The Federal Government has awarded $50 million to the Australian Trailblazer Recycling and Clean Energy (ATRaCE) Program, which will see the University of Newcastle (UON) and UNSW collaborate to produce clean energy and recycling innovations.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor Professor Alex Zelinsky, with Australia’s PM Scott Morrison and UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs. Photo: University of Newcastle.

For the announcement, Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, was joined by the Liberal candidate for Shortland, Nell McGill, and representatives from the University of Newcastle and UNSW at The Melt, an industrial prototyping lab at Warners Bay.

University of Newcastle Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alex Zelinsky AO, said he was thrilled the Federal Government had selected the project and recognised the institution’s track record in commercialisation and collaboration. 

He said the program would accelerate new clean energy and recycling technologies from the research phase to the market. 

“This partnership between the University of Newcastle and UNSW will combine the strengths of our two universities to give us the power to accelerate Australia’s clean energy and recycling industries and bring more, greener technologies to Australians,” Professor Zelinsky said. 

“This program will transform the way technology readiness, commercialisation and industry-led research are prioritised, taught and rewarded in our universities with targeted opportunities for university staff and students to succeed.”

The ATRaCE program has an ambitious set of clean energy technological advances, including sustainable fuels and lightweight hydrogen storage, extending the success of green steel technology to other metals such as aluminium and developing Australian-first zero-emissions aviation.

The program also seeks to develop ultra-low-cost solar with cutting-edge engineering and build the first at-scale printed solar manufacturing plant, providing the step-change needed to vault the technology to full commercialisation.

“Working in partnership with major energy and recycling companies, SMEs (small-to-medium enterprises), end-users and international entities, ATRaCE will transform how research is commercialised,” Zelinsky said.

“It will provide clear pathways for academics and industry partners to supercharge their capabilities and deliver new technologies to Australians.”

Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, said the UNSW and UON partnership is the third trailblazer to receive funding through the program, designed to focus Australia’s considerable research power on Australia’s National Manufacturing Priorities.

“Our economic plan is supercharging Australia’s research and development, creating more jobs and helping to build a strong economy and a stronger future,” Morrison said.

“We are investing in new clean energy technology to turbocharge our significant investments in hydrogen to create jobs around Australia, particularly in the Hunter.”

Over four years, the program is expected to contribute $212 million to Australia’s GDP. Photo source: Scott Morrison

Acting Minister for Education and Youth, Stuart Robert, said the UNSW and UON partnership and its industry collaborators had promised more than $220 million in co-investment, matching public funding by around four to one.

“This funding means more jobs right here in Australia, a stronger research and development sector and a stronger economy.”

Over four years, the program is expected to contribute $212 million to Australia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which doesn’t include its existing $200M program budget. 

Its long term potential will see the creation of 52 new patents, moving 54 technologies up the value chain and bringing 57 new products to market.

Across a 20-year timeframe, ATRaCE will contribute up to $15 billion to GDP, with technologies developed in the program projected to support between 1,600 and 5,200 jobs in the recycling and clean energy industries.

ATRaCE will also see universities offering industry-endorsed courses in priority areas and will enable greater workforce mobility between businesses and universities.

UNSW Vice-Chancellor and President, Professor Attila Brungs, said UNSW was proud to be collaborating to support Australia’s manufacturing priorities.  

“We are delighted to work with the University of Newcastle and our innovative  industry partners on transformative research projects that deliver real-world outcomes.”

“The program will undoubtedly strengthen university-industry collaboration to support the start-up and growth of Australian businesses.

“It will create a step-change in Australian environmental sustainability transition.”

The funding brings together industry businesses with some of the nation’s most expert researchers to create an innovation ecosystem for recycling and clean energy.

The ATRaCE project includes 27 industry partners, 80 per cent SMEs and CSIRO, who will develop specialised facilities to support work on electrification and solar.

Maia O’Connor

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