Manufacturing to take off with Area 61
The next big thing in commercial manufacturing could be just around the corner with the help of a new program overseen by a cutting-edge unit at James Cook University.
The Queensland Government has today launched the Commercial Manufacturing Accelerator Voucher (CMAV) Scheme at JCU, which will provide $250,000 in funding to local Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) to access the services of the University’s innovation hub known as Area 61.
Under the scheme, a business can apply for a voucher which covers 50 per cent of the Area 61 design and build costs up to a maximum value of $25,000.
JCU Vice Chancellor Professor Simon Biggs said Area 61 has proved to be an important player in JCU’s innovation community, three years after it began, making unique, one-off research equipment.
“Now, Area 61 has expanded to provide a unique service to industry across northern Queensland, enabling co-design and collaboration through our rapid prototyping facility,” he said.
“From designing conveyor belts to accurately count crops for pineapple farmers to developing technology monitoring the effects of temperature changes on ants, Area 61 designs and manufactures items that require a combination of skills and resources across software, electronics and advanced manufacturing.”
The unit has already been approached by SMEs looking to co-develop new ‘Minimum Viable Products’ (prototypes) with examples from aquaculture, medicine and minerals processing in the pipeline.
JCU’s Acting Dean of Research Professor Ian Atkinson said Area 61 would be providing a unique contribution to northern Queensland’s innovation community through the CMAV scheme.
“Having access to one of the best workshops in North Queensland and a unique set of technicians with skills in design, fabrication, electronics and software is an essential capability for JCU,” he said.
“To be able to open this service up to SMEs in our region will provide a pathway to develop prototypes that most businesses simply cannot access.”
Prof Atkinson said Area 61’s extensive experience in design and innovation would greatly assist businesses in “approaching problems from other angles to realise new products”.
“Northern Queensland is on the cutting edge of new industries and new ways of doing business,” he said.
“Hydrogen and renewables are new industries, but the Internet of Things is changing traditional industries too. Whether it’s agriculture, manufacturing or mining, everything is being transformed.
“Area61 is providing access to new ways for SMEs to innovate in this new landscape.”
For more information on the CMAV Scheme, head to www.jcu.edu.au/area61