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Research and research culture

The benefits of industry involvement

Research collaboration with industry has had important benefits for the Faculty of Engineering. For example, the profile of Engineering at Monash was raised by its research activity and collaboration with industry. As a direct result, the research activity at Monash was more visible to those located outside of academia, introducing them to the Faculty’s research activity, and also to its undergraduate and gradate programs and the appeal of employing graduates of Monash Engineering. The reputation and profile of the Faculty benefited greatly from its close relationship with engineering industry.

There have also been highly practical and tangible benefits that have arisen from the relationship with industry, mostly stemming from the funding this has stimulated/created. This has meant that even from the earliest days of the University, the Faculty of Engineering has not had to rely solely on funds from the University to support its research activity or assist in the development of its research facilities. In addition, once developed, these highly specialised research facilities were able to be used for both additional research and further collaboration with other external groups – this in turn attracted additional funds for the departments and faculty.

For example, the wave tank that was developed in 1981 was a particularly sought after facility that was used by various commercial groups to carry out research. The facility was funded by a combination of University and external funds. Once built, it continued to attract funding as various external groups used the wave tank for research and testing.

Similarly the wind tunnel developed by Bill Melbourne was also a highly sought after research and testing facility. Australia II skipper and Engineering graduate John Betrand AM recalls his need for a facility to test his team’s keel for the America’s Cup Challenge in the mid 1990s. He talks of Bill Melbourne and recalls:

he was right into the world of aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, and indeed America's Cup, he was a key consultant for the Dame Pattie America's Cup challenge way back in 1967 … But Bill was fabulous. He created a wind tunnel which was a very important commercial element of the whole Engineering School there. [When] we came back with our America's Cup challenge called oneAustralia for the 1995 America's Cup … we used those facilities extensively for the development of our new keel … We, meaning our research and development team, were in those tunnel facilities at Monash in 1993–94; we spent months there actually.

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Benefits of external funding (audio)

Bill Melbourne, Former Dean and Head of what is now the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, recalls that the close relationship with industry had direct financial implications for his department and the Faculty. According to Melbourne, at times close to 50 per cent of the department’s income came from external sources including grants, but most significantly, from industry. Funding from industry meant that staff could be supported to undertake research and facilities to carry out the research could also be developed. Melbourne also commented that the steady flow of external funding often sheltered both department and Faculty from shortages of resources at the University level.

Industry support also came in the form of scholarships for students to carry out research. Former Associate Dean (Research and Development) Brian Cherry acknowledged this important and highly beneficial outcome of industry funding:

Certainly half, two-thirds, of my students were I'll say industrially funded. For instance the Australian Welding Research Association, the AWRA, funded three or four of my research students. Geoff Knights … put in a man from his firm to work with me. Remedial Engineering appointed a couple of Engineers to work with me on Cathodic Protection. 

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Consulting activity (audio)

Similarly, as a direct result of research collaboration with Comalco (now part of RTZ) and BHP, Brendon Parker received resource support for research students.

With industry support assisting in both the resourcing of research staff and students and the development of facilities, the profile of the Faculty, its research and its facilities continued to grow. This in turn led to additional research collaborations and requests for members of the Faculty to engage in consulting activity.

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