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Transforming manufacturing through research

02 November, 2011

$300 million in manufacturing research funding across 1000 projects will help develop currency made of sugar cane and lightweight car parts – and that’s just for starters.

Cheese-making and techniques for producing sustainable plastic dollar bills from sugar cane are among the new research projects on which The University of Queensland and industry partners will collaborate from next year.

In the latest round of Australian Research Council Linkage Project grants, UQ had more projects approved and drew more ARC and industry funding for research than any other Australian university.

Industry organisations have committed $12.44 million to 22 projects starting at UQ next year; these will be supported by $6.29 million in ARC Linkage scheme grants.

UQ's Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), Professor Max Lu, said UQ's strong industry connections had long ensured that its research was beneficial to society.

"Engagement is one of our highest priorities, and this means UQ researchers' work is very relevant to current global challenges," Professor Lu said.

"We are delighted to see that the ARC Linkage Project grants announced today will be supporting so many important and exciting areas of research, involving some key companies and organisations."

In a boost for the $1 billion Australian cheese industry, Dr Mark Turner of UQ's School of Agriculture and Food Science will work with Dairy Innovation Australia Ltd on "smarter fermentations".

"Fermentation can be adversely affected by virus (phage) attack or sub-optimal strain mixtures," Dr Turner, whose research will receive $333,000 from the ARC over three years, said.

"The latest genomics and molecular biology approaches will be used to characterise and optimise starter culture strains leading to improved flavour, quality and efficiency in cheese making."

Meanwhile Dr Jens Kroemer, of UQ's Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology, will work with Dow Chemical (Australia) Ltd on producing: "sustainable dollar notes and other polypropylenes" — from sugar cane.

"Fossil fuels provide us with the essential chemicals for our lifestyle," Dr Kroemer, whose project will receive $478,284 in ARC funding over three years, said.

"The chemical industry recognises limited supply and a need to reduce carbon emissions. Microbes are able to supply green chemicals — eg bio-ethanol — but efficiencies are often low.

"This project will develop microbes for the fermentative production of plastics from cane sugar."

UQ's largest Linkage Project announced was the $576,000 over three years that will fund work at UQ's Institute for Molecular Bioscience in partnership with Bioproton, in a project titled Single molecule spectroscopy-guided design of thermostable industrial enzymes.

"The production and engineering of proteins are key methodologies in life sciences," lead investigator, Professor Kirill Alexandrov, said.

"We aim to develop new approaches to accelerate the production and analysis of proteins and to apply them to discover improved proteins for use as feedstock supplements."

Announcing $310 million in funding for over 1,000 national research projects, Innovation Minister Senator Kim Carr said Australia’s manufacturing industries were facing difficult times but will become more innovative so they can have a prosperous future.

"I am pleased many projects being funded in this round of Australian Research Council major grants will support Australian manufacturing to help created new products and cleaner technologies," Senator Carr said.

"Researchers at the University of Adelaide — working together with Fosters Group Ltd, Orlando Wyndham Group Pty Ltd and the Yalumba Wine Company — will use a $405,000 grant to develop wine barrel sensors with optical fibres to reduce wastage and improve quality in wine making.

"Researchers at Deakin University will use a $270,000 grant to develop light-weight automotive components through an innovative flexible roll forming technique, which will assist the fuel economy and crashworthiness of vehicles. 

"Researchers at Monash University will use a $380,000 grant to use carbon fibre reinforced polymer for stronger, more durable steel structures for industrial applications."

The research projects were announced as part of the Australian Research Council’s 2012 Major Grants Announcement, with $310 million announced for over 1000 research projects nationwide.

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