Case Studies

Innovation shaping new exports from Australia

An industry-research partnership between FII and SMR Automotive created the world’s first plastic car mirror with a performance level not matched by anything else in the world. Building on this breakthrough, SMR has expanded its Australian manufacturing infrastructure and is exporting the mirrors to the USA.

The research was managed by FII’s Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Strand Leader, Professor Peter Murphy, and colleagues Dr Colin Hall and Associate Professor Drew Evans.

The success of the new mirror has meant a huge amount to SMR and its employees. "It gives people faith that we have opportunities beyond the local market, that we can export and that we can produce innovative products in Australia that are viable around the world," said James Nicholson, VP Engineering South Asia, SMR Technologies Australia.

As Director of Research at Heliostat-SA, Professor Murphy also uses his knowledge of thin film coatings to develop new ways to convert the sun’s energy into electricity. Heliostat-SA recently delivered $1 million worth of heliostats to Mitsubishi Hitachi in Japan.

"We are in the process of engaging a broader research plan with funding that will take us on a journey of creating more innovative products and get us into a niche in the marketplace," he said.

“The series of layers we put down are nanometers thick and the beauty of what we get is a performance level that is not matched by anything else in the world.”

James Nicholson,
VP Engineering South Asia, SMR Technologies Australia



Economic and knowledge growth through minerals research

The FII AMIRA P260G Flotation Project has created a striking and lasting impact on the world’s mining industries.

The multi-armed research-industry collaboration vastly improved management of separating minerals by flotation: improved recovery and/or grade of minerals, optimal price realisation, avoiding penalties and reduction in operating costs are all attributed to this work.

An independent assessment in 2012 identified that AMIRA P260G has delivered more than $1 billion to the mineral resource sector, representing a 22:1 return on investment for more than 100 industry sponsors of the project.

But the impacts extend beyond just economic return.

“More than 100 postgraduate students have been involved in mineral processing-related research, and are now working in industry and academia around the world,” said Professor Bill Skinner, Research Leader in Minerals and Resource Engineering. “Postgraduate employment represents the most effective means of long-term knowledge transfer into the sector.”

P260G was highlighted as an exemplar case study in the 2012 round of Excellence in Innovation for Australia. The continued promise of the project is clear, since it recently received further funding.

“The strong combination of fundamental and applied science and engineering in our approach to mineral processing at FII is very important to industry,” Professor Skinner said.

“AMIRA International’s 30 year partnership with UniSA has been extremely fruitful.At its core, the long-running AMIRA’s P260 series of projects have significantlyimproved the efficiency of mineral flotation. Currently led by Professor Skinner and Associate Professor Zanin, the project outcomes have independently been valued at over AU$1.2B to the sponsors in performance and savings improvements. We look forward our continued collaboration through the Futures Industries Institute.”

Joe Cucuzza,
Managing Director, AMIRA International.

Transforming research into chronic wound therapy

Professor of Regenerative Medicine Allison Cowin guides a partnership between FII and Australian company AbRegen Pty Ltd to develop a new therapeutic approach to wound healing. The initiative extends Professor Cowin’s research on the world’s first human therapeutic antibody for the cytoskeletal protein Flightless I.

“Our initial experiments found that Flightless I plays an important role in the development of the skin – so our antibody has the potential to not only help wounds heal but also to prevent the skin from breaking down again,” Prof Cowin said.

Professor Cowin is working with AbRegen to use this antibody therapy to help children with epidermolysis bullosa, a condition that leaves the skin so fragile that it can be damaged at the slightest touch. As there is no treatment or cure for this condition, daily wound care, pain management and protective bandaging are currently the only options available to improve quality of life. This new therapy being developed at FII made the finals of the Australian Health Innovation Challenge in 2015.

“We’ve seen remarkable results so far across all types of wounds, so we’re looking forward to seeing where our work in FII will take us on our journey towards perfectly healing wounds.”

Professor Allison Cowin
NHMRC Senior Research Fellow

Collaborative research to lower the spread of drug-resistant bacteria

The World Health Organisation has identified antimicrobial resistance as a ‘global health emergency’.

With financial support from the South Australian Government, FII researchers led by Associate Professor Erica Donner are working with industry to understand and limit the role of wastewater in transporting antibiotic resistant bacteria from health care facilities and urban populations into the wider environment.

“We are working with SA Water and SA Health to identify effective processes and disinfection technologies to optimise the removal of antibiotic resistant bacteria during wastewater treatment,” Associate Prof Donner explained. “Wastewater microbial communities are extremely complex. We use high-throughput DNA sequencing approaches to investigate the survival and selection of pathogens and other bacteria, and to monitor the retention, transfer, and loss of resistance genes in wastewater and treated effluents”.

Associate Professor Donner and her team are conducting this research in collaboration with the NIREAS-International Water Research Center (University of Cyprus, Cyprus) and the Volcani Center (Agricultural Research Organisation, Israel). They are also participating in European Union COST Action ES1403: ‘New and emerging challenges and opportunities in wastewater reuse’.

South Australia’s dry climate has inspired ground breaking research and development in water treatment and reuse, and has led to the State being recognised as a leader in risk-based water management.