The Woodside Innovation Centre at Melbourne’s Monash University, which opened in June, is a transformational hub for technological innovation that will deliver benefits not just for the oil and gas industry but Australia and the world.
Monash University has some of the world’s best materials engineering and data science researchers and equipment. Woodside is Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company, with advanced capabilities as an explorer, developer and producer.
The Innovation Centre is a collaboration between the two organisations, designed to harness these strengths and to integrate rapid prototyping, advanced materials and data science across all industries.
Woodside has committed A$10 million funding for the Centre, but centre manager Malaika Ingram says their focus is not restricted to the oil and gas industry.
“We are sponsored by Woodside,’’ she says, “but our directive is much broader – to look at the future.’’
The centre aims to attract and develop a cohort of technology leaders and expert researchers. It will provide them with a dynamic multi-disciplinary environment, both physical and virtual, where they can learn, collaborate and explore new engineering and IT technologies to produce disruptive new commercial opportunities.
The centre will form part of a global collaboration network to keep Woodside, Monash University and Australia at the forefront of new and emerging disruptive technologies, and will be one of several Woodside FutureLabs, said Woodside’s chief technology officer Shaun Gregory.
The aim of FutureLabs is to build “an ecosystem of scientific and technological innovation through collaborations with research institutions, start-ups, entrepreneurs and adjacent leading industries,” said Gregory.
Next-generation materials and coatings are of particular interest to Woodside, but the spin-offs from the Centre’s research will generate benefits for areas including biomedical, architectural and aerospace.
Monash University’s researchers are already leaders in the field of additive manufacturing of duplex and super duplex stainless steel components, and Ingram says the Centre has advanced capabilities in fused deposition modelling, multi-jet modelling and metal printing in both stainless steel and titanium.
“Metal printing is far superior to traditional subtractive construction methods, which are not only slower but waste of up to 85 per cent of materials used,’’ says Ingram.
“High-quality stainless steels are of interest to Woodside, because they operate in some of the world’s most corrosive environments. But we are also collaborating on other projects, for example building high-quality titanium parts for the medical industry.’’
The Centre will also work on data analytics using the impressive resources of Faculty of IT Monash University’s. These include its MASSIVE series of supercomputers, and the southern hemisphere’s largest Ceph storage cluster.
Monash also has Australia’s most advanced 3D visualisation environment for fully immersive analytics of big data sets, which Ingram described as a giant iMax theatre to gives hands-on feeling for data.
“Recently we have been working on modelling to predict flooding risks for the Melbourne suburb of Elwood out to 2066,’’ says Ingram. “This is a good example of how the Centre can tie in with other disciplines such as social and environmental sciences.’’
Harnessing the collective strengths of Woodside and Monash University, the collaboration that is the Woodside Innovation Centre will be a powerful vehicle from which to drive entrepreneurial innovation, technology transfer and disruptive new commercial opportunities, all from the heart of Melbourne.