New research ties will advance modern manufacturing

Australian and UK researchers and innovators have struck a new agreement to support opportunities to collaborate on modern manufacturing methods that could be adapted to shipbuilding and marine operations underway in both hemispheres.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Flinders University, the University of Strathclyde – operator of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland – and BAE Systems is a key step in the establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Exchange to foster closer working relationships and facilitate the development of international best practice for shipbuilding manufacturing methods and processes.

This includes exploring innovative applications of advanced manufacturing, digital tools and Industry 4.0 in shipbuilding, spanning automation and robotics, simulation and modelling, materials and light weighting, as well as welding and joining technologies.

The MoU was formalised at a signing ceremony in Glasgow, where South Australia’s Deputy Premier Susan Close announced $120,000 would be invested to support the establishment of the Advanced Manufacturing Research Exchange.

Flinders University Vice-Chancellor Professor Colin Stirling, SA Deputy Premier Susan Close, Sharon Wilson, Professor Sir Jim McDonald at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland.

An exchange of expertise and collaboration at the Factory of the Future at the Tonsley Innovation District in Adelaide and the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland would open up prospects for the adoption of ground-breaking manufacturing technologies and processes, potentially driving the growth of advanced manufacturing for shipbuilding in South Australia (SA) and the UK.

Supporting advanced shipyards in both Adelaide and Glasgow, any innovative research arising from the MoU is intended to focus on facilitating the adoption of new technologies deployed effectively to bolster the Hunter Class Frigate Program, underway at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in SA, and the future shipbuilding programs at BAE Systems’ Govan yard on the River Clyde.

It has the potential to lead to knowledge transfer and secondment opportunities between Australia and Scotland.

Flinders University President and Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Stirling, said:

 “We thank the South Australian government, National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and wider Strathclyde University, and BAE Systems Australia for their valuable support. In particular, the SA Government’s crucial foundational investment will be the catalyst for vital research placing local and international shipbuilding at the cutting-edge of advanced manufacturing, ensuring our researchers at Tonsley can collaborate in the exchange of ideas delivering real world improvements in manufacturing technology with the UK’s best and brightest experts.

“Knowing first-hand the quality of research in Glasgow, it’s great to see our experts at Flinders University’s Australian Industrial Transformation Institute working with the University of Strathclyde and BAE Systems, reinforcing the importance of industry collaboration by actively supporting the shipbuilding industry with solutions benefiting both the UK and Australian naval industries.”

Professor John Spoehr, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Research Innovation and Director of The Australian Industrial Transformation Institute (AITI), said:

Underpinning advanced shipbuilding research and industry collaboration in Australia and the UK, this agreement is bolstered by funding enabling post-doctoral researcher exchange and the sharing of specialised digital and advanced manufacturing skills to support the digital shipyard agenda.

“Collaboration with BAE Systems ensures researchers at Flinders University and Strathclyde are engaging with the latest modern manufacturing processes on large-scale shipbuilding which can directly benefit from the accelerated adoption of new and innovative technologies, like those made by possible by our joint research expertise.

“Supported by $19 million from the federal and state governments, the Factory of the Future at Flinders University’s Tonsley campus facilitates the deployment of advanced technologies through world-leading research and capability building, in support of South Australian and UK shipyards and supply chains.”

A digital rendering of one of the new warships part of the SEA 5000 Future Frigate program. Courtesy BAE Systems Australia.

 BAE Systems Australia Director Business Development and Continuous Naval Shipbuilding, Sharon Wilson, said:

 “BAE Systems Australia’s maritime business is responsible for delivering nine of the world’s most advanced submarine-hunting warships for the Royal Australian Navy, which will be built by our highly skilled workforce at the Osborne Naval Shipyard in South Australia.

“By embracing innovations and adopting world-leading research outcomes, we will improve our shipbuilding techniques and processes that will deliver cost and production efficiencies as well as safety improvements for our people.

“We know that collaboration is key to driving world’s-best practice technologies and outcomes – our relationships with Flinders University and the University of Strathclyde reflects this, and I’m excited to think about the benefits this new global linkage will deliver.”

Principal and Vice-Chancellor of University of Strathclyde and Chair of the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland Board, Professor Sir Jim McDonald, said:

“I am delighted to sign this agreement which enables our innovative research to directly link into modern manufacturing and has huge potential long-term benefits for the shipbuilding sector, both here in Scotland and in Australia.

“As a leading technological university, we are committed to delivering impact, and to see our research deliver cutting-edge solutions and improve practice in industry across Scotland and the UK, as well as internationally.

“I look forward to the National Manufacturing Institute Scotland and wider University of Strathclyde working closely with our partners BAE Systems and Flinders University, to help develop international best practice and new technologies to strengthen shipbuilding manufacturing. This partnership also opens up a potential pipeline for collaborative research, knowledge exchange, high impact innovative solutions and opportunities in education and training between the two countries.”


The Hunter Class Frigate Program is the biggest surface shipbuilding project in Australia’s defence history, delivering to the Royal Australian Navy a formidable fleet of 9 anti-submarine frigates critical to helping protect the nation for decades to come.

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