University of Newcastle fosters mining sector research through Advanced Mining Equipment, Technology and Services Doctoral Training Centre

Cutting edge: Professor Alan Broadfoot reviews some of the mining sector equipment  PhD candidates will be able to work on at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) facilities. Picture: Simone De Peak
Cutting edge: Professor Alan Broadfoot reviews some of the mining sector equipment PhD candidates will be able to work on at the Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources (NIER) facilities. Picture: Simone De Peak

THE University of Newcastle has launched its first doctoral training centre, which will embed PhD candidates in the mining sector “from pit to port” to help the industry boost its competitive advantage.

Newcastle Institute for Energy and Resources executive director Professor Alan Broadfoot said the new Advanced Mining Equipment, Technology and Services Doctoral Training Centre would bring together industry and PhD candidates to develop research projects and deliver new ideas, technologies and products plus solutions to challenges.

Each candidate will receive a scholarship co-funded by the DTC and industry.

“We train PhD students and industry is always looking for competitive advantage in market – what we’re trying to do is put the two together,” Professor Broadfoot said.

“If we can generate through the PhD knowledge for that company to get market advantage we achieve two goals – employability of the PhD within the industry but also the competitive advantage of the industry going forward.”

Professor Broadfoot said the PhD candidates would work in a small interdisciplinary cohort and each have an industry based supervisor, who will form part of their supervisory and mentoring team, alongside their academic supervisors.

“The candidates will work with the company in their environment,” he said.

“We do that at present but we don’t do it collectively – we have students going up to the Pilbara to work with clients up there – but we need to have somewhere where they bring their experiences back.

“If they’re working on PhDs then they’re working on original discoveries but they’ll come back here [to the DTC] for workshops and seminars not only to share it among themselves, but share it with different sectors of industry. 

“This is a pit to port engagement so it’s everyone in the supply chain.

“This includes coal mines, service providers at processing plants, people that build wagons that transport to the port, it’s the port itself. 

“This group of companies is very focused on not only challenges but lifting productivity and efficiency – the concept of collaborate or die is very much alive.”

METS Ignited’s general manager of education and leadership skills Sarah Boucaut said the initiative was a “critical partnership” and would “accelerate collaborative commercialisation”.

“[We want to] develop skills, knowledge and processes to address the impact of technological change and disruption.”

Chancellor Paul Jeans said UON attracted the country’s highest level of industry funding per researcher and had the highest level of industry collaboration among the nation’s universities. 

“This is the first doctoral training centre at UON and a very good field in which to start,” he said. “This is a major step in the right direction.”