The Steel Research Hub was extremely pleased to host its first annual Symposium in November. Running over two days this event presented the first opportunity to bring all hub members – academics, including early career researchers, and industry personnel – together to meet, share information and collaborate.

Over 60 people attended the Symposium, including almost 20 members from our Industry Partners: ASI, Cox Architecture, Bisalloy Steels, Lysaght and BlueScope. The two day Programme included presentations from Program Leaders, Research Fellows, PhD candidates and Sean Wong, Technology and Innovation Manager for BlueScope Australia.

Following an introduction from Director, Oscar Gregory, Industry Program Leaders highlighted the key industry drivers in their respective Programs.

Dr Sheng Chew, is Industry Leader for Sustainable Steel Manufacturing (Program D), which involves a large number of diverse projects hosted by a variety of the Hub’s partner universities. Sheng noted that:

“Primary steelmaking in this country is facing a number of challenges that have focussed our attention on the near-term. In this environment, our partnership with the Steel Research Hub provides both, access to a broad community of technical capabilities, and an avenue to pursue the strategic developments necessary to ensure our longer-term sustainability.”

This sentiment was echoed by Dr David Nolan, Industry Leader for Managing Innovation in the Australian Steel Industry (Program A), who commented:

“It is well recognised that the Australian steel industry is under unprecedented pressure from the global over supply of steel products.”

David went on to highlight the contribution being made by the team within his Program:

“The industry must do better with respect to new process and product innovation in order to differentiate our products and services and we recognise there is a need to reflect on the way we go about innovation to ensure we are bringing new customer focussed solutions to market as quickly as possible. The work underway in Program A offers a unique opportunity to reflect on our innovation practices, to benchmark against world’s best practice, and to measure the effectiveness of the innovation management systems being implemented”

Researchers within Programs B and C are at the coalface of the new product and process development that David refers to. Jason Hodges, Industry Leader for Innovative Coating Technologies (Program C), which largely seeks improvements to existing coatings processes and therefore contains a series of relatively close-knit projects, took the opportunity to remind all Hub members of the importance of collaboration, both within and between projects, and for both academic and industry researchers. He also noted:

“For success within our Hub projects it is critical for industry participants to explore empirically the new theoretical knowledge being generated, as it happens, and to feed those results back, rather than waiting for the traditional cycle of academic outputs.”

 

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Mark Eckermann leads Market-focused Product Innovation (Program B), which hosts a much more diverse range of projects seeking to bring new products to market. Mark highlighted the challenges and potential benefits of two key developments underway in his program:

“Traditionally, hardness and toughness are mutually exclusive metallurgical properties of steel. The wear plate project, partnered with Bisalloy Steels, aims to turn this notion on its head, delivering both properties at the same time without the usual trade-offs. It is the steel equivalent of having your cake and eating it too.” And: “We should never under-estimate the challenge of upstaging an incumbent construction system. Such systems have earned their title for very good reasons. However, nor should we shy away from the challenge and the reward to finding a better, faster and more efficient construction solution for mid-rise residential buildings.”

Industry introductions were followed by presentations throughout day one from Programs B and D. Academic Program Leaders, Professor Paul Cooper and Professor Brian Monaghan introduced their teams, who delivered presentations on their specific Hub projects.

Plans for barefoot bowls, after wrapping up on day, one were thwarted by intermittent rain, but many members still took the opportunity to breathe the sea air and enjoy a beverage before dinner.

Sean Wong, the Technology and Innovation Manager for BlueScope Australia, introduced the second day with an update of the Australian Steel Industry including comments on the reprieve Port Kembla steelworks received from the BlueScope Board recently. He re-emphasised the importance of collaborative research continuously feeding ideas into the Industry. Whether it is process or product refinements BlueScope is ready to test the ideas in the real environment. More risk and prototyping to keep ahead of the field is the aim.

This was followed by presentations and a well-received Innovation Management Training session delivered by the Program A team, led by Professor Rajeev Sharma. Small groups were asked to consider the viability of a hypothetical new product and then invited to make a decision on whether to invest in taking the new technology to market. The training session proved to be an interesting exercise in demonstrating the challenges faced in bringing a new product to market, thus providing valuable context for those undertaking research that is expected to contribute to new product development.

The afternoon session included presentations from researchers in Program C, introduced by Professor David StJohn, Academic Program Leader.

Initial feedback from attendees indicates that the opportunity to get a feel for the scope and breadth of research underway within the Hub was an extremely beneficial outcome of the symposium – this gave individuals, and particularly those newly recruited into the Hub, the ability to understand their place within the broader program, and to interact and network with other members.

Each PhD candidate submitted posters of their work for display. The quality was excellent.

Day two concluded with the presentation of a number of awards and we extend our congratulations to the following recipients:

  • Ms Brianna Knowles (UOW) – Best Poster “Fungal Growth: Foul Play for Roofs”
  • Mr Matthew Gear (UQ) – Best Burster (PhDs 10 mins presentation) “Mechanisms of surface stability in Al-Zn coated steel”
  • Dr Matthew Penna (RMIT) – Best Presentation “Nanoscale Engineering of Responsive Surfaces for Contamination Resistance”

Overall a very successful first symposium was held and we will move forward with a number of new ideas on how to expand on this success in the future.