Trailblazer Universities Program

On 24 November 2021, the former Prime Minister announced an investment of $242.7 million to support select universities to boost prioritised research and development and drive commercialisation outcomes with industry partners from 2021-22 until 2025-26. This includes a total of $30 million for participating universities to partner with CSIRO and access specialist equipment to supercharge their research translation and commercialisation capabilities.

About the Program

The Trailblazer Universities Program will be comprised of a select group of universities with dedicated investment to accelerate Australia’s innovation agenda at-speed and at-scale. Participating universities will demonstrate:

  • Commitment to supercharging world-leading capability behind a nominated National Manufacturing Priority (defence, space, food and beverage, medical products, recycling and clean energy, and resources technology and critical minerals technology)
  • Use of open, collaborative IP agreements that are attractive for industry
  • Use of incentives and rewards for research staff who engage with industry and commercialise research
  • Co-funding commitments from industry partners, and proactive engagement with businesses
  • Opportunities and pathways that promote strong industry engagement and job-ready skills, including development of educational qualifications and pathways with the Vocational and Education Training (VET) sector.

Through this initiative the Australian Government will provide additional capacity to focus on the problems that matter to the nation by driving research excellence and real-world impact behind Australia’s National Manufacturing Priorities.

Funding to support participating universities to drive research commercialisation behind the National Manufacturing Priorities will be provided from 1 July 2022.

The Trailblazer Universities Program responds to feedback to the public consultation on university research commercialisation, which highlighted the importance of strengthening capability at the institutional level. Submissions to the consultation also emphasised key barriers to collaboration and commercialisation, and proposed solutions such as more effective IP arrangements and greater incentives for academics and institutions to translate and commercialise research.

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How do universities apply?

The Program Guidelines outline eligibility, selection criteria, funding requirements and application process for the Trailblazer Universities Program. Applications involve a two-stage application process – with all universities invited to complete an initial Expression of Interest (EOI). Successfully shortlisted applicants will then complete a more comprehensive business case for final assessment.

Shortlisted Candidates

On 28 January 2022, the former Minister for Education and Youth, the Hon Stuart Robert MP, announced the eight shortlisted projects, across all six NMPs, to compete for a share of the $242.7 million Trailblazer funding.

The total value of the proposals submitted for the Trailblazer Universities Program was $2.9 billion in cash and in-kind commitments from both the universities and their industry partners to drive research to commercialisation success.

The successful shortlisted applicants are:

  • University of Queensland, Food and beverage – Accelerating growth in Australia’s Food and Beverage manufacturing
  • Charles Sturt University, Food and beverage – Reshaping Australian Manufacturing: Food and Beverage Commercialisation Hub
  • Deakin University, Recycling and clean energy – Recycling and Renewable Energy Commercialisation Hub (REACH)
  • University of New South Wales, Recycling and clean energy – Australian Trailblazer for Recycling and Clean Energy (ATRaCE)
  • University of Adelaide, Defence – Defence Trailblazer for Concept to Sovereign Capability (CSC)
  • University of Melbourne, Medical products – Medical Products Trailblazer
  • University of Southern Queensland, Space – Innovative Launch, Automation, Novel Materials, Communications and Hypersonics Hub (The iLAuNCH Hub)
  • Curtin University, Resources technology and critical minerals processing – Resources Technology Trailblazer

Applications are assessed by a panel of university, industry, science, and research leaders. The panel is chaired by Mr Tony Cook PSM, Deputy Secretary of the Higher Education, Research and International Group and includes

  • Ms Janean Richards, First Assistant Secretary, Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources
  • Emeritus Professor Paul Wellings CBE, former Vice-Chancellor of the University of Wollongong
  • Mr Andrew Stevens, Chair of Industry Innovation and Science Australia
  • Ms Judi Zielke, Chief Operating Officer, CSIRO (at EOI stage only)
  • Mr Dom English, First Assistant Secretary, Higher Education Division, Department of Education, Skills and Employment

The CSIRO will now work closely with shortlisted applicants to finalise the specialist equipment component of their business case. Applicants are invited to submit their Business Case to the Department by 12.00pm (AEDT) Monday 15 March 2022.

If you have any questions, please email the Department at urcs@dese.gov.au.

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