Research

QUT connections addressing world challenges

QUT VC Peter Coaldrake and Sumitomo Electric Industries Managing Director Dr. Junji Itoh, with the QUT/Sumitomo solar panel, at the Queensland Crop Development Facility, Cleveland

Global problems need global solutions. That is QUT’s vision when establishing partnerships with key international companies – a shared goal to tackle some of the world’s most pressing issues.

“As we become more and more integrated with rapidly evolving and emerging technologies, many of which are disrupting, it’s very important for universities to retain that contact with the real world,” said Professor Ian Mackinnon, from QUT’s Institute for Future Environments.

“Technology is developing faster than we can imagine. So it’s natural we should be working with key partners – government agencies, industry peak bodies, businesses – in areas that are important for the Australian and international economy.

“We look for partners developing technologies that are new to Australia, or being developed in Australia that are new to the world, that can provide the best impact for the community.”

A three-way partnership between QUT, Japanese manufacturer Sumitomo Electric, and Indian conglomerate Adani, is one such example.

Sumitomo Electric will demonstrate its powerful concentrated solar photovoltaic technology for the first time in Australia, via a CPV solar tree at the Queensland Government’s Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Redlands Research Facility in Brisbane.

The solar tree will be operated and tested by QUT researchers over a three year period to validate detailed performance characteristics in a multi-disciplinary, multi-user field station environment.

For Sumitomo Electric, this demonstration installation is the first of many new energy technologies that may find a viable home and rapid take-up in Australia.

Adani is a global energy company with a strong renewable energy portfolio predominantly deployed in India including the world’s largest solar power plant (with 650 MW capacity) in Tamil Nadu state.

Adani would like to bring their experience of solar power to Australia, and with an eye for innovative practices, is keen to include the Sumitomo Electric technologies in their plans for Australian mining projects.

“Providing the right energy mix is a global challenge, but also a key issue for Queensland, particularly in regional parts of the state,” Professor Mackinnon said.

“This technology, along with Sumitomo Electric’s regional-scale redox flow battery technology, has the potential to make Queensland’s energy system significantly more efficient, robust and sustainable.

“QUT can provide independent advice about how to deploy the technologies in different parts of Queensland and, if the opportunity arises, engage in R&D to further develop technologies collaboratively.

“Partnerships like this can also be a great opportunity for our staff and students. Exposing students to global companies gives them access to people developing the latest technologies. It brings that real world experience back to our student body and can also influence the thinking of our academic staff.”

Professor Mackinnon said QUT was targeting partnerships with leading international businesses, and was ideally placed to productively engage with them.

“There’s been a shift by the university to deliberately target companies that are global, have influence and have portfolios of technologies or businesses that align with our R&D strategies,” he said.

“I think QUT has a particular culture, an organisational structure that helps engage with industry players rapidly. You’ve got to respond straight away and we are very orientated towards a rapid response and intent to deliver.”

With technology advancing at an unprecedented pace, Professor Mackinnon said it made sense for universities and industry to continue sharing knowledge in a joint drive for innovation.

“Companies realise they need talent, they need innovation, and universities can help them,” he said.

“It’s natural for universities to suggest new technologies and systems. That’s what researchers do – we’re always looking for better ways to make everything work.”

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