PM's global 'shout-out' for UNSW's world-leading solar research

The Prime Minister's recognition of UNSW as a world-record holder in solar cell research in his speech to the UN climate summit in Paris is shining a light on Australian innovation, says Ian Jacobs.


Photovoltaic pioneers ... Professors Stuart Wenham and Martin Green on top of the University's Tyree Energy Technologies Building

Statement from UNSW President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs

Prime Minister Turnbull’s statement at the UN climate summit in Paris that Australian universities are leading innovation in climate science and energy and that UNSW is a world-record holder in solar cell efficiency is welcome international recognition of our work.

To quote the Prime Minister from his speech: ‘Australian universities are at the forefront of energy and climate science innovation. To give one example, the University of New South Wales has held the world record for solar cell efficiency for 30 of the last 32 years. And by 2018 over 60 per cent of the world's solar cells are to use technology developed by Australian researchers.’

These high-profile comments about the impact of UNSW’s ground-breaking solar research are of great importance. Our efforts over many years in this field have been brilliantly led by Professors Martin Green and Stuart Wenham and their teams in Photovoltaic and Renewable Energy Engineering. Several generations of the technology they have produced have been successfully commercialised including, most recently, the Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell that produced the first 25% efficient silicon cell in 2008 and accounted for the largest share of new manufacturing capacity added worldwide in 2014. UNSW currently holds the world record in converting sunlight to electricity, achieving an electricity conversion rate of over 40%.

Australia is well placed to be a leading exporter of renewable technologies – we have the research talent and the technology in place. Now all that is required is the investment to lift Australia to the next level.

I share the Prime Minister’s ‘optimism and faith in humanity's genius for invention’ because every day I see this ingenuity and innovation at work in our universities and through collaborations with industry.  

Coming on the eve of the federal government’s much-anticipated innovation statement, we are hopeful these comments signal important things to come. This is an historic opportunity to drive change.