Australian universities get $173m in funding to turn critical minerals into products, services

(Image courtesy of Curtin University).

Australia’s Curtin University is set to receive a share of more than A$242 million ($173m) in federal government funding to lead the development of the Resources Technology and Critical Minerals Trailblazer hub.

The facility is being built together with the University of Queensland, James Cook University, and 33 company partners across Australia involved in value chains requiring lithium, nickel, cobalt, vanadium and hydrogen resources. The goal is to turn research outputs into breakthrough services, products and businesses.

“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 in a media statement.

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

The Trailblazer hub is expected to drive the cultural shift that starts with carefully listening to industry demands to then 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.

“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,” Curtin’s vice-chancellor, Harlene Hayne, said.

In addition to the academic and industry partners, CSIRO will be involved the Trailblazer program and will commission new A$6.6 billion ($4.7bn) metal binder jet printers and provide mineral characterization and analytical services to support research activities.

“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 the efficient production of critical minerals, precursors and ultimately, metals”, Curtin’s deputy vice-chancellor research, Chris Moran, said.