Ministerial visit showcases UOW’s translation research and regional role

Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education Andrew Gee tours FIF, Molecular Horizons and TRICEP

Ministerial visit showcases UOW’s translation research and regional role

Federal Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment the Honourable Andrew Gee MP visited the University of Wollongong (UOW) on Wednesday 5 May, meeting with senior executive and visiting some of the University’s leading translational research facilities.

Mr Gee met with UOW Vice-Chancellor Professor Paul Wellings CBE and Vice-Chancellor Designate Professor Patricia Davidson before taking tours of the Facility for Intelligent Fabrication (FIF), Molecular Horizons and the Translational Research Initiative for Cell Engineering and Printing (TRICEP).

In line with his portfolios, the minister was particularly interested in the translational aspects of research done at UOW – how research breakthroughs move from the lab and the workshop to applications in industry and healthcare to benefit the community – and in the attributes regional universities bring to the national research effort, and the role they play in educating and upskilling regional workforces.

The FIF, a collaboration between UOW, TAFE NSW and Weld Australia, was launched in 2018 as a one-stop-shop that provides expertise, technology, equipment and training in automating steel fabrication to help manufacturing businesses adapt and compete.

It assists small- to mid-size enterprises to identify and implement welding and manufacturing automation-related technology, backed with technical education, training and certification support.

UOW Industry Engagement Leader Dr Paul Di Pietro said Minister Gee was also given a virtual tour of the Industry 4.0 Hub at the Shoalhaven Campus using MS Teams and a Hololens Augmented Reality Headset, and was very interested in UOW’s new Bachelor of Technology degree and the Introduction to Industry 4.0 subject that is offered at the Shoalhaven Campus.

“He was also very keen to try AR welding so he actually had a go and used the Soldamatic Welding Simulator, which he really enjoyed – and he did improve by the end which shows that the technology works,” Dr Di Pietro said.

“He really enjoyed his visit and got a sense of the work we do regionally and rurally, and how we are delivering relevant education to these regions and are upskilling and reskilling the communities that we serve.”

At Molecular Horizons, the minister was given a tour of the institute’s suite of revolutionary technology – including the centrepiece FEI/Thermo Fisher Titan Krios cryogenic electron microscope.

Molecular Horizons brings scientists from different disciplines together to conduct research aimed at changing the way we understand disease processes, and to then translate that knowledge into diagnostics, therapies and cures.

Molecular Horizons Director Distinguished Professor Antoine van Oijen said the tour focused on the work the institute is doing on antimicrobial resistance, one of its four key themes, as a way to provide an overview of the institute’s integrated approach – from undertaking fundamental scientific research, to using that new knowledge to design new drugs and new ways to combat disease, to working with regional healthcare and pathology providers and the Local Health District to deliver immediate impacts to the community.

“Discussing regional research programs, where the University works with regional partners and providers, was a great opportunity to show the minister what regional universities can add to our national research capability,” Professor van Oijen said.

Federal Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education and Minister Assisting the Minister for Trade and Investment the Honourable Andrew Gee MP, professor Gordon Wallace and Associate Professor Stephen Beirne

Federal Minister for Decentralisation and Regional Education the Hon. Andrew Gee MP, with TRICEP Director Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace and Associate Director Associate Professor Stephen Beirne.

Opened in 2018, TRICEP is a UOW initiative that draws on expertise and facilities available within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Electromaterials Science (ACES) and the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF) Materials Node, both based at the Innovation Campus.

TRICEP offers Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs), research institutions and industry the opportunity to partner with leading researchers to develop and commercialise 3D bioprinting technologies for use in the medical industry to combat significant clinical challenges.

The TRICEP team has a strong track record of identifying and customising materials and fabrication protocols to deliver 3D bioprinting solutions for real world clinical problems.

TRICEP Director Distinguished Professor Gordon Wallace, Associate Director Dr Sanjeev Gambhir and Associate Director Associate Professor Stephen Beirne gave Minister Gee a tour of the facility, demonstrating the 3D printers, printing technology and bioinks.

Include was a showcase of some of the cutting-edge technology that the TRICEP team has developed, including the BioPen for cartilage regeneration, the iFix Pen to treat corneal ulcerations, and 3D Genii printer, which is designed to print implantable, flexible, customised prosthetic ears that match the anatomy of patients suffering from microtia (a congenital deformity of the ear).

Vice-Chancellor Professor Wellings said the tour was a great opportunity to demonstrate UOW’s commitment to research that delivers real impact to its communities, and to providing its students with an education that will prepare them for the workplaces of the future.

“I would like to thank Minister Gee for his visit and for his interest in the exceptional work being done by the team in these facilities,” Professor Wellings said.

“UOW remains focussed on delivering positive change for our communities by maximising regional assets and through partnerships with industry and government to drive innovation that improves industry productivity and creates new jobs and even new industries.

“Our transformative projects are reshaping communities, research, education, healthcare and industries for the future.”

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