Some might question the value of an Advisory Council to an ARC funded Research Hub with a finite budget and timeframe, and a set of research projects largely mapped out at the proposal stage. As someone with more experience of Committees than Councils I was certainly curious to see where the Steel Research Hub’s Advisory Council might take us. Senior leaders within UOW advocated strongly for a high level Advisory Council for the Hub, and our Director Oscar Gregory utilised his corporate connections and persuasive powers to make it a reality. The result is an impressive list of members who are extremely knowledgeable of, and passionate about, our industry.

The Hub’s Advisory Council met for the second time on July 24, at the University of Wollongong’s (UOW) Innovation Campus. At the Council’s request they received detailed presentations from two project teams and were given a ‘hot topic’ to consider; prefab and modular construction. To further enliven the discussion guests from both within the Hub’s membership, and from external industry players, were invited to participate.

Strictly speaking prefab and modular construction is not a major focus of the research of the Steel Research Hub, however, our cornerstone industry partner BlueScope has a keen interest in the mid-rise residential market and via the Hub is partnered with Cox Architecture and the team within UOW’s Sustainable Buildings Research Centre to explore how best to engage in this market segment. It would not be possible to do this properly without some consideration of the influence of prefab and modular construction, particularly given that many SMEs within this space are already working with steel.

The discussion ranged through an array of topics including cost-benefit ratios, standards and compliance, workforce needs, quality and sustainability to name a few. Ultimately the simple ‘advice’ to the Hub was that our proposed research in this space appears rigorous; a good outcome and confidence builder. For me, the real win seemed to lie more in the fact that this talented and well informed group of people had been brought together and given some space to discuss this extremely interesting and opportunity-filled topic in Australian manufacturing. They will all take the discussion back with them to their ‘real’ jobs and to other discussions and forums in which they are engaged. So in this way the Hub is achieving one of the key objectives of the scheme that funds it; to “address challenging industry issues”, not just through our research, but through advocacy as well.

Words by Julie Matarczyk – Hub Manager