IFM’s success as founding partner of new CRC receiving $70m funding

A new Cooperative Research Centre, of which Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials is a founding partner, has received almost $70 million in grant funding in a bid to strengthen Australia’s composite manufacturing industry. 

The Sovereign Manufacturing Automation for Composites (SoMAC) Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) has received more than $189.3 million in cash and in-kind contributions from 36 partners.  

The SoMAC CRC will link Australia’s top composites research institutions with key manufacturers and their supply chains, covering industries such as green energy production, space vehicles manufacturing, recycling of composite materials, and civil and marine infrastructure.  

In addition to providing training opportunities and creating an expected 1500 jobs, it also has the potential to generate $2.1 billion in benefits to the domestic composite industry sector.  

Deakin University’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) is a founding partner of the CRC, which is being led by the University of New South Wales. Five other leading Australian universities plus Australia’s Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) and 29 industry partners will also be part of the SoMAC CRC. 

Spearheaded by Prof. Russell Varley and Prof. Luke Henderson, IFM will lead the High-Performance Composite Materials program that will focus upon automation, affordability, sustainability and functionality. The goal is to establish Australia as a world leader in industry focussed carbon fibre and composite materials research creating high value jobs and wealth for Australia.   

Prof. Varley says  the establishment of this CRC will accelerate the transition of Australia’s composite manufacturing industry into one that leads the world in sustainability and productivity, while employing thousands more Australians. 

Prof. Henderson says it is hard to say what the full effects of this funding will have on IFM but it should facilitate the installation of a critical mass of researchers working in this space and enable the reskilling/training of the current workforce for redeployment in this sovereign manufacturing sector. 

‘Over decades Australia has lost its materials production industry outside of metals, with manufacture of reinforcing fibres and advanced polymers for composites being mainly or entirely drawn from imports,’ Prof. Henderson says. 

‘Our program presents a genuine opportunity to implement sovereign materials manufacturing capability, particularly in the production of low-cost composite materials.  

This has the potential to allow Australia to re-join nations providing advanced composite materials to the world market, with symbolic effect on Australians and their view of Australia as an advanced technology nation. 

Prof. Varley and Prof. Henderson’s team hope their work as part of the SoMAC CRC will contribute to the long-term future of Australia’s on-shore manufacturing capabilities. 

‘The materials we will be working on are critical for envisioned technologies in electric vehicles, hydrogen storage and transportation, also wind energy,’ Prof. Henderson says. 

‘As these technologies develop and become viable, there will be a need for critical materials to support their implementation on a large scale. This CRC will provide those supporting pillars and train a workforce in the maintenance and development of new composites for a new on-shore capability.’