University of Melbourne invites industry partners

An artist’s impression of what the Carlton Connect innovation precinct will look like.

The University of Melbourne is inviting industry and community partners to help run a state-of-the-art fabrication laboratory, part of a new innovation precinct being developed at the heart of Melbourne CBD.

The University of Melbourne is undergoing infrastructural expansions. Apart from developing a seven-hectare second engineering campus at the former site of Holden factory in Fishermans Bend and refurbishing and expanding its existing schools of engineering and IT to almost double their capacities, the university is also building a new innovation precinct near its existing Parkville campus.

The project, known as the Carlton Connect Initiative, is transforming a former hospital site into a mixed- use innovation precinct with the aim of bringing together industry, government, entrepreneurs and researchers to work on innovative projects.

With a total area of 28,700 sqm, the master plan for the Carlton Connect innovation precinct dedicates spaces for multiple activities including indoor and outdoor public spaces, co-working spaces, accommodation and retail spaces for visiting academics and post-graduate students, a start-up hub (Third Spaces) and an equipped fabrication laboratory (Fab Lab). The site will also be home to Science Gallery Melbourne, which aims to invite young learners to creatively explore the collisions between art and science.

The Melbourne School of Engineering at the University of Melbourne is currently seeking expressions of interest from industry and community to run, operate and/ or partner with them to deliver the state-of-the-art fabrication laboratory, as a place to test ideas and manufacture prototypes prior to launching new products.

The University of Melbourne is pursuing a number of objectives through the establishment of Fab Lab, according to professor Andrew Western, director of infrastructure for the Melbourne School of Engineering.

“First of all, the lab will help our coursework students, the engineers of the future, develop the skills and understanding of workshop and manufacturing processes. The facility will also provide the students working on building new devices a place where they can build their own prototypes,” he said.

“The laboratory will also provide partner organisations based in the precinct a facility where they can either build their own prototypes or have prototypes built for them by the organisation running the Fab Lab. Finally, we might also have the general public coming in and utilising the space,” he added.

The Carlton Connect initiative builds on the success of LAB-14, an on-site prototype launched by the University of Melbourne in 2015 to test the concept of a new innovation precinct in Carlton. In its two-and- a-half years of operation, Lab-14 attracted more than 40,000 visitors to its programs, including events, seminars, exhibitions, workshops and roundtables.

Early works on the development of Carlton Connect began in November 2017, in a partnership between the University of Melbourne and Lendlease construction group. The precinct is being developed at the former Royal Women’s Hospital building, located across the road from the university’s Parkville campus. Construction is expected to complete in 2020.

“This is right on the Swanston Street, in the heart of Melbourne, and right next door to the university. It will be a very visible space. We also hope it will play a role in inspiring future students of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in general,” Professor Western said.

Professor Western said the University of Melbourne School of Engineering is open to all business model options proposed by third- party partner organisations.

“We are open to proposals from either a model where the University provides the facilities and someone else operates those; right though to a model where an organisation might design and fit-out the area with their own facilities. We are early enough in the project development process for that flexibility to still exist,” he said.

The Fab Lab will be accommodated in approximately 1,200 sqm across the ground floor and basement of the precinct. This space is currently at First Fit stage so the successful partner has the opportunity to define the layout, specify the equipment and manage the flow of activities through this innovative space.

The Fab Lab brief requires it to have certain capabilities; including general fabrication areas, a woodworking space, 3D Printing capability, laser studio, finishing/ paint shop, a support space, an open plan office space, maker area, test area, print studio, street-facing display space, general workspace, storage space and kitchen area.

This is a unique opportunity for a partner organisation to work with the University of Melbourne students on their innovative projects, as well as interact with the broader innovation precinct, local business, start-ups and the wider research community.

Interested parties can send an email to fablab-cci@unimelb.edu.au to receive an EOI pack, which must be completed and returned by 1 August 2018.