T he proposal to form a Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) for Australia’s rail manufacturing sector came from the ‘On Track to 2040’ program. Subsequently, the Rail Manufacturing CRC was established in 2014 and will operate for a period of six years, funded by the Business Cooperative Research Centres Programme of the Australian Government’s Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. Since commencing, the Rail Manufacturing CRC has held two funding rounds, and now embarks on its third and final round, with submissions due early next year. “Our focus is set by industry,” Dr Thomson told Rail Express ahead of AusRAIL PLUS 2017. “It’s very industry-led. Part of [On Track to 2040] was developing a 30-year strategy for the rail industry, and three specific research areas were identified, which we’ve committed to as our three key objectives.” The CRC’s three research program themes are ‘power and propulsion’, ‘materials and manufacturing’, and ‘design, modelling and simulation’. Within each theme there are already several ongoing projects, which each see at least one industry member partnered with a university or research institution. “When the Centre began, we had an initial number of members who joined the Centre,” Thomson explained. “Our membership ranged from the tier-one manufacturers, right through the SMEs, and now we have operators on board as well … because they are clients for a lot of our work.” Companies already undertaking CRC-driven projects include Knorr-Bremse, Bombardier, UGL, OneSteel, Downer, CRRC, and Sydney Trains. Academic and research institutions include the University of Technology Sydney, the CSIRO, the University of Queensland, the University of Wollongong, CQ University, QUT, Deakin University, Swinburne, Monash University and RMIT. To take part in research, companies are invited to approach the CRC with an idea for new R&D. The CRC will match their funding – with grants worth up to $1 million in this third round of funding – and help partner those companies up with the most suitable universities and researchers. “We’re set up to provide capacity for business who want to undertake research that, perhaps is either very high risk [technically], or requires extra skillsets, for organisations which typically may not have those people working inhouse. “Australia has an excellent research history. It punches well above its weight globally. I think that’s underutilised at the moment within the rail industry, and our focus is really to ensure that rail makes the most of those skillsets and opportunities.” The process The CRC’s third round of funding is open to applications until early March 2018. “We work with rail businesses to identify innovation opportunities and introduce them to identify the universities they could partner with,” Thomson explained. “Then we start to engage with the universities to find the right people, and develop a project brief.” Thomson says the CRC will match any amount of funding, “whether it’s $50,000, or $1 million,” for the right project. “The money is then used to fund activities and supply equipment for that project,” he explained. “Typically, the money goes to support labour costs within the university undertaking the project. “Obviously, because it’s taxpayers’ money, there must be a benefit to Australia, so a lot of the support is for either projects that are specif- ic to Australia, or would help the development of intellectual property and technologies that are going to have a distinct benefit to Australia.” The CRC helps coordinate the intellectual property (IP) and technology ownership agree- ments between the industry participant and university in each project upfront, and Thomson says these deals are established early in each project’s development. “Our model is very simple,” he explained. “We don’t take any ownership of any of the IP. The IP terms and conditions, and the commer- cialisation rights, will be negotiated between the parties – the university and the industry participant. That’s specified in the agreements, and is all done prior to the project starting. It’s very much a commercial contract.” With over a dozen ongoing projects, there is no limit to how many – or how few – the CRC may take on in its third and final funding round. “There’s no set number,” Thomson said. “It’s really about the quality of the projects. Where we feel that it’s answering a need, RAIL MANUFACTURING CRC ON HUNT FOR FINAL ROUND OF PROJECTS THE COMMONWEALTH GOVERNMENT SPONSORED RAIL MANUFACTURING CRC IS LOOKING TO CREATE MORE PARTNERSHIPS BETWEEN RAIL BUSINESSES AND UNIVERSITIES IN ITS FINAL OPEN FUNDING ROUND. RAIL EXPRESS SPOKE WITH CHIEF EXECUTIVE OFFICER DR STUART THOMSON ABOUT THE CRC’S MODEL, AND WHAT COULD BE NEXT FOR THE ORGANISATION. 56 ISSUE 2 2017 | RAIL EXPRESS RAIL SUPPLY Dr Stuart Thomson. Photo: Rail Manufacturing CRC. Photo: Rail Manufacturing CRC. Applications for Rail Manufacturing CRC’s third funding round close on March 9, 2018. Visit to find out more. Rail project opportunities include: • Condition monitoring • Internet of things and digital manufacturing • Virtual and augmented reality • Digital design and planning • Lightweight and durable components • Responsive passenger information systems • Improved energy systems • Improved materials and processes • Process improvement and innovation