Strategic collaborations achieving innovative world-class micro-fabrication

December 2018

Two South Australian organisations, specialising in micro-sized transformative technologies, are helping to prepare the State’s advanced manufacturing industry for the fourth industrial revolution.

A tiny novel microfluidic device requiring an exceedingly complex design was the instigator of an extraordinary partnership between the South Australian node of the Australian National Fabrication Facility (ANFF-SA) and the Department of Defence, Science and Technology Group (DSTG).

A world-class micro and nanofabrication facility providing access to cutting-edge equipment with expert staff, ANFF-SA provides researchers, academics and industry with a platform for de-risking new technologies by delivering state-of-the-art prototypes that prove concepts.

In 2009, discussions between ANFF-SA and the DSTG revealed complementary world-class technical capabilities, skilled technicians, state-of-the-art equipment as well as a shared and unwavering commitment to secure the future of South Australia’s advanced manufacturing industry.

This “meeting of minds” led to an exciting collaboration between ANFF-SA and the DSTG, resulting in a cutting-edge microfluidic device to deliver affordable and accessible gene-modified cell therapy for people living with advanced disease across the world.

ANFF-SA Director, Associate Professor Craig Priest says trust was crucial to support the bourgeoning partnership.

“We have opened an indispensable pipe-line for knowledge transfer which will benefit our researchers, academics and industry users,” said A/Prof. Priest. “Sharing industry know-how, materials resources, back-up support in cases of facility downtime and improvements in process alignments ensures South Australia is maximising its advanced manufacturing industry potential.”

ANFF-SA and the DSTG continued to partner for projects and, in 2013, signed a formal research and collaboration agreement for reciprocal access. Confidence in the partnership was confirmed with a five-year Infrastructure Access Agreement including access to facilities and equipment with the Australian National Fabrication Facility.

When ANFF-SA took a leap of faith and launched its inaugural Microengineering Winter School in 2014, the DSTG jumped on board as a staunch industry supporter. Recognising the long-term benefits of engaging with the State’s most promising microengineering students, the DSTG remain reliable and crucial contributors to the Winter School program, delivering insightful lectures and innovative practicals on emerging technologies.

In 2017, ANFF-SA was the proud recipient of two prestigious plaques presented by the DSTG, recognising the development of strong industry collaborations.

The first plaque acknowledged industry collaborations between the University of Puerto Rico (NASA Centre for Advanced Nanoscale Materials), Air Force Office of Scientific Research, ANFF-SA, University of South Australia’s Future Industries Institute and DST Group collaboration in support of research into electrochemistry techniques in microgravity environments.

The second acknowledged the partnership between start-up Indee Labs, University of South Australia, ANFF-SA and DST Group to fabricate world-leading microfluidic devices to help find a cure for cancer. This work was also supported by the White House Cancer Moonshot program, Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Institute of Health.

Over the past 10 years, more than 15 projects across five divisions of the DSTG have been completed as a result of aligning ANFF-SA’s expertise in microfluidics, lab-on-a-chip technology, advanced sensing, functional coatings and separation science with the DSTG’s ability to apply science and technology.