A proposed $50 million Australian Centre for Innovative Manufacturing (ACIM), to be led by Flinders University, has welcomed a $20 million commitment from federal Labor, announced by Opposition spokesperson for Innovation, Industry, Science and Research Senator Kim Carr.
The 4000 m2 advanced manufacturing test bed facility, to be based at South Australia’s Tonsley Innovation District, has the potential to be the country’s first reconfigurable ‘Factory of the Future’ — connecting Australian companies with the latest manufacturing technologies and research expertise and providing training to modernise workforces. It will be established with a mandate to create jobs and promote growth in areas of strategic importance to Australia, including defence and aerospace, construction, medical devices/assistive technologies, wine and food, and minerals and energy.
“Advanced technologies are transforming manufacturing around the world, fuelling the growth of new and existing companies and generating thousands of well-paid and rewarding jobs,” said Professor John Spoehr, Pro-Vice Chancellor, Research Impact at Flinders and Director of the Australian Industrial Transformation Institute.
“Step change strategies are needed to enable Australia and SA to be at the centre of this technological revolution. Large-scale ‘Factories of the Future’ are playing a key role in accelerating this transition in the UK, Europe and the United States because they bring researchers and companies together in purpose-built facilities to explore innovation of existing technologies and experimentation with new technologies.”
Advanced manufacturing technologies featured at ACIM could include:
- digitally assisted assembly
- photonic sensing
- land and maritime autonomous systems.
“ACIM will encourage a ‘can-do’ culture, where students can interact with business and where business interacts with researchers to transform manufacturing processes of the 21st century,” said Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling.
“We’re helping to revolutionise the way we live and work, by placing Australia at the forefront of Industry 4.0 change to help accelerate the growth of advanced manufacturing companies and jobs.”
The facility will incorporate more than 200 academics from Flinders, employ an additional 20 researchers and technical personnel, and be capable of hosting up to 50 industry personnel working collaboratively on multiple projects. It will also provide accredited courses in manufacturing and in Industry 4.0, advanced education and training for up to 1000 students each year and accommodate up to 50 postgraduate students.
ACIM has already attracted significant industry support, most notably in the shipbuilding sector. BAE Systems will explore the potential applications of robotics and automation technologies in shipbuilding, while SAGE plans to co-locate its Skills Lab Head office and main laboratory in ACIM.
“ACIM will significantly lower the barriers to entry that many companies face when considering the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies and play a brokerage role in helping to connect companies to key enabling technologies and research capabilities,” Prof Spoehr said.
ACIM will be an affiliate of the University of Sheffield Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), funded by the UK Government’s Industry Catapult Program. The centre will also work closely with the University of Strathclyde’s Advanced Forming Research Centre (AFRC) to support the application of new manufacturing technologies for shipbuilding.
Flinders University will invest $10 million towards land, capital and operational costs, while $30 million has been sought from the federal and state governments towards capital, equipment and operational costs. Industry investment is expected to be more than $10 million over the short term.
“This is an initiative that transcends politics and is deserving of broad support in the state’s — and the nation’s — interest,” Prof Spoehr said.