NERA heralds a new wave of Federal Government investment in industry and research collaboration to drive our nation’s productivity and energy future

16 July 2020

NERA welcomes two significant new funding commitments that will strengthen connections between Australia's research community and priority industry sectors, including the energy resources sector.  

This week, the Federal Minister for Education Dan Tehan announced $24 million that will fund five new Australian Research Council (ARC) Training Centres around the country. The Centres will foster strategic partnerships between university-based researchers and industry organisations to find practical solutions to challenges facing Australian industry. These Centres will also skill-up Australia’s next generation of research leaders, so they are job-ready and working together with industry on real-world challenges.

For Australia’s energy resource sector, two of the five centres carry particular relevance:

  • The ARC Training Centre for The Global Hydrogen Economy: The Centre will generate new technologies and equip a future workforce of industry-focussed engineers with advanced skills for development and scaling-up of hydrogen generation, and enabling technologies for domestic and export markets and transport. It will be led by Professor Rose Amal at The University of New South Wales.
  • The ARC Training Centre in Optimisation Technologies, Integrated Methodologies, and Applications (OPTIMA): The Centre will address industry’s urgent need for decision-making tools for global competitiveness through reducing lead times and financial and environmental costs and improving efficiency, quality, and agility. It will equip a new generation of industry practitioners and young researchers as the future workforce of change agents for transformation of the advanced manufacturing, energy resources, and critical infrastructure sectors. It will be led by Professor Kate Smith-Miles at The University of Melbourne.

The remaining Centres will focus on collaborative robotics in advanced manufacturing, utilising data to improve productivity, and cryo-electron microscopy of membrane proteins for drug discovery.

This announcement follows a commitment of $5 million by the Australian Government to The Transforming energy Infrastructure through Digital Engineering (TIDE) Research Hub as part of the Australian Research Council Industrial Transformation Research Program, announced last week.

TIDE will launch in 2021 and work over the next five years to unite insights from experimental and industry-generated data in order to improve the design and management of offshore energy infrastructure — a critical focus for the energy resource sector.

To be competitive in today’s challenging global environment, energy resources companies across Australia are focussed on transforming their productivity performance. The industry and research collaboration facilitated by the TIDE Research Hub, and importantly its integrated multidisciplinary approach, will play a major role in helping the sector achieve high productivity through low downtime and optimised maintenance and demonstrate the transformative potential of digital engineering.

NERA CEO Miranda Taylor said the ARC Training Centres and TIDE create a vital opportunity for Australian researchers and industry to collaborate to solve real-world challenges, and will enable the local energy resources sector to discover and adopt technologies and solutions to unlock productivity gains, create skilled jobs and support a low-carbon future.

“As Australia’s Industry Growth Centre for energy resources, our role is to accelerate the development, commercialisation and deployment of technologies that strengthen Australia's position as a global hub for excellence in energy resources innovation and enhance our global competitive advantage by supporting the development of a world-class supply sector,” Ms Taylor said.

“This work is crucially enabled by strong collaborative links between industry, science and technology, and we will continue to support the identification and development of structural support initiatives like the ARC Training Centres and Research Hubs that assist our sector address barriers to productivity, competitiveness and innovative capacity,” Ms Taylor said.

“NERA’s 2020 Sector Competitiveness Plan Update confirms that Australia’s economic recovery from COVID-19 will rely on a highly productive, globally competitive, diverse and sustainable energy sector. The new funding announcements by the Federal Government will help secure this and ensure a cleaner energy future for all Australians.”

To read NERA’s 2020 SCP Update, visit