In a time of major transition from low value to high value manufacturing in Geelong, Deakin University is playing a key role in facilitating the region’s economic transition to a globally-recognised, high-productivity knowledge economy.
The Future Economy Precinct has been established at Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus to support industry and business with world-class research capabilities and industrial-scale infrastructure.
Australia’s largest independent manufacturer of carbon fibre composites, Quickstep Holdings (QS) has established a new Technology Division and relocated its R&D functions from Germany and Bankstown to the Precinct.
The investment has paid dividends. Since it made the move in 2015, the business has thrived, bringing jobs and new projects to the region – as well as benefits for Quickstep Holdings, its clients, associated businesses, and consumers in Australia and overseas.
Quickstep is working with researchers and PhD students at Deakin’s world-leading carbon fibre research centre, Carbon Nexus, Deakin Research Institutes and CSIRO to enhance its products and processes and expand its business. The company currently exports to the USA, South Korea, France and Germany, with clients in defence, automotive, medical and other industries.
Quickstep’s relationship with Deakin spans many years, commencing in 2001, when researchers from Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials began working with Quickstep to help refine and identify applications for Quickstep’s patented “Qure Process” for out-of-autoclave production, which has played a key role in the business’s global success.
Through the move to Deakin’s Future Economy Precinct, QS gained: space for a dedicated R&D centre and demonstrator production cell; access to Deakin laboratories, researchers, ready-made employees and marketing spin-offs (through membership of Deakin’s “Carbon Cluster”); acceleration of R&D and commercialisation; and access to a broader range of funding through joint applications with Deakin.
QS manufacturing projects at Waurn Ponds are expanding, with the company set to develop composite front fenders for the European automotive market; and demonstrator parts for future submarine applications.
Deakin has been involved in a number of these projects, particularly through the ARC-funded Future Fibres Hub (based at Waurn Ponds), Carbon Nexus, IFM and the Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation (IISRI).
Professor of Composite Materials, Russell Varley and Research Fellow Dr Mandy de Souza lead a team of four Carbon Nexus researchers in collaborative activities with Quickstep, including Deakin researchers Dr Sima Kashi and Mr Ned Volk, who work closely with Quickstep through the Future Fibres Hub.
“Collaboration is very close, with fortnightly meetings occurring at a minimum,” said Professor Varley.
The Geelong community has also benefitted, with 25 Quickstep employees, predominantly specialised staff, located at Waurn Ponds. Flow-on jobs resulting from collaborations such as Futuris and suppliers have contributed additional jobs.
Professor Varley said the arrangement was a “win win” situation.
“Deakin staff, students and graduates are gaining hands-on experience on state-of-the-art equipment for research and training purposes,” he said. “These opportunities have led to three Deakin PhD graduates now being employed full-time at QS. Two PhD students were based at Quickstep (2015–2016) and 12 Deakin/QS students have completed their PhDs since 2006.”
The embedding of cutting edge businesses like Quickstep within the “fabric” of the University is ensuring that Deakin’s research is focussed on making a difference in the “real world.”
The Geelong Future Economy Precinct has created over 1900 jobs over the past five years, and more than 400 people are now employed through a “Carbon Cluster” of businesses and research facilities on-campus. This critical mass will accelerate over the coming decade, particularly as new initiatives, such as ManuFutures, emerge. Currently under construction, this $13 million purpose-built hub for start-up and established businesses will cement the role of Deakin as an Australian leader in innovation and advanced manufacturing.
Main photograph (from left): Peter Bruchmüller, Design Engineer at Quickstep (Deakin PhD student); Carl de Koning, General Manager, Marketing and External Relations, Quickstep; Dr Tim de Souza, Design Manager, Quickstep; Dr Sima Kashi, Research Engineer, IFM; and Matthew Jennings, Development Engineer, Quickstep (Deakin PhD student).
Published by Deakin Research on 17 November 2017