The University of Newcastle, Australia

Showcasing new advances for building Australia’s energy and transport infrastructure

Thursday, 26 July 2018

A collaborative research centre, led by the University of Newcastle and directed by Laureate Professor Scott Sloan AO, the Australian Research Council (ARC) Centre of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering, is pioneering new approaches and software for designing cheaper and safer energy and transport infrastructure.

Laureate Professor Scott Sloan AO
Laureate Professor Scott Sloan AO

In an industry event on Monday 30 July, the Centre of Excellence will showcase its achievements throughout the 2011-2017 funding period, including how research outcomes transformed industry guidelines and engineering practice.

“We have pioneered new science-based tools for the cost-efficient design of energy and transport infrastructure which are applicable to Australia’s roads, railways, ports, pipelines and offshore energy operations,” said Professor Sloan.

“Australia will spend over $200 billion during the next decade on the provision of transport infrastructure, will explore alternative energy solutions and has a number of serious environmental problems arising from persistent contaminants. These are challenges the Centre of Excellence is working to address,” said Professor Sloan.

Presentations by key Centre of Excellence staff will cover improved methods for road construction on problematic soft soils, novel systems for rail track design, innovative foundations for offshore oil and gas facilities, and a groundbreaking solution to remediate PFAS contamination caused by the use of fire-fighting foams.

Among esteemed speakers at the showcase will be the CEO of the Australian Research Council (ARC), Professor Sue Thomas, the RMS Director of the Pacific Highway Project, Mr Bob Higgins, and the Acting NSW Chief Scientist, Dr Chris Armstrong.

Professor Sue Thomas, CEO of the ARC, said the Centre of Excellence is advancing Australian research and delivering tangible outcomes for Australian industries.

“Over the last seven years, the ARC Centre of Excellence for Geotechnical Science and Engineering has provided a national focus for geotechnical research to address major engineering issues. With wide application of its scientific output, the Centre of Excellence has developed significant collaborations with industry partner organisations and created important opportunities for early-career researchers,” said Professor Thomas.

Laureate Professor Sloan said the success of the Centre of Excellence “is attributable to the strong collaboration with its partners, The University of Western Australia and the University of Wollongong, as well as numerous industry supporters”.

“The Centre of Excellence combines the theoretical and computational strengths of the University of Newcastle’s Priority Research Centre for Geotechnical Science and Engineering, the offshore expertise and experimental capabilities of Centre for Offshore Foundation Systems at The University of Western Australia, and the rail geotechnics expertise at the Geomechanics and Railway Engineering Centre at the University of Wollongong,” Professor Sloan said.

Following the event, practising engineers will have the opportunity to participate in a series of workshops, to learn more about advanced laboratory and in situ soil testing techniques, the use of probabilistic methods in geotechnical engineering, and recent advances in rail geotechnics.

Aiming to increase productivity and sustainability of the nation’s major export industries, the Centre of Excellence was awarded $17.3 million in funding from the Australian Government through the ARC Centre of Excellence scheme, and leveraged this to attract an additional $74.4 million from a range of sources including industry partners, the University of Newcastle, The University of Western Australia, the University of Wollongong and the NSW state government.

The main event will be held in Sydney at the Shangri-La Hotel on Monday 30 July, and industry workshops will take place on Tuesday 31 July, in the same venue.

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