Background: In February 2011, the then Steel Industry Innovation Council endorsed the need to map steel industry related research programs across tertiary institutions and research organisations in Australia. This reflected the industry-wide concern that while steel fabrication related innovation and research is being undertaken by Australian universities and research organisations, links to industry to effectively deploy and harness such research need to be strengthened (the Future Manufacturing Industry Innovation Council paper, Trends in Manufacturing to 2020).
The Steel R&D Mapping Project (the Project) commenced in July 2012, with funding from the Collaboration Development Program (CDP) initiative under the Cooperative Research Centres (CRC) program.
The Project brief required the following tasks be undertaken:
- Identify target sectors within the steel fabrication and R&D community
- Develop and distribute a template that can be used to facilitate ongoing interactions between researchers and business (via email to relevant R&D groups in the Australian Innovation System)
- Identify current and prospective research activity by timeframe, impact and funding
- Propose activities that encourage relationships between:
- Industry target sectors and researchers
- Researchers and researchers
- Effectively map existing technologies and research, and record the needs and barriers to innovation as they are identified in the mapping process.
The Project’s final report, Digital Steel, was finalised in February 2013.
The Report provides information and advice on ways in which the steel fabrication sector can obtain greater access to knowledge generated through research conducted by Australian universities and research organisations in order to drive innovation as a foundation for improved productivity, competiveness, and energy efficiency.
The Report presents a number of recommendations and findings, including a map of steel fabrication research capabilities across Australian research institutions (Figure 1).
Why “Digital” Steel?
The Report notes that many people involved in the steel fabrication supply chain raised utilisation of digital tools and techniques as a key issue and as an enabler of innovation in process and project delivery.
Digital Steel emphasises the need for the Australian steel fabrication industry to develop and adopt digital technologies and tools through strategies, collaboration, delivery programs and investment.