that “valley of death” to commercialisation.
“The University of Wollongong is a recognised world leader in multi-functional materials research and this facility will also help us become a world leader in their application, fabrication and commercialisation,” she said.
“Currently, no university in Australia (or internationally to our knowledge) is making this link and industry is typically reluctant to invest in further development or application until there is demonstrated proof-of-concept with clearly defined and cost-effective materials processing and device fabrication. The building enables us to research the fabrication techniques as well as develop the materials,” Professor Raper said.
The new building also includes a purpose-built electron microscope facility. It is located within a delicate award-winning timber structure which holds some of Australia’s most powerful microscopes. The building’s structural elements had to be non-ferrous so as not to interfere with the sensitive microscopes that are housed in airtight acoustic chambers with no natural light.
Professor Wellings said the Innovation Campus had been established with a vision to create a world-class research and development precinct that would help drive the region’s economic future while making a significant contribution to the national and global store of knowledge.
“This second AIIM building certainly takes us further down that road,” he said.
Report: NICK HARTGERINK
Pictures: SEAN MAGUIRE