Premier opens UNSW’s Materials Science and Engineering Building

The new home of Australia’s leading materials science and engineering research and innovation – the Hilmer building – has been officially opened by the NSW Premier Mike Baird.


The Hilmer Building. Photo: John Gollings

The new home of Australia’s leading materials science and engineering research and innovation has been officially opened today by the NSW Premier Mike Baird.

“NSW is a world leader in innovation, science and engineering and this new state of the art building will be an important training ground for future leaders in these fields,” the Premier said of the significant addition to the UNSW Kensington campus.

“Facilities such as this will help UNSW collaborate further with industry, business and government to develop innovative ideas that will not only improve society, but also boost our economy.”

President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Jacobs said the $140 million building, which provides staff and students with exceptional research laboratories and flexible collaborative learning spaces, reinforces UNSW’s reputation as a world-leader in the field.

“This amazing building has been designed for Australia’s highest ranked materials science school, which sits in the world’s top 50,” Professor Jacobs said. Earlier this month, the building’s research laboratories were recognised with the Educational Architecture Award from the Australian Institute of Architects (NSW).

“Materials science is applied to virtually every aspect of our lives – the important and world-class research undertaken here is focused on producing clear, practical outcomes that help create a better world for us all.”

The new facility will be known as the Hilmer Building, in honour of former President and Vice-Chancellor Professor Fred Hilmer (2006-2015).

UNSW Chancellor David Gonski said: “Fred Hilmer was instrumental in the transformation of our campus and this naming honour recognises his outstanding service and dedication to UNSW. This world-class facility is a striking addition to UNSW and is already opening up new opportunities for staff and students. It is a fitting tribute to our esteemed former President and Vice-Chancellor.”

Emeritus Professor Hilmer said: “While I am honoured to have my name on such a significant building, this event is really recognition of the efforts of a committed and effective team that restored and enhanced the performance and reputation of UNSW.”

Home of world-leading research and innovation

The Hilmer Building is home to a range of world-class research teams including:

  • The Centre for Sustainable Materials Research and Technology (SMaRT Centre) led by ARC Laureate Fellow, Scientia Professor Veena Sahajwalla, works with industry, SMEs, global research partners, NGOs, all levels of government, policy makers and the community to develop innovative environmental solutions for the world’s biggest waste challenges. The Centre brings together researchers from the faculties of Science, Engineering and Built Environment.
  • The Mark Wainwright Analytical Centre occupies several custom-built laboratories that allow for UNSW staff and students, as well as external researchers and industry partners, to collaborate on the study of the structure of chemical and physical materials.
  • Research by Professor Sean Li and his team into advanced multifunctional materials has the potential to improve the efficiency of power grids, and this has attracted the attention of Chinese firm Hangzhou Cables, who’ve formed one of the first partnerships under the new Torch Innovation Precinct imprint.
  • Dr Rakesh Joshi at the School of Materials Science and Engineering and his colleagues at the University of Manchester, Dr Rahul Nair and Sir Andre Geim, are conducting breakthrough research on Graphene Oxide membranes.
  • The Michael Crouch Innovation Centre, made possible through the generous gift of Michael Crouch, is a dynamic ‘makers and innovators space’, bringing together students, staff and alumni from all our UNSW faculties, schools and divisions – plus industry partners and the wider community –  to collaborate, innovate and create.

Professor Jacobs said: “The Hilmer building is where all this and more is happening. It is truly a dream for our dedicated and ambitious researchers and students.

“It represents what we are trying to achieve at UNSW. It is bold, it encourages innovation and collaboration, and it has a clear focus on excellence, creativity and the pursuit of new ideas.”

Designed by Grimshaw Architects, with input from HDR who worked on the laboratory spaces, the building was constructed by Brookfield Multiplex at a cost of $143 million and is the home of the School of Materials Science and Engineering. Collaboration and adaptability are at the heart of the design, which provides seamless links between the physical and chemical science laboratories. The reconfigurable lab system is framed by write-up spaces, offices and meeting rooms that encourage collaboration among teams. Flexible, adaptable environments like these are the future of research, and will help the University in coming years to achieve two key priorities of its 2025 Strategy – Research Quality and Educational Excellence.

Media contact: Denise Knight, UNSW Media Office, 0405 207 685

Photos: Images of the building and opening event are available.