UNSW photovoltaics manufacturing facility on hold due to federal research cuts

The Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) at University of New South Wales has been put on hold due to Monday’s federal mini-budget cuts to research funding.

The Solar Industrial Research Facility (SIRF) at University of New South Wales has been put on hold due to Monday’s federal mini-budget cuts to research funding.

The $500 million cuts to research funding, announced in the federal government’s mini budget, have been partly blamed for the delay in the high-tech photovoltaic development facility. SIRF has been built and was scheduled to be up and running in mid-2013.

"I don't think it would be fair to blame it entirely on the cutback (in research funding) but the cutback really tipped it over the edge," UNSW Vice-Chancellor Fred Hilmer told The Australian.

Hilmer also cited weakened demand for solar cells due to oversupply and cuts in subsidies for their production.

The project is described as a “world-class, industrial-grade manufacturing facility [which] will enable the development of UNSW’s silicon solar cell technologies from laboratory processes to factory-ready industrial processes.”

Jason Coombs, the university’s director of strategy, said that researchers would not be lost, but the potential to link research with commercial opportunities had suffered.

"We'll still be a world leader in research, we just won't be able to bridge that gap between us and industry that easily," he told The Australian.