Curtin blazes a trail for resources research commercialisation


Curtin University has been named the first of Australia’s Trailblazer universities to receive a share of over $242 million in federal government funding, to develop a research commercialisation hub. 

The Curtin-led Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Trailblazer hub will match $50 million of government funding to more than equivalent support from the university and industry partners for a total value of the initiative of over $200 million. 

Curtin University will partner with The University of Queensland and James Cook University, and 33 company partners across Australia involved in value chains requiring lithium, nickel, cobalt, vanadium and hydrogen resources. 

This initiative complements the recent government announcements in direct support of critical minerals companies and the release of the new Federal Government Critical Minerals Strategy. 

“This investment will turbocharge Australia’s critical minerals industry and backs in the State’s status as an economic powerhouse for the whole country,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. 

Curtin University vice-chancellor, Professor Harlene Hayne, said the Curtin-led Trailblazer will drive the cultural shift needed to facilitate the pathway from resources technology research to commercial outcomes and to opportunities for university staff and students to start and succeed in their own businesses. 

“It is an incredible achievement for Curtin to be the first of what will only be a handful of Australian universities, and the only one in Western Australia, to be named a Trailblazer and I congratulate all those who delivered the successful proposal,” Hayne said. 

“Together with The University of Queensland and James Cook University, we will use Trailblazer to affect deep and lasting change in the way technology readiness, commercialisation and industry-led research are prioritised, taught and rewarded in our universities.” 

According to Curtin deputy vice-chancellor Research, Professor Chris Moran, the Trailblazer will catapult the partner universities into commercialisation success by carefully listening to industry demand and then delivering the right research outputs and digital edge. 

“The mission of the collaboration is to conduct and translate the research needed to link the value chains so desperately needed if Australia is to become a genuine international leader in efficient production of critical minerals, precursors and ultimately, metals,” Moran said. 

“In doing so, Trailblazer will add significant value, resilience, and sovereign capability throughout Australia’s critical minerals and hydrogen energy value chains. It will deliver the skills and the future workforce required to realise the potential benefits from our resources. 

“The Trailblazer will be a key gateway for industry – opening up access for industry to the wealth of expertise inside universities to ultimately support the start-up and growth of Australian businesses.” 

CSIRO will also be involved in the Trailblazer program, commissioning new Metal Binder Jet Printers and providing mineral characterisation and analytical services to support the program’s research activities. 

The Curtin-led Trailblazer will drive benefits through delivery under the three pillars: 

  • University Transformation – affecting deep and lasting change in the way commercialisation and industry-led research is embedded, facilitated, taught and rewarded in universities; 
  • Technology Readiness – partnering with industry to de-risk new technology and make it more attractive for SMEs, investors and industry to adopt and implement new ways of working; and 
  • Commercialisation – becoming a world leader in the translation of research outcomes into new products, services and industry processes. 

Curtin was shortlisted from 21 university applicants for the Trailblazer program with bids assessed on their “commercialisation readiness,” “industry alignment,” and “research capability to support a national manufacturing priority.” 

For more information about the Trailblazer Universities Program, click here. 

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