Making the mining sector more efficient and boosting the strength of railway tracks are among four new research projects in New South Wales and Queensland that the Turnbull Government today announced would be funded to kick off 2017.

Minister for Education and Training Simon Birmingham said the Turnbull Government’s $1.875 million commitment for three mining research programs at the University of Queensland and research into strengthening railway tracks at the University of Wollongong were the first projects to be funded under the new Linkage Projects scheme – a major change in the way research is funded in Australia and a key initiative of the National Innovation and Science Agenda.

Minister Birmingham said the Linkage Projects scheme was a direct response to the country’s “appalling” reputation internationally for collaboration between industry and higher education researchers where the OECD ranks Australia last out of all 33 participating countries for collaboration by large firms. 
“When researchers and businesses come to the Government with strong proposals that will clearly deliver real benefits for industry and Australians, we want to be able to green light them as quickly as possible,” Minister Birmingham said.

“With the National Innovation and Science Agenda we sped up the processes for approving Linkage Projects that fund collaborations between researchers and businesses and we made changes so that grants could be made year-round so worthy projects don’t need to wait months and months until applications open. 
“The Linkage Projects scheme supports our researchers to work with innovators outside the traditional research sector to find solutions to real-world problems and improve the translation of research into broader outcomes for businesses and the community.

“Under the previous annual selection process for the Linkage Projects scheme, researchers and their collaborating partners—industry and other organisations who invest significant amounts of matching funding—submitted proposals once a year and then waited up to nine months for the announcement of funding outcomes. The grants we’re announcing today have been approved in less than half that time. 
“The changes we’ve made to the way these research projects are assessed means outcomes are announced sooner and researchers and businesses can collaborate as the opportunities arise.

“It’s clear the projects the University of Queensland will work on with Santos, BHP, Newcrest and a range of others have enormous potential benefits for the mining industry in the Sunshine State and across the country and I’m pleased we’ve been able to inject funding for that research so quickly.

“The work the University of Wollongong has planned with their partners shows they are some of the leaders in infrastructure research and their project will potentially reduce the huge maintenance costs and extend the long-term use of rail networks around Australia. 
“These new Linkage Projects involve significant collaboration between university researchers and partner organisations who have provided matching cash and in-kind contributions that demonstrate a commitment to Australia’s future.”

   Description Australian Government funding
2016-17 to 2018-19
University of 
Rail track stability – Examine causes of ‘mud pumping’ and effectiveness of drainage. Aims to improve track longevity, reducing
maintenance costs and boosting productivity.
 $675,000 Infra Tech PTY LTD; Australasian Centre for Rail Innovation Limited; Geoharbour
Group; Coffey Geotechnics PTY LTD; SMEC Australia PTY. LIMITED
University of 
Reduce mineral scaling – Develop strategies to mitigate silica scaling at CSG water treatment
facilities. Potential to reduce chemical waste and increase water recovery from operations.
 $450,000 QGC; Australia
Pacific LNG PTY LIMITED; Santos LIMITED; Arrow Energy PTY LTD; Wastewater
Futures PTY LTD
  Mineral separation – Achieve mineral separation and metal extraction more efficiently and
economically. May halve operating costs of mineral concentrators and reduce harmful emissions.
 $555,000 Newcrest Mining
LIMITED; Vega Industries; Sierra Gorda SCM
  Iron ore extraction and utilisation – New technical information on the behaviour
of ores during iron ore sintering and resulting mineral structures. Knowing
these properties may assist with the use, marketing and sale of different iron ores.
 $195,000  BHP Billiton
Innovation PTY LTD

Details of the successful Linkage Projects announced today are available from the ARC’s website