Carbon Revolution and Deakin in R&D tie-up

Carbon fibre automotive wheels pioneer Carbon Revolution has formed a $15 million research and development partnership with Deakin University to boost the materials science and engineering inputs into its unique manufacturing process.

The partnership, to which the Innovative Manufacturing Co-operative Research Centre will contribute $3 million, will give Carbon Revolution access to Deakin’s core materials science and engineering capabilities, chief executive Jake Dingle said.

The company, based on Deakin’s Waurn Ponds campus, embarked on preliminary talks with fund managers last week with advisers from JP Morgan as part of the getting-to-know-you process ahead of a capital raising of up to $100 million and a possible public float, Street Talk reported.

It plans to use the new capital to scale up its production of carbon fibre wheels through further automation and “industrialisation” of its processes. The R&D partnership with Deakin will complement that drive, Mr Dingle said.

The goal is to reduce unit costs so that Carbon Revolution can offer its world leading carbon fibre wheels – which so far have mostly been fitted on high end performance cars such as Ferrari, Ford GT and Ford Mustang – for use on higher volume, lower-priced vehicle makes.

Mr Dingle said the R&D would be conducted with Deakin’s advanced composite materials group under the direction of Russell Varley, a former top research scientist at CSIRO’s  Materials Science and Engineering division.

Tapping world leading research

“It’s tapping into their advanced materials science capacity which is world-leading. The R&D is about supercharging the materials science and engineering inputs to our processes,” Mr Dingle said.

Composites are materials that combine fibres and resins to outperform traditional materials such as steel and aluminium for strength and weight savings.

“This project has the potential to take our technology more rapidly to the next level, which will further strengthen our global leadership and competitiveness in the area of composite wheels.”

“We are already recognised as the global leader in this space thanks to our design and engineering capabilities, and the focus for this next critical phase is to fully industrialise and scale up our manufacturing processes and operations.”

Conducting the R&D in collaboration with a university or public research agency also fulfils a policy objective of the Turnbull government’s innovation agenda and could earn Carbon Revolution a premium on its R&D tax incentive payments under new rules proposed in this year’s federal budget.

“This is what we need to be doing in this country – collaborating with Deakin on R&D with a real commercial outcome,” Mr Dingle said. Industry-research collaboration is one area of innovation in which Australia lags badly behind other rich world economies.

Head of the Innovative Manufacturing Co-operative Research Centre David Chuter said the project was a great example of the potential benefits Australian manufacturers could enjoy from a collaborative approach to innovation.

“The IMCRC’s focus is on catalysing tangible, commercial outcomes for Australian manufacturers, by bringing together manufacturing businesses and research organisations, to support innovations that will ensure the Australian manufacturing industry can meet the challenges and opportunities presented by today’s global economy,” Mr Chuter said.

Professor Varley said the technology from the project “will ensure Deakin and Carbon Revolution remain at the leading edge of global composite materials research”.